Celebrating the new PhD record at UiB

Speaking on behalf of the new PhDs, Ingrid Birce Müftüoglu reminded the audience that research can be both the cause and the solution to the world’s problems.

Recent PhD graduate from the University of Bergen, Ingrid Birce Müftüoglu, outside Håkonshallen, before her speech at the so-called doctor promotion at Håkonshallen on 24 January 2014.
A CALL FOR CRITICAL THINKING: In her speech at the doctor promotion, one of last year’s 265 new doctorates at the University of Bergen, Ingrid Birce Müftüoglu, looked at the challenges for research and in particular the added skill of asking critical questions of existing power structures.
Thor Brødreskift

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Never before has there been a larger number of people graduating as PhDs from the University of Bergen (UiB). And never before have so many of the new doctorates been women. In keeping with tradition, the doctors from the previous semester were honoured in a ceremony at Håkonshallen – on Friday 24 January.

The comparative politics researcher Ingrid Birce Müftüoglu defended her doctoral thesis in August 2013, with a study of the everyday politics of the 1970s feminist movement. When speaking at Håkonshallen on behalf of the recently graduated doctors, she congratulated both the freshly minted doctors themselves, their families, their mentors and the whole university community.

At the same time she drew attention to the grey zones that exist between academia and society, particularly addressing the politics of knowledge.

When research is the problem

“We are experience a number of problems in today’s society, such as challenges linked to migration, the climate, finance, or we may discuss issues of dignity and worthiness connected to the rapid rise in old age pensioners,” Birce Müftüoglu said. “But however we look at it, research is presented as the solution to these problems, rarely as the cause of these problems.”

In her speech she pointed out that the problems of the world are sometimes caused by evidence-based measures and that this kind of grey area between academia and larger society is only rarely discussed.

A call for more critical reflection

“As freshly minted doctors, we have been trained in our fields of research, but we should also be trained to be able to reflect critically on the limitations and challenges of this knowledge,” she said. “These are valuable skills in modern society, where the talk is about evidence-based policy being the cure for all the world’s ills. Yet we know that research takes place in a field dominated by special interests, moral values, ideology and power structures in which political authorities have a strong presence.”

She also spoke about the importance of a university education.

“Being trained in critical and independent thinking enables us to think clearly on political issues, examine our political leaders, recognise other human beings to have equal rights, and feel concern for the lives and circumstances of others,” she said. “These are important perspectives in a democratic society and an equally important part of a university education.”

Maturing through reflection

Rector Dag Rune Olsen started by congratulating the new doctors, before proceeding to talk about how doctoral degrees represent what is at the heart of all science. He pointed to the scientific process of immersing yourself, test and develop new ideas, and maturing through reflection.

“The start of this year has been pleasantly characterised by a lively debate about academia in Norway. How can universities fulfil their social duties and generate new knowledge to help both the country and the world into the future,” Olsen asked. “How do we ensure that knowledge and quality permeates everything we do? All you who are gathered here today represent a part of this knowledge and quality.”

Gaining a competitive advantage

In his speech, Rector Olsen also pointed out that there is a shortfall in the number of PhDs and that there is an increased need for knowledge in all sectors of society.

“A Danish report published in 2012 states that a majority of companies that employ PhD graduates experience that this in itself has led to increased profitability and added productivity to their business,” Olsen said. “You are a great resource both for the business of today and the businesses of tomorrow, and those who make use of your skills will have a competitive advantage. The education you have now completed is, in other words, a prime commodity.”

In closing, the rector encouraged the PhD graduates gathered at Håkonshallen to seize the opportunity and the advantages given to them by their education.

 (Translated from the Norwegian by Sverre Ole Drønen.)