HEM4100 – Introductory Semester Course in Higher Education

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

During the course you will be introduced to (i) the Norwegian higher education system in its regional, European and global contexts, (ii) the academic field of higher education studies (iii) the theories, concepts and terminology relevant to higher education, (iv) the basic characteristics and dynamics of higher education systems and institutions at all relevant levels.

The introductory semester course consists of three units:

Unit 1: Higher education: general introduction

During this unit you will be introduced to higher education as a field of study. This introduction is started with a discussion of the basic characteristics of higher education. The Norwegian higher education system is used as a frame of reference for this discussion. You will be stimulated to relate this discussion to the higher education system(s) from your country of origin. Special attention is given to the different disciplinary perspectives, and main concepts and theories used to study higher education.

Unit 2: Changes in higher education's primary processes

The course work in this unit focuses on various aspects of teaching and learning, knowledge production and services in higher education. The topic is approached from a number of perspectives. Main foci are issues of curriculum management, roles of teachers and students in teaching and learning, new modes of research, quality in Higher Education and information, communication and technology (ICT) as a teaching and learning instrument.

Unit 3: The conditions under which higher education operates

This unit deals with the changes in the system level governance of higher education. The reasons behind these changes may vary from country to country and from region to region. However, there are trends and developments, such as globalisation, new ideas about the role of the state, growing focus on innovation that are relevant for all countries. The changing relationship between government and higher education has important consequences through issues such as higher education structure and organisation, the  funding of higher education, quality assessment of education and research, institutional leadership, management and governance, relationship between teaching and research, innovation. In this unit these issues will be discussed comparatively, with an emphasis on but not limited to the developments in Europe.

Learning outcome

The aim of this course is to provide you with a solid introduction into higher education as an academic field of studies.

Upon completion of the course you should


  • be able to identify and understand theories, concepts and terminology that form the foundation for the field of higher education studies
  • have critical understanding of the inter-disciplinary nature of the field
  • be able to interpret and analyse practical higher education problems and issues within the academic and empirical frameworks that are specific for the field


  • be able to analyse and critically relate to various sources of information and apply these with the aim to address specific problems at all relevant levels in the field of higher education studies
  • be able to identify relevant concepts and interpretations within the field of higher education studies and work independently with practical and conceptual problems


  • be able to communicate about field-specific problems, analyses and conclusions within the field of higher education studies with academic specialists as well as a general audience of interested lay-persons
  • be able to apply their knowledge and skills in carrying out advanced academic assignments


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


The course combines lectures and seminars, with active student input and group work, as well as home assignments.  All students have to study a compendium consisting of the core literature for the course. The language of instruction is English.There is a mandatory 80 per cent attendance requirement for all courses. If you do not fulfill the mandatory attendance requirements, you must submit a written request to apply for an additional assignment prior to passing the course. The application must document stated reasons for absence beyond your control. The requirement for the additional assignment is at the discretion of the teacher.


The examination covering all parts of the introductory course consists of the following elements: Two written assignments based on specific parts of the course. Each paper ought not to exceed more than 7 pages in length. You will not receive a mark for these papers but will be provided with written feedback. An oral examination aimed at determining the level you have reached by the end of the course will be the examination form. The oral examination will be based on the studied literature and the themes and issues covered in the course papers. The grade for the oral examination will count as the entire portion of the grade.

The following must be completed and approved by the course teacher before you may submit final version of the proposal:

  • 80 per cent attendance
  • Submission of the two papers

You must pass the Introductory course in order to continue in the programme.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

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.

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

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






Every autumn


Every autumn

The course is closing.  The last semester for teaching is H21. The last exam will be held H22.

Teaching language