Today Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen presented the main points of the white paper "Concentration for quality, structural reform in the higher education sector."
– I commend the Minister for focusing on quality in the higher education sector, but it is important to remember that quality is not synonymous with merger, says NAR president Petter Aaslestad.
In the white paper, the Government sets a number of quality requirements that each higher education institution must meet, to be allowed to stand alone in the future.
– It is good that the Minister now emphasizes that quality means more than having world class research groups. Quality also means good teachers, good teaching, employable students and the staff’s opportunity to focus on their research, explains Aaslestad who continues:
– In any event, the mergers must be voluntary and implemented in close cooperation with the employees. If the employees are drawn into a merger against their will, it will affect the quality of their work. This should be done with a certain kind of enthusiasm, he points out.
The white paper also contains a proposal for change in the current model of management at universities and colleges. Today a majority of the institutions have an elected Rector.
The Minister now proposes that the Rector as a general rule shall be appointed by the Board instead of elected by the staff and students. This meets considerable resistance among many of NAR’s members, who thinks this proposal breaks a democratic tradition.
– We are pleased that the Minister specifies that the institutions can still choose to have an elected Rector. For us it is important that he shows respect for the autonomy of the institutions, says Aaslestad.
It remains to be seen what changes will be proposed in the funding system for higher education institutions. The complete white paper will be presented on Friday March 27.
– We look forward to seeing the structural reform in connection with the financing. Quality has its price, concludes Petter Aaslestad.