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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds I’m in a very newly merged organisation. And we are working on establishing values across all faculties and campuses, which is a big job. So the board and the staff are very aware of finding our values. And that’s what they’re working on right now. So they are probably more aware than they would have been in an older institution. I think my institution works with the question of values by creating space for critical discussion on specific themes related to academic freedom and values. For example, we have a forum for science and democracy that meets about twice a month.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds It is led by academicians and puts specific critical issues dealing with society on the agenda and opens for debate about these issues– for example academic freedom. At the University of Oslo, we have a web page with overarching ethical guidelines on values, as well as more concrete ethical guidelines connected to research ethics, supervision, purchases, and so on. We need to keep this discussion alive. The discussion about academic freedom nurtured the stand of academic conduct. We also organise and participate actively in a series of events discussing academic freedom, research ethics, and related topics. I think it’s very much a communication problem.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds We have to really put academic freedom firmly into teaching so that everybody knows that they have a very, very substantial freedom to voice their opinions in the society. For a university to function well, it is very important that we share key values, that the community of scholars that form a university and any institution for higher education are very explicit on the values they’re working for. And we are used to think that if a university has a degree of autonomy in relation to the state, in relation to its funders, and if an institution enjoys a certain amount of academic freedom, and isn’t constantly threatened by interventions to limit that academic freedom, value issues are neutral, are OK. The topic is done.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 seconds But I see quite a number of situations in which the value issue becomes very important.

Skip to 3 minutes and 18 seconds Universities in our part of the world are a tremendous success– because of our high demands on higher education and on research results. And this leads to the fact that there are quite a few stakeholders, quite a few groups in society that want something from a university– regional authorities, students, their parents, governments, multinational industry. There is a wide variety of claims on the university. And with most of these claims come values. If I own a business, and I want to cooperate with a university, I’m not interested in what this university will produce in 20 years’ time. I’m interested in what it produces now and next year. So short-term values are very important.

Skip to 4 minutes and 20 seconds Students are interested in direct value for the job market. Parents are interested in high reputation and long values. Maybe the interests of long-term research are pointing to a time line that’s very different from the short term that we usually are confronted with. This situation of multiple stakeholders leads to a variety of values where we have to make our choices. So in our part of the world, the issues are no longer issues of academic freedom or autonomy, but more issues of how we use that academic freedom, how we use that autonomy.

Skip to 5 minutes and 6 seconds Are universities really able to make good use of their independence, to be a future-oriented, independent community of scholars, making their own choices, be they long term, be they short term, be they directly applicable, or be they of interest to society in 10 or 20 years’ time. And the values that are governing those choices– societal values of long-term importance or direct incentives, direct funding because we deliver short-term valuable goodies to society– that’s the kind of choice we are to make.

Developing pro-values practices at home

In this video you will hear about the importance of continuous efforts to strengthen values in higher education and examples of what institutions are doing to strengthen the awareness, understanding and ownership of academic core values.

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Dangerous Questions: Why Academic Freedom Matters

University of Oslo

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