Objectives and Content
Knowledge has become an increasingly important aspect of public policy, administration and social life in general. This is a global tendency, in particular in modern affluent societies with a comprehensive public sector.
The importance of knowledge has two key components.
The first component concerns the knowledge basis of contemporary policy-making which increasingly relies on data, evidence and expertise. Free research and knowledge development, and open public discussions in which scientific knowledge is an essential element are inextricably linked both to democracy as a form of government and to making effective policies dealing with a variety of societal challenges, including climate change, migration, sustainable economic growth, clean energy, ageing and health, security issues, etc. At the same time research based knowledge, and the assumption that it is based on methods and validation that make it particularly transparent and trustworthy is increasingly challenged. Labels such as "fake news" and "alternative truth" that have emerged point to strategic and opportunistic use of knowledge, including the (ab)use of knowledge claims (be they scientific or not) to legitimize particular interests or ideologies.
The second component concerns the position of knowledge institutions. Universities, colleges, research institutions, schools and kindergartens are no longer regarded just as important characteristics of modern, democratic societies, but as strategic institutions and productive forces for the development of competitive strength and the maintenance of advanced knowledge-based welfare societies. The shift towards seeing and developing our societies and economies as knowledge based also means that many actors have increasingly strong interests into how knowledge institutions are governed, how much resources they have, where the resources come from and whether and how allocation of resources is linked to various measures of performance.
Thus, when policies and administration increasingly is presumed to be knowledge based, when institutions for higher-and vocational education provide the major part of entrants on the labor market, when business life becomes ever more dependent on highly qualified labor with the competency to deliver research based products, it all mirrors how crucial the position of the knowledge dimension of policies and administration has become. It affects the population on a steadily increasing number of areas and the actors who deliver and utilize knowledge such as ministries, other civil service agencies, higher education and research institutions, think tanks, private consultancies, other private companies and voluntary organizations.
Therefore, in order to shed light on the different ways knowledge matters for politics and organizing, this course focuses on studies of use of knowledge in administration and governance, how knowledge is organized and embedded in various policy sectors (e.g. health and climate), and how politics and administration contribute to knowledge development and transmission - from kindergarten, via the school system to higher education and research.
The course is based on theories of public policy and administration, such as organization theory, theory of democracy and theory of professions. It investigates the tensions between institutional autonomy and professional discretion on the one hand and demands from superior authorities and government control on the other. It investigates these issues in the national Norwegian context, as well as using cross national comparative studies and studies of international organizations.
On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:
- Present the key elements (assumptions and propositions) of the main theoretical perspectives concerning the relationship between knowledge and politics, as discussed in the course
- Explain how knowledge policy domains (education and research) are governed in Norway (In a detailed manner) and in other European countries (main characteristics)
- Discuss linkages between (1) analysis of the relationship between knowledge and politics, and (2) research on regulatory governance, professions, expertise and democracy
- Compare and contrast different theoretical concepts and perspectives from the existing literature and assess the appropriateness and feasibility of using these concepts and perspectives for the topic chosen for the master thesis
- Evaluate the quality of others' research, including research work by peers, in particular with regards to appropriateness and feasibility of theoretical perspectives used for a chosen research problem
- Plan and deliver a short academic presentation based on own written text
- Provide structured and constructive criticism on peers' work in progress
Required Previous Knowledge
Students must have completed a bachelor's degree in political science or an equivalent (subject to approval by the administration of the Department of Government), or a bachelor´s degree in Social Sciences, Pshycology or Law.
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
The course gives priority to students accepted to the master's degree in Administration and organization theory and the students accepted to the master's degree in public administration (MPA). Students accepted to master's programs in Social Sciences, Psychology and Law can sign up if there are places left. Maximum students per course is twenty (20) students.
If the number of students registered for a course is five or less, the Department may consider offering the course in seminar format.
Teaching and learning methods
Lectures, seminars, discussion and guest lectures. At five or less registered students, course activities and teaching will be in the form of seminars and comprise lesser extent of activities than as outlined in the timetable.
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Submission and presentation of a reflection paper of a scientific paper, maximum 1200 words. Full attendance to no less than 80 % of the class meetings and commenting on two reflection papers of to other students are required to be able to sit for exam.
The compulsory assignments must be approved in order to take the exam. Approved compulsory assignments are valid in the current and following two semesters.
Forms of Assessment
Written essay, approximately 4000 words.
Examination Support Material
Assessment in teaching semester. Only students who have a valid document of absence will be entitled to take a new exam the following semester.
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
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