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Presentation of Sofie Marhaug

My main motivation for running for the university council, is that I want to work against organizing the university using a business model. I think it especially important that the universities strive to keep a minimum of democratic oversight—to which today’s system contributes—and to advocate for giving elected representatives more influence than today.

The current model is under threat. The conservative and libertarian parties in government (H, FrP & V) have stated in their policy platform that they want to “initiate a feasibility study looking into different organizational structures for higher education, for instance the business model.” Higher education is a place of knowledge and learning and should both benefit and challenge society at large. The university can therefore not make itself dependent on private financial interests and should not be founded on commercial principles. Universities are already dependent on teaching and publication points for funding, and the university’s autonomy in defining research questions may be additionally pressured if the university is assigned a purely client-supplier relationship to the state.

I fear that more of a business mentality in higher education will threaten academic freedom, and in the university council I want to be a clear voice against the business model.

I am committed to ensuring better working conditions for temporary staff. We should value teaching experience more than we do today, and to a greater extent require teaching qualifications when hiring. I will work towards more basic funding for research, thus strengthening the traditional disciplines at the university. As a rule, I am wary of short-lived, externally funded prestige projects and ephemeral centers and clusters, which can be problematic because they are less predictable for temporary staff and may take away from each research community the power to define its own research questions.

Moreover, the university must take a greater responsibility for and exhibit more solidarity as an employer towards its staff. More than 100 cleaners risked losing their jobs last year, when the contract, subject to private tender offers, was about to expire. The university should employ its own cleaning staff, like many high schools in Hordaland have done.

Finally, I will be working against the tendency of letting the university administration expand at the expense of academic positions, especially the number of new advisors and executives. We see a shift nationally and locally where executive salaries are sky-rocketing compared to general wage trends – also within the public sector. The argument favoring this kind of employment policy is that the public sector must be able to compete against private businesses in terms of pay, and thus recruit “the best and brightest” for the jobs in question. This line of argument is of course totally incoherent: the only thing this employment policy ensures, is that the university will become more of an elitist hierarchy, more economically than academically driven, and last, less concerned with social welfare.