The PECOS Programme Council meeting March 29th 2016
Hilde Henriksen Waage (head of the programme council), Håvard Strand, Hanne Hagtvedt Vik, Lars Leion, Silje Vestnes Greger, Anne Julie Semb, Kristian Berg Harpviken, Siri Aamodt (secretary)
Matters for information:
Siri Aamodt distributed the existing text of ‘Why choose this programme?’ immediately before the meeting, since Eirin Kristiansen has requested comments from the programme council. Hildre Henriksen Waage found the text appropriate, but rather lengthy. Hanne Hagtvedt Vik was of the opinion that the introduction is somewhat lengthy and turgid, and that the questions are rather randomly structured. Vik proposes to emphasize certain core issues. She also called for a more pronounced emphasis on history. Silje Vestnes Greger took a positive view of breaking the text up into bullet points. Lars Leion called for more questions related to methodology. Leion would also have liked to see a specification of why the interdisciplinary form is deemed a strength. Anne Julie Semb pointed out the need to make clear that the students remain affiliated to a single discipline throughout their course of study. Aamodt will communicate these inputs to Kristiansen, who will write a draft to be assessed by Håvard Strand and Waage.
Strand presented the upcoming seminar in Uppsala. The Norwegian-Swedish Fund has invited all second-semester PECOS students to a two-day seminar in late May. The fund will cover board and lodging. Strand will investigate the opportunities for repeating the event in Oslo next year, although outside the examination period.
Matters for discussion:
The discussion was based on the six-item ‘Plan of action’ in the report.
Revision of courses:
It is proposed that PECOS4010 be revised and provided with a new name and that PECOS 4021 be revised. See item 4/16 under Matters for decision. PECOS4021 will be taught by Cristina Bucur (responsible), Øivind Bratberg and Daniel Maul. Bucur and Bratberg will be responsible for the syllabus and teaching of political science methodology and Maul for historic methodology. The revisions of PECOS4010 and PECOS4021 must be seen in association. With these, the students should obtain a better introduction to the PECOS studies and a better balance between political science and history. No major revisions of PECOS4022 and HIS4011 will be undertaken at the present time. Aamodt informed the meeting that the master’s programme in history is currently undergoing evaluation. The result of the evaluation may cause a revision of some master’s level courses. It is desirable that any amendments to HIS4011 be undertaken in conjunction with potential amendments to HIS4010 (the Norwegian version of HIS4011). HIS4011 will therefore not be revised at the present time.
Referring to the discussion on courses, Semb asked how the planned new master’s programme in international contemporary history at IAKH will affect IAKH’s role in the PECOS programme. Waage, Vik and Aamodt explained that the programme will have a wider profile than PECOS and that it is foreseen to establish an English-language course that will be open also to PECOS students. They further affirmed that IAKH will take PECOS into account when the new programme is developed. Waage noted that the establishment of the new master’s programme was only recently adopted by the IAKH board and is still at the planning stage. Strand and Semb pointed to the low number of applicants for the history courses of the PECOS programme, and believed that the new programme might have both positive and negative effects for PECOS in terms of recruitment. Leion pointed out that the website and the alumni scheme fail to sufficiently emphasize the PECOS programme as relevant for applicants with a background in history.
Strand pointed out that individual supervision is more common in history studies than in political science. Group supervision is not formally provided at IAKH, although some supervisors choose this form. Strand proposed that in the long term, it could be considered whether students who do not find their own supervisor should be provided with group supervision by a supervisor appointed by the department, for example a post-doctoral fellow. Strand believed that group supervision may help increase completion rates. Vik has noted that students who fail to complete their studies within the nominal time have often chosen insurmountable topics and/or are unwilling to narrow down the focus of their theses. Vik was apprehensive that these are the students who will end up with less experienced supervisors, and that this will not help improve the completion. Leion stated that students receive little help in the process of selecting a topic and a supervisor. He also pointed out that PECOS4080 (political science only) is scheduled too early in the semester. Semb believed that a rescheduling will only serve to shift the problem. Summing up, Hilde stated that specific measures need to be taken to match supervisors and students to each other.
The following proposals were made:
- Link the students to ongoing research projects (Semb).
- Presentations of supervisors in one of the information meetings (Aamodt).
- Setting an earlier application deadline (Vik). Strand explained that this would cause difficulties, since it would preclude coordination with the master’s programme in political science.
- Two deadlines: one earlier and one as today. Those who submit a project description by the earliest deadline can be provided with feedback and advice on how to find a potential supervisor for their theses (Leion).
- The application for a supervisor must be more specific, meaning that the students will have to reflect on their own qualifications and the feasibility of their projects. They will need to be aware of this from the start (Semb).
ISV has initiated a major revision of its web pages. Eirin Kristiansen is responsible, with support from Siv Håberg and Siri Aamodt.
Meeting points for teachers associated with PECOS
The report from the external committee recommends the establishment of meeting points for teachers involved in the programme. The programme leader will summon all teachers for the autumn semester to a meeting in August. After this meeting, he will decide on the future form and content of these meetings. There was agreement that such meetings should be held before the planning of the teaching starts: in October for the spring semester and March for the autumn semester. Vik pointed out that teachers from IAKH must be involved when ISV enters teaching assignments in the planning system for teaching activities (TP). Aamodt will follow up this issue with ISV.
Strand informed the meeting that UiO is in the process of establishing an alumni solution. Further major initiatives are put on hold until this is in place. We need to immediately obtain an overview of our partners, since we know that many students find jobs as a result of internships. Strand also pointed out that we need to become better at pointing out the competence of historians to potential employers. Kristian Berg Harpviken noted that PRIO is in dialogue with UiO concerning the internship scheme. Semb pointed out that ISV wants internships not to be hosted by academic institutions, but instead to provide practical experience.
Communication between students and the administration
The number of enquiries has declined, and the students are now using pecoslist as their point of communication. The students find that things have improved. The information meetings held this spring were well planned, and the history discipline was well represented. This notwithstanding, the use of resources does not reflect the attendance by students. There is agreement that the provision of information meetings can be maintained only if the students attend them. The students have provided input to the effect that attendance at information meetings may be made mandatory. Semb proposed that the Career Services be invited to the information meetings.
Semb added an eighth item to the matters for discussion: recruitment of international students. The previous meeting of the programme council discussed the opportunities for GRE testing. Since then, Strand has investigated the opportunities for using GRE testing. Whether this will be possible remains unclear, but the central UiO administration is opposed to it. There was agreement that this decision needs to be taken at the department level. Semb will follow up the matter.
Matters for decision:
The revised text of a decision regarding PECOS4021 was submitted. The text submitted for a vote read as follows:
Scott Gates has started the revision of the syllabus for PECOS4010, which will also receive a new name: ‘Conflict and state-building’. The course will retain its present examination form.
Cristina Bucur will be responsible for the course PECOS4021. The course will retain its present name and examination form. The syllabus will be revised to include contributions from history and political science in the proportion 40/60. Daniel Maul from IAKH will hold four of the ten lectures, thus to reinforce the history component of the course.
Decision: PECOS4010 and PECOS4021 were adopted with amendments.
The amendments to PECOS4010 and PECOS4021 were unanimously adopted.