4 General organisational and financial conditions
4.1 General organisational conditions
In order to seize opportunities and address challenges related to digitalisation in the sector, an internal project was established in 2016 with a mandate of assessing the organisation of administrative tasks, joint services, and shared resources in the knowledge sector. Now the organisational project is finished hence the government has decided to establish a new structure with two administrative agencies pertaining to quality development and one administrative agency for services for the institutions. In order to improve the incentives for innovation in education, including through the digitalisation of pedagogical practice, the administration of grants and programmes for the promotion of quality has been combined in a new administrative agency for quality development built around the current Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU, hereinafter “quality agency S”). The second administrative agency for quality development is built around the current Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT, hereinafter “quality agency N”) and will also be responsible for control and supervision. Furthermore, a new service agency shall be established with overall administrative responsibility for the field of ICT, as well as responsibility for the delivery of ICT-based services in their own right. Exceptions to this are joint infrastructure tasks and research support services that will continue to be provided by UNINETT, the service agency, and the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD).
The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has established an implementation project that will ensure that the government’s and ministry’s decisions in connection with the organisation project are implemented 8 .
4.2 General economic conditions
The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research will continue to contribute to the further improvement and expansion of state instruments for quality development and national infrastructure under the auspices of UNINETT and the service agency (cf. earlier initiatives such as the eCampus programme and cloud technology). The INFRASTRUCTURE scheme of the Research Council of Norway (RCN) could be a relevant source of funding for investments in and upgrades of nationally important ICT research infrastructure.
However, the primary principle for financing ICT infrastructure and services in the higher education sector must be that the institutions (users of the services) pay the cost of performing the tasks.
Digitalisation is not something that comes in addition to normal activities but must be integrated into them. The government has clear expectations that digitalisation will lead to solutions that are more efficient and better meet the needs of users, that realise benefits, and that free up resources that can further support digitalisation in order to improve quality. Consequently, central funding primarily caters for the financing of selected development projects and specific stimulation measures, while running costs for operation, maintenance, and innovation are financed by way of prioritisation within the usual budget frameworks. The government has established a co-financing scheme managed by Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) for small and medium-sized businesses. State enterprises, including state-owned HEIs, can apply for funding for up to 50% of the project costs. The projects must be socio-economically profitable and provide a solid realisation of benefits.
Management at all levels must take responsibility for making necessary funds available to ensure the implementation of various acquisitions and measures if the digitalisation of higher education is to be successful.