Institute of Education

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Norwegian Professor to Discuss Latest Trends in Higher Education Research at Upcoming Conference

Professor Bjørn Stensaker, who teaches in the Department of Education at the University of Oslo, will be the plenary speaker at the 8th International Conference on Higher Education Research organized by the Russian Association of Higher Education Researchers in Moscow. The conference is due to take place October 19-21. In a recent interview with the HSE News Service, Professor Stensaker spoke about his latest research and the trends he sees in higher education, including the growing role of technology.

— What would you view as some of the top priorities for higher education research globally in 2017?

— For me, research challenges include the funding of this research area both in Europe and globally. I think we also have a challenge in recruiting and sustaining the next generation of researchers. We need to work to create more relevant datasets for comparative research and for shedding more light on educational quality, functioning and performance.

— How would you briefly describe your latest research and findings? 

— I am involved in a small collaborative project with the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona on how universities in different regions adapt to global challenges. We study how a large sample of universities respond to expectations of becoming so-called world-class universities.

— How do new technologies affect old institutions like universities? What changes in university life are being brought about by new technologies and social media?

— Technology is indeed affecting universities, but in a historical perspective, universities have always adapted quite easily to technological development. The problem is that technology adaptation in universities tends to be fragmented because individuals still enjoy considerable discretion as to whether they want to use technology and in what way.

— Do you see any successful formats in higher education taking shape today?

— For me, the establishment of new university alliances and consortia is a very interesting development. This is a development that can be interpreted in different ways - both as a proactive and strategic move for universities to position themselves in the marketplace and as a protective move to eliminate competition and minimize risk.

— How do you see academic life developing in the near future? 

— I think we see a tendency for academic staff in many institutions to be further specialized where relatively few conduct research and are given more opportunities, while others become teaching specialists. What so-called research-based teaching will imply in the future will be interesting to observe.

— Do you see any downsides to the changes taking place in academic life?

— I think the rise of tuition fees in some countries and institutions is alarming and signals a trend where cost control is not very prioritized and where governments demonstrate less interest in funding higher education.

— How did your cooperation with HSE start? Are you involved in any long-term projects that have either been launched or are in the pipeline? 

— My collaboration goes back to the late 1990s and early 2000s when a young Russian researcher - Ivan Pavluytkin - visited Oslo and my current employer at that time - NIFU - the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education. Ivan is also part of the small project I am currently involved in where we compare strategic plans of universities globally and where he has contributed with some very interesting Russian cases.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, Specially for HSE News service