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Erling Sverdrup Sandmo

Candidate for the University Board among permanent employees with teaching and research positions.

Erling Sverdrup Sandmo is Professor at Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, HF.

Erling Sverdrup Sandmo, Professor at IAKH.


  • Helge Jordheim, Professor, IKOS/HF

  • Rune Svarverud, Professor, IKOS/HF

  • Benedicte Bull, Professor, SUM

  • Oddbjørn Leirvik, Professor, TF

  • Tor Egil Førland, Head of Department, IAKH/HF

  • Mette Halskov Hansen, Professor, IKOS/HF

  • Hilde Henriksen Waage, Professor, IAKH/HF

  • Karen Gammelgaard, Head of Department, ILOS/HF

  • Bjørn Olav Utvik, Head of Department, IKOS/HF

  • Arild Engelsen Ruud, Head of Research, Professor, IKOS/HF


I specialize in early modern history, c. 1500-1800. I received my PhD in 1998 and worked at The Institute for Social Research until I returned to UiO in 2006. I have worked on the history of crime and violence, music, science and knowledge, and on theory and methodology. I have been a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, the University of Chicago, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

I led the Norwegian Research Council’s Programme for Cultural Research 2003-2008, and I have been head of research and led both the general teaching programme and the PhD programme in history. Since 2011, I have been a member of the National Committee for Ethics in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and I am currently a member of the board at our Center for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies and the first deputy member of the UiO board. Outreach has been one of my main concerns – and joys – and I worked with NRK radio’s Program 2 as a music critic for many years. I hosted a series of podium debates on history at the House of Literature, and I now have a 20% affiliation with the National Library.

My reason for wanting to be a full member of the board is that I am strongly engaged in research, teaching, and outreach, and that there are important discussions going on about the conditions of these basic functions of the university now. I believe that I can be a responsible and alert representative for my colleagues at a time when academic freedom is under pressure, when the effects of major reforms are becoming clear, and when the balance and relationship between administration and core tasks have become a nexus of the debate on how to develop better environments for teaching, research, and the sharing of knowledge.

My strength as a candidate may be that I have broad academic experience both at the UiO and with the wider academic community. I have always been engaged in interdisciplinary work, and I have first-hand experience with funding and with developing strategies, and with the institute sector. I have written and co-written several textbooks and spent much of my time sharing the insights of other academics.  My work both with research projects and with administration has helped me understand how the UiO functions at different levels, and I have seen the challenges faced by colleagues and students. I have the greatest respect for the differences between academic traditions.


The university is under pressure, nationally and internationally. Our political support is weaker than it should be. Academic freedom is under attack. We have to prepare for difficult times. At this point, the UiO must be clear about its independence and maintain the diversity that defines a big university. Leadership and management should be about trusting the staff to do what it does best, not to develop rigid systems of control.

I want the UiO to create good work environments, characterized by mutual curiosity and familiarity. We need a culture of recognition and cooperation. We should work towards strong gender equality on all levels.

Leadership should be careful not to rest to heavily on predefined goals. It should strive for quality in every sector and on every level, but international rankings are in themselves of marginal importance. It is obviously important that we support the excellent and the exceptional, but we should not let international competition blur our main task, which is to lead the way in the building of a strong and open knowledge society.

Plurality is fundamental to the very idea of a university. UiO is large and consists of a wide range of groups, interests, and environments that produce and spread academic knowledge of very different kinds, based on a multiplicity of theories, methods, materials, and traditions. The university has to be managed in ways that respect this multiplicity and stimulate curiosity and respect. At the same time, it should encourage the academic community as a whole and the awareness that the are performing our basic tasks together. To me, university democracy is a basic expression of this heterogeneous community. The rector and the deans should be elected. The departments should have the freedom to decide how to recruit their leaders.

I will also work for

  • Transparent and effective recruitment processes
  • A balance between competition and predictability, with a clear awareness of our employees’ need for certainty as well as our commitment to excellence. The discussions about permanent versus temporary employment are complex and should be developed in an open and democratic way. International recruitment demands a stronger awareness of the challenges faced by staff and students who are new to Norwegian society
  • A strong commitment to the future careers of students and staff alike, inside and outside the traditional academic sector. PhD education must be a main concern.
  • Quality in teaching: demands must go both ways. We need excellent, research-based teaching and students who are conscious of their own vital role.
  • Sharing of experience. UiO should be a place where we learn from the experience of others, not least in matters of teaching. 
  • Effective administration. Centralization is good when it is truly helpful; when it is not, administration should be local and hands-on.
  • Central respect for local needs and decisions. 
Published May 4, 2017 1:50 PM - Last modified Feb. 7, 2020 4:59 PM