HEM4210 – History and Primary Processes of Higher Education

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

About teaching and exam autumn 2020: 

Teaching and exam this semester may be affected by the situation related to the corona virus. Changes in the plans may occur. You will find updated information on the semester page. 


This course focuses on the primary processes of teaching, learning, research and assessment in higher education as well as historical shifts that influenced how these have been understood, conceptualized and institutionalized.

Historical developments in the organization of teaching and research will be discussed in relation to the ‘Humboldian ideal’ of the research university and with respect to perspectives on liberal and professional education. Recent research about research, teaching and student learning, and theoretical frameworks within which new developments in the organization of learning, teaching and assessment can be understood, will be presented and discussed. In addition there will be a focus on curriculum development.

Topics to be addressed in the course include:

  • Historical developments of higher education institutions and their ways of organizing primary processes
  • Disciplinary differences and interdisciplinary practices
  • Research-based education and ways of organizing teaching, learning and assessment
  • New technologies and their implications for teaching and learning practices
  • Curriculum models and curriculum development
  • The shifting roles and experiences of students and staff in higher education

The overall perspective emphasizes the importance of ethical deliberations concerning the enterprise of teaching and research, and the importance of a critical understanding of past and present approaches to teaching and learning in higher education.

Learning outcome

Upon completing the course, you should be able to:


  • show knowledge of the historical origins of higher education and of developments within liberal and professional education
  • demonstrate understanding of key concepts and perspectives on teaching, learning, research and assessment as well as how they are interrelated
  • demonstrate understanding of different curriculum models and how they relate to ways of organizing and conceptualizing knowledge
  • show knowledge of the shifting roles and expectations for students and staff in the emerging higher education context


  • use concepts and perspectives from learning theories to analyze and discuss opportunities for learning in different pedagogical approaches
  • identify theory-based arguments in empirical research on teaching, learning and assessment   

General competencies

  • engage in and contribute to theory-informed discussions about change drivers in higher education processes, such as implications of research-based education and the introduction of new technologies
  • critically analyze and discuss the contributions of empirical research to the collective understanding of primary processes in higher education


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.

This course is primarily for students enrolled in the Master of Philosophy in Higher Education programme.  Students outside of this programme who are interested in taking this course can be admitted if there are available places.


Recommended previous knowledge

Students enrolled in the Master of Philosophy in Higher Education programme are required to have passed the previous course HEM4100 – Introductory Semester Course in Higher Education in order to attend this course. Students outside of the program must document relevant course work in bachelor degree and/or master degree.


The course offers lectures and seminars relating to the described topics. It consists of introductory lectures, seminars, group work related to case analyses and discussions, and individual literature studies. You are required to write, present and comment short papers both individually and in groups. Active participation in group- and class-based discussions is expected.

There is a mandatory 80% attendance requirement for this course. If you do not fulfill the mandatory attendance requirement, you must complete an additional assignment prior to passing the course. The requirement for the additional assignment is at the discretion of the teacher.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


Exam changes for fall 2020

Due to COVID-19, the exam format for fall 2020 has been changed.  The mandatory attendance requirement for this course has been removed.  An obligatory individual assignment has been included. 

Oligatory Individual Assignment:

Each student is required to submit and pass an individual assignment prior to submission for the exam. The individual assignment should be no longer than 5 pages in length. The assignment will be evaluated as pass/fail.  Detailed requirements will be given during the course. 

Final Exam

The final exam will be a 3-day digital individual home assignment that will be submitted in Inspera. Detailed exam requirements will be given during the course. 


On conclusion of the course, there is a 4 hour written school exam.

There is a mandatory 80% attendance requirement for this course. If you do not fulfill the mandatory attendance requirement, you must complete an additional assignment prior to passing the course. The requirement for the additional assignment is at the discretion of the teacher.

The exam will be evaluated by one or more teachers of the course.

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

You are allowed to use a dictionary during the exam. Students should submit the dictionary to the UV Student Information Centre before 3 p.m. minimum 3 workdays prior to examination. Example: If the examination is on Friday you must hand in the dictionary on Wednesday).  More about dictionaries during the exam.

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

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.

Course evaluation Fall 2018 

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

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