ISSMN4030 – A Changing Arctic

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The Arctic region has gained increased public, political, commercial and academic interest over the last decade. High-energy prices and technological advances have made it possible, if not yet commercially attractive, to exploit petroleum resources in the area. Climate change and the retraction of the polar ice have opened new sea transportation routes, considerably shortening the distance from Europe and North America to parts of Asia. The demand for high-quality white fish from the Barents Sea is steadily rising on international markets. States, international organizations and private interests, including emerging economies in Asia, now show a keen interest in the High North and the Arctic at large.

Partly as a consequence of these developments, several new and demanding governance challenges have emerged. Environmental risks have moved high up on the agenda. Effects of climate change threaten the traditional livelihoods of indigenous populations and may lead to significant changes in the migration patterns of important fish stocks. These and other changes may generate conflict but also strengthen incentives for cooperation. In this course we study these challenges from a natural science as well as a legal and a geopolitical perspective.

The students will learn about the geography and geology of the present day Arctic region and discuss possible scenarios of its geological evolution, including the formation of mineral resources. In this context, we will review the knowledge about the Arctic climate, and how its variations in the past allowed the formation of completely different vegetation and fauna. The legal component will address issues related to jurisdiction, sovereignty and human rights whereas geopolitics is about the interplay of natural resources, strategic dominance and geographic space on the one hand, and the various state and non-state actors pursuing individual as well as collective interests on the other.

Learning outcome

This course aims, firstly, to enhance knowledge and understanding of the Arctic natural habitat, including its changes over time and plausible future trajectories, and to increase awareness about how those changes affect legal developments, political tensions, and international governance challenges. Secondly, students will learn about the uncertainties in scientific data and models and will be trained in the use of analytical tools and models that help to describe and diagnose governance challenges and to identify and assess response options. The course also provides understanding of international law rules governing the Arctic region, with particular focus on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.


If you would like to take this course, you must apply directly to the International Summer School.
Only students admitted to the course may take part in instruction.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

A completed Bachelor's degree or a period of study comparable with a Norwegian Bachelor's degree from a recognized institution. Minimum academic requirements. A related degree in law, social sciences or natural sciences will be an advantage, but students with other bachelor degrees can apply.

Recommended previous knowledge

Documented professional experience within Arctic-related areas may also qualify applicants even though their academic background does not match the course profile.


Teaching will combine lectures with seminar-format discussion of questions and exercises. Participants are expected to prepare for classes by reading the assigned literature. The lectures are held intensively for a period of five weeks with the exam in the sixth week.

Daily attendance is expected of all participants. Students must attend a minimum of 75% of the lectures in order to take the final exam.


The final grade consists of three components:

  • Individual presentation (20% of the total grade)
  • Group work task (20% of the total grade)
  • 3-hour written examination (60% of the total grade)

You can check your results and order transcripts in Studentweb three weeks after the exam.

Digital examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in at the ISS Office two days before the examination together with the support material form.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Candidates who have a re-scheduled or new examination are allowed take the next ordinary examination. Candidates who are re-sitting NORA exams can also re-sit the exam in the summer at the ISS exam. If you have successfully passed obligatory assignments, or other compulsory activities required before you are qualified to attend the exam, you need not re-sit these.

Only students with either valid absence (doctors note) or students who failed the exam can re-sit an exam. 

Withdrawal from an examination

A student can take the class and sit for this exam up to 3 times. If a student wishes to withdraw from the exam, s/he must submit the Course Change Request Form to the ISS Reception before the exam. Failure to do so will be counted as one of the three opportunities to sit for the exam, which is the general rule at UiO.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course





Teaching language