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Olav Gjelsvik

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

Olav Gjelsvik is Professor of Philosophy at Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas / Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN), HF.

Olav Gjelsvik, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas


  • Professor Linda Bergersen, Dentistry
  • Professor Andreas Føllesdal, Law
  • Professor Kristian Gundersen, Math-Natural Science
  • Professor Dag O. Hessen, Math-Natural Science
  • Professor Petter Laake, Medicine
  • Professor Øystein Linnebo, Humanities
  • Professor Jakob Lothe, Humanities
  • Professor Raino Malnes, Social Science
  • Professor Hilde Sandvik, Humanities
  • Professor Camilla Serck-Hanssen, Humanities
  • Professor Mathilde Skoie, Humanities
  • Professor Aud Tønnessen, Theology

Election platform

I am standing for election as a representative for permanent scientific staff as a consequence of my commitment to science (in the broadest sense) and the university as a whole. I have had a long career at the University, and have taken on many administrative functions and offices throughout the years. I have been Chair of Department, Head of Subject, and leader for the study program in my field, and leader (director) of a Centre of Excellence (CSMN, the first such centre in the humanities in Oslo). I have been a representative on both the departmental board and the faculty board in the capacities of student, temporary academic staff and permanent staff. I have served as first deputy to the university board for one period (2006-09). I have served on some European boards in my field, and taken part in several international evaluations. I am a fellow of both Norwegian academies of science, and I have been group leader in the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. I am also a member of the European Academy (Academia Europea) and the world-wide philosophy academy (IIP). I did my doctorate at Oxford, have been affiliated one year with UC Berkeley, and have been invited visiting fellow/professor in Oxford, London (LSE), and Paris (EHESS).

In my own field I have contributed to a broad range of the most central questions, including theories of knowledge and justification, language and meaning, rationality, logic and philosophy of science, meta-ethics, and in later years, philosophy of action and agency. I have taken part in several interdisciplinary projects, with people from social science, medicine and brain research. The centre of excellence I have directed has significant interdisciplinarity, not least in relation to linguistics and psychology, but also to social science, including law, economics and others. I have had a standing research interest on addiction research, and have taken part in and lead interdisciplinary research projects in this field. Altogether this has given me insights into a variety of research cultures at the university, and, I believe, significant more research based contact with real life than research in philosophy typically brings along.

Among the issues I am especially concerned with, I mention these:


I am much concerned with how to raise the standards of the research carried out at our university even further, with how to achieve effective prioritizing of the best research, and that the conditions for curiosity driven basic research are optimal.

I believe it is especially important to develop a general competence in how to prioritize. The University of Oslo has much to learn from the best universities I know. Almost all disciplines are presently exhibiting considerable growth around the world, as more and more sub-disciplines develop, and costs per researcher increase rapidly. In addition comes that good research to an increasing degree requires larger and stronger units. As a consequence, good science grows much faster than our budgets can. We therefore need to develop institutional competence in recognizing and supporting really good research while we at the same in a good way balance this against the need for competence in all main branches of science and the current needs of the Norwegian society. The balancing part of this picture is of special concern to me. Competence in prioritizing must be developed in transparent processes and in all parts of the university.

The University of Oslo has a number of national responsibilities, including teaching and research on national and local subjects, and this must be recognized and respected, and balanced in the right sort of way against other concerns.


An important point regarding teaching is in my view that there is too little individual teaching of each student. Resources for teaching should be allocated towards this, and that means less resources elsewhere. I believe exams can be simplified in many respects; the most important thing is what the students learn through their studies before their exams.

I believe that it is a significant problem that students involved in general study programs (science, social science, and the humanities), have to make important choices very early on and with limited information about the studies and also about themselves. This often leads to quitting, waste of resources, and a study environment inferior to what we can achieve. Without knowing how far we can move in the direction of the best American universities, where students have more choice and can make their choices later, we should explore the possibilities we have for moving in this direction.

A further issue is this: Today temporary staff is in charge of more and more of the teaching, while the best and most active researchers teach less and less.  It is important for students to encounter the best researchers and the profiles in their field in the learning situation. To achieve some of this is again a question of balancing concerns against each other. The present development also has some very clear downsides when it comes to personnel policy.


I am a principled supporter of collegiate (democratic) governance, and the continuance of the system with elections to major offices in the university. The reason for this view is not that this is necessarily the best way of finding the best candidate at all times, but what this system does to ourselves and to the university. It brings us together as reflective academic citizens in an autonomous institution designed to promote knowledge and academic freedom. Academic freedom grows more important by the day, and the free, knowledge-based, critical but bold exchange of opinions and views is among the University’s greatest contributions to good development of society.

I am taken by social science research that shows that the real autonomy of universities in Europe suffer when there are given more formal autonomy. The important thing today is to increase the real autonomy of the university, and this can indeed be increased even within the frame of the present Norwegian laws about university governance. In conflicts between academic values and New Public Management incentives, academic values must persevere.

Staff policy

A significant challenge has arisen in the university’s use of temporary staff for tasks that should be carried out by permanent staff. We need to give good, clear and predictable conditions for all employees, while we at the same time see to it that there is open and fair competition for all positions.

There is today a global marked for employment in academia, and this has created an urgent need to find ways of hiring which are efficient while also respecting of the good traditions in Norwegian society and the University of Oslo. Our university has to be globally competitive, and not least the time it takes to hire people needs to be much reduced. This must happen without reduction in quality or broad involvement in the process.


Administration in a university should be as small as possible, as that frees resources for research and teaching. It is a fact that many administrators work as hard as anyone. We must, therefore, primarily look carefully at whether we have created administrative needs we can manage without. I believe there are some, and that we should look for these and try and find ways of doing without them. This might apply both in study administration and the administration of research. There have lately been decisions that create unnecessary bureaucracy without this side of things being properly addressed.

Published May 4, 2017 1:53 PM - Last modified Apr. 19, 2018 8:37 AM