A nationwide initiative to increase student enrollment and proficiency in the sciences, math and technology and plans for a new life sciences building at the University of Oslo are at the heart of Norway’s Ministry of Research and Higher Education’s efforts to expand the nation’s involvement and status in the life sciences.
Iselin Nybø (IN), the Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education, discussed her office’s plans with Nordic Life Science (NLS).
What national and political efforts are underway in Norway to promote life science studies and research in higher education?
“Life science is an area of high priority for the Norwegian government. We recently have presented a long-term plan for research and higher education in the form of a white paper to Parliament. Four out of five priorities in this plan involve life science. The five long-term priorities areas are 1) the oceans 2) climate environment and clean energy 3) public sector renewal and improved public welfare services 4) enabling and industrial technologies and 5) societal security and inclusiveness in a globalized world. The three overarching objectives of the long-term plan are enhanced competitiveness and innovation capacity, tackling major social challenges and developing research communities of outstanding quality.
The government also has granted funds to construct a new building for life sciences at the University of Oslo. The building will help facilitate a broad collaboration between scientists, companies and hospitals. The building is a major promotion of life science involving NOK 5.8 billion in government funding.”
What types of reforms are planned for the higher education system? What role will the reforms play in the areas of life science coursework and research?
“Recently we carried out a structural reform of the higher education sector. The objectives for the reform include developing education and research of high quality, with strong academic environments; good access to education across the country, regional development, more world-leading research groups and efficient use of resources.
In 2017 the government presented a white paper to the Parliament on quality in higher education. The white paper provides several measures on how to strengthen the quality of the education programs offered by our universities and colleges.
Now the government’s main focus is following-up on the measures in this white paper.
Work on two new white papers also has started at the national government level. One on student mobility and how to get more Norwegian students to study abroad and the other on how we can get higher education to collaborate even better with businesses in order to provide students with an education that prepares them for the demands of their professional careers.”
What are the goals of the ministry when it comes to life science education and research? Is it considered a priority?
“The government’s long-term initiative includes three new spending plans totalling NOK 1.5 billion during the next four years. We will increase spending on technology, research in the private sector and measures to increase the quality of higher education.”
What is being done at the secondary education level to prepare students to study the life sciences at the university level?
“A new mathematics, science and technology strategy was launched by the Norwegian government in August 2015. The goal is to encourage more pupils to complete upper secondary education with solid knowledge and skills in maths, sciences and technology. That will allow them to embark on further studies with a robust grounding in these subjects.”
Are there plans to develop life science specialty centers?
“The planned Life Sciences Building at the University of Oslo is central to the life sciences initiative of the university and the nation. At Ås, also in the Oslo region, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) has been established. A new building for veterinary sciences and clinics is under construction. Upon completion in 2020, NMBU will host a large range of life science research groups representing most topics of veterinary, agricultural and environmental life sciences. In addition, Norway is a member of the European Molecular Biology laboratory, one of the strongest life science specialty centers in the world.”
Photo Iselin Nybø: Marte Garman