Global challenges, local consequences
Rector Dag Rune Olsen visited the University of the South Pacific to strengthen ties between Bergen and Fiji. Whilst in the Pacific, he also met with UiB exchange students.
Half of Earth separates Norway from Fiji, separates the University of Bergen (UiB) from the University of the South Pacific (USP). In autumn 2015, the two universities signed a student exchange agreement and in the first week of November 2016, a delegation from UiB visited USP.
The delegation was headed by Rector Dag Rune Olsen and with him were Professor Edvard Hviding, from UiB's Department of Social Anthropology and head of Bergen Pacific Studies, as well as Professor Tore Furevik, the leader of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, and Nina Bergheim Dahl, coordinator of the student exchange programme between UiB and USP.
Climate focus: the Pacific
Professor Hviding has long been a driving force in the collaboration between a number of universities in Europe and the Pacific region, and one of the purposes of the visit from Bergen was to expand on his collaborations.
“To understand climate change it is necessary to look to the sea. Both our universities have unique expertise and genuine interest in marine and climate-related research,” said UiB Rector Dag Rune Olsen during the visit to Fiji.
“Research collaboration that unites both the human and scientific dimensions of climate change is essential to understand - and better anticipate - what is going on with the weather. In this way the collaboration between UiB and USP - two universities with a focus on oceans and climate - offers something completely unique.”
Studying climate and marine subjects
Besides meetings with the leadership and researchers at USP, Rector Olsen and the rest of the UiB delegation also met with students from UiB who are on exchange in Fiji.
“I'm incredibly pleased with the professionalism I have encountered here at USP. It's been exceptional,” says biology student Anders Isaksen, who is spending two semesters at USP as part of his bachelor's degree.
“Everything here is very hands-on. The things we read about are things we encounter in our studies. Our field trips are absolutely brilliant. I would certainly recommend other students from Bergen to go on exchange here,” the biology student enthuses.
Passionate about the Pacific
In the first year of the exchange programme between UiB and USP, Isaksen is joined in the Pacific by other UiB students in disciplines such as environmental and resource studies, geography, development studies and comparative politics. The common denominator for all of them is an interest in marine studies, climate and the Pacific region.
”To put it that way, this is not like surf studies in Bali,” emphasizes geography student Felicia Claeson. “The timetable is much tighter than UiB students are used to at home. There are frequent submissions, compulsory classes and high academic standards right from the beginning.”
The exchange agreement with USP is open to all UiB students and ties in with the university's commitment to the climate and marine disciplines.
Climate and drama
Between 2012 and 2015, Professor Hviding was head of the EU-sponsored project European Consortium for Pacific Studies (ECOPAS). The project put a social scientific spotlight on the impact of climate change on island states in the Pacific.
ECOPAS also developed an artistic expression through the stage performance "Moana: The Rising of the Sea", which was developed and staged by USP's own company of dancers and singers. The production was invited by UiB to Bergen International Festival 2015, and was then on tour in Europe with an oral presentation at the European Parliament.