2 Why a strategy?
In its perspective report, 7 the government maintains that exploiting the opportunities brought about by technology is a key element of a sustainable public sector. The public sector must facilitate the utilisation of new tools, including digitalisation and the automation of tasks. State enterprises must work systematically to ensure that investments in new digital solutions provide the results expected of them and the realisation of benefits.
Improvements within an individual public sector service will always be the responsibility of the individual institution and sectoral ministry. There is a similar responsibility to embark upon digitalisation measures, decide on the internal prioritisation of competing initiatives, and implement the measures. The sectoral ministries and their underlying enteties are also responsible for ensuring that the benefits resulting from digitalisation are followed up and capitalised on.
Similarly, each sector is responsible for using the shared solutions and complying with common frameworks and requirements. The individual institution and sector have a responsibility to create solutions that can be shared with other enterprises and sectors. Consequently, the government expects institutions to endeavour to find solutions together. This requires effective co-ordination and management. State-owned enterprises will be the drivers and adopt a co-ordinating role in efforts to create effective digital solutions across state and municipal sectors.
Even within the higher education sector there is a need to focus more heavily on digitalisation and ICT as key tools in improving interaction, quality, and the relevance of research and higher education, as well as contributing to a more efficient, robust, and well-functioning higher education and research sector. Furthermore there is a need to ensure that the higher education sector is equipped to face the digital challenges of the future, such as those related to the processing of research data.
Digitalisation is not a goal in itself, but it may contribute on achieving the objectives of education and research in a better and more efficient way. Achieving these requires management-rooted organisational development and cultural shift. The institutions’ management must, to a greater extent aknowledge the importance of digitalisation in reaching institutional and sectoral goals and take responsibility for seizing opportunities and exploiting the benefits of co-operation both between the institutions themselves/within the sector and together with the various new administrative agencies to ensure effective solutions that benefit students, the labour market, and society.
Well thought-out and well-structured digitalisation strategies are necessary at all levels for ensuring effective interaction of changes in technology, organisation, and practice coherent with the objectives of the instution as well as the sector as a whole. Both institutions and administrative agencies should have their own digitalisation strategies. Furthermore, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research needs to provide an overall strategic direction for higher education sector efforts relating to digitalisation, by providing clear expectations and visions, by clarifying the distribution of tasks and responsibilities, and by initiating joint measures and initiatives.
Higher education and research is a complex and diverse area, so it is necessary to place the more operational aspects of ICT and digitalisation efforts in the higher education sector in the subordinate administrative agencies and the institutions themselves, individually and jointly. In the ministry’s overall digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector, emphasis is placed on defining overall goals and stating the desired direction of development. The strategy must be seen as the first step on the journey and as a basis to be built on as external and internal conditions change. The overall objectives of the sector are stated in the annual budget proposition to the Storting, Prop1 S, and the primary goal of the digitalisation strategy is that digitalisation should help to achieve the primary objectives of the sector. In addition, some of the objectives indicating the direction in which the ministry wants development to head are described. This is followed by a description of the measures considered the most important at the ministerial level for progressing with digitalisation efforts within the higher education sector. Finally, the most important stakeholders and their responsibility for further follow-up and work are described. These tasks and responsibilities are intended to constitute a framework for managing digitalisation in the sector. The development of solutions that meet user needs and utilises available resources in the best possible way requires adequate proximity to users at all levels.
The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research’s overall digitalisation strategy is based on a comprehensive proposal for an ICT strategy, with sub-strategies for education, research, infrastructure, information security, administrative functions, and the organisation of ICT management, prepared by a working group set up by the ministry consisting of representatives from the higher education sector. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research’s digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector must also be seen in the context of the requirements, guidelines, and recommendations of a number of different reports, white papers, strategies, circulars, and action plans. The most important of these are: NOU 2014:5 MOOCs for Norway. New digital learning methods in higher education, Report No. 18 to the Storting (2014-2015) Konsentrasjon for kvalitet – Strukturreform i universitets- og høyskolesektoren (structure report), Report No. 16 to the Storting (2016-2017) Quality Culture in Higher Education (quality report), Report No. 27 to the Storting (2015-2016) Digital agenda for Norway – ICT for a simpler everyday life and increased productivity, Digitalisation circular no. H-17/15, Nasjonal strategi for informasjonssikkerhet and Kunnskapsdepartementets digitaliseringsstrategi for grunnopplæringen 2017-2021 .
The digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector does not include measures aimed directly at the content and design of courses and research ventures. This will be followed up as part of the long-term plan for research and education, annual budget propositions, or individual action plans or initiatives.