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Towards Becoming a University

Portrait Jørgen Klein

Prorector Jørgen Klein is in charge of the process of INN University’s university accreditation application

In 2020, Inland Norway region could have its own university. Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (INN University) is working intensively with its university accreditation application to be sent to NOKUT by December 2018.

Why does Inland Norway need its own university?

Prorector Jørgen Klein, who is in charge of the university accreditation application process, believes a future university status will strengthen both the institution and the region.

-  Becoming a university offers a wider array of opportunities and increased impact for us as an education and research institution. The term 'university' provides our researchers an advantage when applying for research funding. Furthermore, EU, foreign researchers and students will have a clearer idea of our academic standard, and we will become more attractive as an employer for researchers, lecturers and administrative staff. It is equally important to remember that university accreditation is only a means in facilitating our high academic ambitions.

The structural reform in higher education has created a new landscape where many small university colleges have been accredited with university status through mergers with established universities. The academic activity at INN University is unequivocally at a similar level with many of these. This also applies when comparing INN University with institutions abroad, for example in Sweden. It is therefore a natural step that INN University would also work towards being accredited as a university.

What kind of university will INN University become?

Like other new universities and university colleges in Norway, INN University has a historical foundation in professional education and regional college structure. The units that nowadays constitute INN University were originally established with the aim of offering higher education that would benefit the surrounding regions. The education offered by these will continue to be the cornerstone in the establishment of the future university, says Klein.

- The big, old, universities have – and will always have – a different profile from us. Our task is to create a university that harnesses the strengths of our institution. This implies a focus on practical and applied research with regional affiliation. At the same time, we must strengthen our international cooperation, both in research and in education.

About the application process

Becoming a university is a demanding process. The requirements for becoming a university in Norway are strict and comprehensive. It is not merely throughput of doctoral programmes and the number of professors that is to be measured. The applicant institution must be able to demonstrate high international quality throughout its offered education, as well as in research, artistic and professional development.

- This entails that we need to create indicators in order to show high international quality. So, we need to find institutions that have the desired quality, and scrutinize ourselves in that light, area by area, explains Klein.

Indeed, in the sector, great attention is paid to the throughput of doctoral education, as a quantitative measure of whether an institution meets university-level requirements. In order to become a university, an institution must have the right to award a doctorate in at least four disciplines and the four doctoral programmes must be of an adequate level for the institution's professional profile. Each individual PhD programme must have admitted on average at least 15 doctoral candidates over a period of five years. The institution must also document over a three-year period that each year, on average, at least five doctoral students on at least two of the doctoral programmes have completed their PhD. This is a difficult requirement for newly established doctoral programmes.

Transitional arrangement

- The reason we wish to submit the application by 31.12.2018 is that we then meet the requirements of what NOKUT calls the "transitional arrangement," explains Klein.

Transitional arrangement means that an institution, when calculating whether the requirement for the number of candidates qualifying for a PhD is met, can count candidates who have completed or will complete a degree at another institution. This assumes that the candidate's doctoral thesis falls within one of the first institution's doctoral programmes. This is an important factor for INN University to succeed in reaching the throughput target.

INN University offers four PhD programmes, which will constitute the basis for the university accreditation application:

I addition, INN University offers a  joint degree with NTNU in Audiovisual Media, and the Norwegian Film School (NFS) offers education as part of the  Norwegian Artistic Research Programme

 Of the four internal doctoral programmes, all appear to meet the requirement of sufficient number of candidates admitted to the programmes over time. In addition, the forecasts show that two of the programmes (Applied Ecology and Teaching and Teacher Education) are expected to meet the throughput requirement, while the other two are somewhat below.

Much work has been invested in making high-quality forecasts and detailed reviews for all the programmes, including progress reports for all PhD candidates. Nevertheless, these are only forecasts, and a lot of work has to be invested in the programmes in order to ensure that a sufficient numbers of candidates will qualify to defend their theses in 2018.

Will university accreditation be given by 2020?

Oslo and Akershus University of Applied Sciences (HiOA) and University College of Southeast Norway (HSN) are currently waiting for the results of their university accreditation applications. NOKUT will decide in December whether the two institutions meet the requirements to become universities. The outcome will also be a pointer in regard to INN University’s prospects in terms of its university accreditation application.

- If HiOA and HSN are approved, I'm relatively optimistic on our behalf. We have studied their applications carefully and it seems that we are in a similar landscape on many indicators. It is also evident that on many indicators, we surpass some institutions that are already accredited, says Klein.

These are exciting times for INN University, and although there is still much work to be done, relentless efforts are made throughout the organization to ensure that soon enough, Inland Norway will have its own university.