Dag Harald Claes
Candidate for the University Board among permanent employees with teaching and research positions.
Dag Harald Claes is Professor at the Department of Political Science, SV.
- Professor Anne Julie Semb, Department of Political Science, SV
My background relevant for my candidacy is my time as Deputy Head of the Department of Political Science (2008-2012) and subsequent Head of Department (2012-2016). It made me realize that the departments, centers and museums are the ones carrying out the core tasks at UiO. This is important to bear in mind also at the top administrative level at UiO. My second experience is from outside of UiO, as researcher at the Fridtjof Nansens Institute and board member at PRIO. In my mind, UiO can improve regarding our relations with outside partners. This ‘foreign policy’ towards the Research Council, the ministry, government, and partners in Norway and abroad, is as important as internal leadership, but requires very different skills in the leadership of UiO.
The Norwegian law of Universities paragraph 1-5 pkt. 1 states (abridged excerpt) that universities shall enhance and protect academic freedom. The institutions have a responsibility to ensure that teaching and research are at a high academic level and are exercised according to recognized academic and pedagogical principles. This paragraph is important and should be on the wall of all leaders at all level at UiO. The leadership of UiO, including the board, should also remind politicians and bureaucrats of the implications of this paragraph. Political interference into research makes it bad. It also undermine the role of science and research in a modern democracy. In my own field of political science, close contacts between academia and governments is what we used to associate with the Soviet system. Social science is particularly dependent on the ability to conduct critical research into political decision-making, but the principles of academic freedom applies to all sciences. However, in 2017 we cannot expect the minister of education to be satisfied with a Christmas card from our rector wishing him a peaceful holiday with a mild plea for a bit more money next year. We must be able to interact and cooperate with those controlling our budget, without jeopardizing our academic freedom. Everybody involved in the leadership of UiO have a responsibility for this ‘foreign policy’. We hold strong cards in this matter: we do excellent research, beneficial to all parts of Norwegian society; we educate thousands of strong candidates who later do excellent service to the Norwegian society as employees in both public and private sector; we disseminate our knowledge on a daily basis, in broadcasts, newspapers, books and various public advisory capacities. The board of UiO is an important arena for protecting academic freedom, but also a platform for contributing to promote our significant role as a beacon of knowledge in the Norwegian society.
As Head of the Department of Political Science, I was sometimes struck by the eagerness to jump on international fads regarding organization and governance of universities, at the expense of the academic freedom of departments and individual researchers. The Norwegian law of Universities paragraph 1-5 pkt. 5 states (abridged excerpt) that scientific employees have the right to choose subject and method in their research, within the regulatory framework of their position and their individual agreements. To me this implies that the governance of UiO must be exercised in close dialogue with the faculties and departments, with the deepest respect for the academic freedom of the individual employee. Initiatives taken at the top level are unlikely to succeed unless they are reverberated by those expected to carry them out. I will work for close dialogue between the top leadership and the departments, centers and museums. Only then can initiatives and earmarked grants effectively produce improved quality in education and research.
Strength lies in diversity
This lead to another matter close to my heart. UiO is a very diverse institution. The application of a ‘one size fits all’ governance-model is in our case nonsense. Some departments have many students some have few; some runs large costly collective research programs, other disciplines are characterized by the single authored books; some departments have many employees, some have few; some are homogenous regarding thematic focus and methodology, some are very heterogeneous in this regard. To let a ‘thousand flowers bloom’ might be too much, but to me the individual departments and centers should be allowed to nurture their idiosyncrasies. This will strengthen us, not weaken us. I was a supporter of the process of ‘Internt handlingsrom*, a few years back. I will work for better communication between the organizational levels based on the principle that academic priorities always are rooted at the ground level.
The relationship between research and teaching
Let me be clear: our entire teaching activity have to be founded on active research. This is a key feature of a university. However, this does not lessen the value of teaching. Also dissemination, and in many fields innovation, are to me natural and essential parts of our activity. Our students should challenge us in these matters, but to me teaching has always been an enrichment, not a duty.
My own role
I view a position as member of the UiO board as a position of trust on behalf of the permanent employees, with a responsibility to take care of the interests of all employees and students at UiO. We are all in the same boat. Together we can make all of us better and create a good working environment for employees and students. Although we always can do better, I think UiO is already a very good university. It is a privilege to work here. I wish everybody a good board election and a promising future for UiO.