On October 24th it was possible to read about the university’s suggestion for future cuts in the different faculties within the university. This decision instantly became a subject of debate, and it is clear that it is the faculty Humanities, Social Sciences and Education that would experience the largest cut in the near future. But is this wise?
Written by Marie Søndergaard
At UiT’s webpage it says: Our central location in the High North, our broad and diverse research and study portfolio, and our interdisciplinary qualities make us uniquely suited to meet the challenges of the future.
UiT was founded with the intention of becoming one of Norways’ elite University a so-called “bredde-universitet” with a lot of variety and different studies. Through the University it is possible to contribute to the development of competent manpower in the region and secure that Tromsø remains an attractive place to live. However, their suggestion for closing down these 15 studies illustrates something different.
There has been written a report by “Strategisk Utdanningsutvalg” who, through interdisciplinary work, is suggesting the cut of 15 bachelor programs. Why? High dropout rates, low recruitment level and low scores on the study barometer seems to be the compelling reasons to close the programs.
Many programs are from the faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education and the professors from these departments are pulling their hair, not understanding the management of the university and their priorities. The heads, employees and professors of this faculty strongly object to such changes and hope to reach a compromise.
The friction between the social sciences and the natural sciences is not new, however, it is the social sciences who are facing the major changes at the moment. Personally, I find it more interesting to ask the question why the study quality of the given programs is low and if the low number of applicants is connected with this. Perhaps, these unpopular study programs should have been paid close attention to instead of being cut.
Through the past decades the humanities have been criticized for being ‘’soft’’ and ‘’less important’’. Students who study humanities are compared to people being on vacation where they can lean back, relax, read a bit of literature, write a paper and boom – now we have a bunch of newly graduated scholars with a small chance to get a job. Let me say right away – the reality is very different. Yes, it is true that the humanities often do not have many classes but it is not because the students do not want to – often they fight for more classes, however the money is prioritized differently. It is also true that many of the exams are written home-exams. But neither of these things makes it easier to be a humanity-student. This field is neither inferior nor superior to other ones. There is never just one answer to anything. The humanities are content with not knowing but rather accepting the fact that there is never one single answer, because truth is merely based on different perceptions. Everything is a matter of perspective and good research, well-grounded arguments and excellent writing are crucial.
Today we live in a world where almost everything is based on statistics, right and wrong answers, and quick results. This pattern is not only applicable to UiT but in general within the society as well. I had hoped that UiT would not follow this trend. What has until now made UiT special is the wide variety of programs offered in the High North, which is one of the most important parts of the University’s strategy.
One of UiT’s general strategies is: UiT will offer research-based education of the highest international quality standards. The University’s shall offer a broad and diverse study programme portfolio.
Note the last sentence – “a broad and diverse University” is what makes UiT special. There is no doubt that UiT carries a great responsibility offering all these programs in a more or less distant area as the Northern Region. A region, which is challenged by its infrastructure and long distances. But how would Northern Norway and especially Tromsø be without the University and its varieties of programs offered?
The management should remember that they are not only cutting programs from UiT – they are cutting them from the whole region. Northern Norway will become a region where it no longer will be possible to study philosophy. I believe that UiT has an important social responsibility to educate people who have expertise within this area, so cutting Russian studies away seem as an odd choice to me. Some studies are meant to be small since the society only needs a small handful of experts within the given area – but not having Russian studies in a region working so closely with Russia seems strange and is a sad image to send to Russia. UiT should remember that they carry a big social responsibility to educate people who want to become experts within these areas; we need these people.
Therefore it is no wonder why the professors at the departments of humanities are skeptical towards UiT when they deviate from their own strategies in a situation like this.
On November 10th the faculty Humanities, Social Sciences and Education came with their suggestions of what to do with the different bachelor programs. They agreed to cut 2 programs; Politics, Economics and Philosophy and Languages and Economics. Regarding the other programs they see it as a necessity and an opportunity to discuss the current structures of the programs. However, they still see the programs as being essential for the University and the region. UiT needs to accept the fact that not all programs needs to be filled. Rather they should be satisfied with fewer students getting an excellent feedback through their education.
So are UiT sacrificing the future? They are definitely making it harder within certain areas. Personally, I hope that these suggestions for programs cut have provoked the different faculties and will encourage them to become more visible within the public debate – show the public that they are actually present in this region.
UiT has the responsibility to protect, educate and engage Tromsø, and the surrounding population with critical thinking. – A job they have to continue.
The programs that the “Strategisk utdanningsutvalg” have suggested to shut down:
- Arkeologi – bachelor (Archeology, BA)
- Arktisk anlegg – bachelor (Arctic Constructions, BA)
- Cultural & Creative Entrepreneurship – bachelor
- Drama og teater – bachelor (Drama and Theater, BA)
- Filosofi – bachelor (Philosophy, BA)
- Kunstvitenskap – bachelor (Science of Art, BA)
- Matematikk og finans – bachelor (Mathematics and Finance, BA)
- Miljøledelse og forurensningsbiologi – bachelor (Environment management and Pollution biology, BA)
- Politikk, økonomi og filosofi – bachelor (Politics, Economics and Philosophy, BA)
- Religionsvitenskap, studieretning teologi – bachelor (Religious studies: theology, BA)
- Russlandsstudier – bachelor (Russian Studies, BA)
- Språk og økonomi – bachelor (Languages and Economics, BA)
Språk og litteratur; studieretningene allmenn litteraturvitenskap, fransk og tysk (Languages and literature: Study of Literature, French and German, BA)