Steinar Kristoffersen er førsteamanuensis ved HiMolde. Foto: Arild J. Waagbø

Molde International University College?

Next week there is the election for the new chancellor (rector) at Molde University College. As one of the candidates, I approach all international PhD students and staff simply to urge you all to take part before May 23, which is the final day of voting.

By Steinar Kristoffersen, Associate Professor

Molde University College has 250 international students, which means that 10% of our students have another native language than Norwegian. We have many international colleagues. Research is a truly global activity! In the future, I am sure there will be even more students and staff that are international here in Molde! You deserve to have a lot of influence.

I am one of the candidates running. For the past three years, and more before that at Møreforsking Molde AS, I have taught mostly international students and have had external collaboration in many projects. Lectures, meetings and reports have thus been in English. It is therefore disconcerting to notice that our international students and staff seem to have been quite overlooked in the pertaining debates and articles about the election. I am going to be bold enough to try to alleviate this, and make sure that some of my own points of view are known to all international students and staff, regardless of your proficiency in Norwegian

As all of you know, ongoing structural changes in the landscape of higher education has been perhaps the most widely debated issue here at Molde University College. Candidates to the election have been asked to take a clear position regarding the possible merger of HiMolde. Is our own “brand” strong enough, or would you prefer to be part of a big university?

I am generally positive to such a merger, as long as it strengthens us compared to the alternatives. If it leaves us weaker or as a subsidiary of another college, which was itself “saved” through a merger, I think that will give a poorer learning environment and less dynamic and impactful research. Thus, we have to strengthen our position regardless.

I think that in the medium- to long term a merger involving HiMolde will take place, not only once, but several times. The possible partnerships along such a trajectory have not yet been properly mapped out. There may still be alternatives left completely unexplored. Merger negotiations will be tough on a strategic as well as a tactical manner. We need to make sure we are in shape for that.

The primary means of “getting in shape” for troubles ahead is through growth. We have to be at least twice as attractive to new students as we are now, within a period of 6-8 years. That means that there needs to be 2000, rather than 1000 new students who have Molde on top of their application sheets. That means we have to be 5000, rather than 2500 students on campus.

I have been asked many times how I plan to achieve such growth. I think that we need to recruit more carefully, enthusiastically and with keen attention to the needs of future students, and internationally.

Looking at the education situation in Europe, where University education is expensive, of mixed quality and with uncertain outcome concerning employment opportunities, I am convinced that HiMolde have a unique value proposal for Europe. We offer robust and challenging educational programs, which lead straight into a job market of 26 million people in the Nordic countries alone. If we take on this ambition, we can supply innovatively and with solid academic credentials, professionals to work in health- and social services, to the private as well as public sector and in manufacturing as well as infrastructure development.

There will also be ample academic positions to seek at universities as well as international research institutes. Our own sector has doubled in 10 years, and the candidates that we thus prepare for professional life are not reported to have trouble finding work.

Is this a tempting prospect? Do you wish to have more influence on study programs that in the near future may be internationally known and recognized? Are you concerned about our future organizational affiliation and the logo on your diploma or CV? Then I think you should vote, based on information that you have and that may be made more available over the next few days.

This is important. I encourage everybody to vote. Identify your own views and the chancellor candidate to match them. If you are uncertain about what the two remaining candidates think about issues that are important to you, I am sure both of us wish to discuss those with you. If what I am able to communicate does not resonate with you personally, vote for my opposition instead – as long as you vote!