Digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector 2017-2021

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6 Who is responsible for implementation?

6.1 The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research

The ministry’s overall responsibility covers the entire education and research sector, and the ministry views the digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector as a measure within the overall digitalisation efforts of the education and research sector. This implies that the ministry is responsible for ensuring that the digitalisation strategy for the higher education sector is aligned with other strategies within the ministry’s field of responsibility, and that opportunities for shared solutions and synergies across the various education and research sectors are utilised and shared. This will include services, systems, and skills.

Given the impact of digitalisation on society, it is natural that the governance of ICT and digitalisation is a central element of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research’s governance, in line with the overall governance of other fundamental and strategic factor inputs and external and internal conditions. Within such governance, it is also natural that risk is managed in the same way as economic risk, compliance risk, and the risk of the inadequate fulfilment of goals. The ministry’s governance of digitalisation has become increasingly important in line with the increased importance of ICT in the development of the higher education sector, the extent of the initiatives expressed through the government’s ICT policy, and the demands posed by stakeholders with regard to the follow-up of digitalisation and ICT at the sectoral level. However, it is important to involve and cooperate with the users so that dialogue regarding governance is effective in both directions, and ensure that plans, measures, and decisions meet user needs as closely as possible.

In keeping with the recognised framework for ICT governance and management (e.g. ISO/IEC 38500), the ministry’s governance of digitalisation will be strategically placed at the governance level, with the higher education sector and the sector’s co-operation interfaces used as delimiters. This corresponds to the level of the ministry’s state governance and governance dialogue, and primarily involves sector-level goal and performance governance. Other relevant management instruments include incentive schemes and more dialogue and network-oriented forms of governance.

Clear governance does not necessarily mean more governance; rather, it means better governance that is rooted in frameworks and strategies. Key elements of governance are the establishment of overall goals and expectations and ensuring the operationalisation, implementation, and delivery of the tasks, plans, and strategies that have been provided. Successful digitalisation hinges on not only top-down governance but also the ability of HEIs, the service agency, quality agencies, and wholly owned limited companies to propose measures, plans, and strategies from the bottom up. Consequently the ministry will invite proposals for measures, plans, and strategies from the whole sector, and it will use these in its overall initiatives, plans, and strategies as well as in the development of policies.

A strengthening of governance is based on the same perspective as the sectoral working group’s proposed sub-strategy for education regarding the need to be open to the fact that “ digitalisation can be as much of a game changer as it has been in other sectors ”, and on the assumption that the higher education sector is about to reach a higher level of digital maturity. This implies that efforts must be increased based on an understanding of what technology means for the external and internal conditions of the sector, as well as on an understanding of its own potential strategic advantages.

It is difficult to predict the overall impact of society’s digitalisation on the higher education sector and how this will effect governance and structures. Lines of governance and governance structures must be equipped in a way so that they are able to manage rapid shifts in external and internal conditions at the sectoral level in order to address fundamental changes. The governance of digitalisation in the higher education sector is multifaceted, with associated strategies and stakeholders. An illustration of multi-level governance and the relationship with the different strategies has been attempted in the figure below.

A strengthening of the lines of governance requires clear tasks and mandates for the new administrative agencies and may involve changes to the organisation and the capacity of the ministry in this area. An important element of these tasks will be to follow up and develop further the digitalisation strategy and sectoral sub-strategies as part of a continuous improvement process in co-operation with the sector and the ministry. This co-operation can be illustrated in the figure below.

Figure : The relationship between governing documents, management levels, and stakeholders

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An important task for the ministry is to ensure transparency for stakeholders. The strategies, depending on their scope and governnance levels, will involve different stakeholders.

6.2 Administrative agencies for quality development

Over the years, state instruments have been established to enhance key aspects of the quality of higher education. These include internationalisation, the digitalisation of learning processes, and the development of outstanding education in general. Several national entities are currently responsible for the administration of various programmes and grant schemes for quality enhancement. It is decided to establish two new administrative agencies whose tasks relate to quality development. The new quality agency built around the current SIU (quality agency S) will have overall responsibility for national incentive schemes aimed at quality development in higher education. Combining different incentives to promote a variety of quality-related dimensions of higher education, such as digitalisation, within a joint administrative agency will allow for the instruments to be seen in a context and create a basis for more cohesive and targeted quality development. Although quality agency S shall primarily perform tasks for the ministry, the fulfilment of its tasks must consider a high degree of academic freedom and legitimacy in the sector. The new quality agency built around the current NOKUT (quality agency N) will also perform tasks for the ministry relating to quality development, as well as control, supervisory, and other government tasks, including tasks currently carried out within the ministry.

Although primary responsibility for the administration and delivery of digital solutions has been handed to the service agency, the two quality agencies play key roles in digitalisation efforts related to education and research. Both digital content and the utilisation of digital solutions and resources must be included as criteria in the quality assurance of education programmes. In this respect, quality agency N will play a key role both in terms of the quality assurance of the HEIs’ solutions and as a driver and development stakeholder. Quality agency S has an important role in terms of enabling access to and facilitating international co-operation and the utilisation of international resources and solutions in the digitalisation of education and research. Quality agency S shall ensure that the instruments associated with incentive schemes and competition arenas for education are also used to stimulate the digitalisation efforts in education. Good governance and administration of digitalisation efforts require sound knowledge of status, needs, and impact. Responsibility for this must be distributed among the three administrative agencies.

6.3 Service agency

The service agency will be responsible for the tactical and operational administration of ICT and digitalisation at the sectoral level and will be responsible both for implementing and following up the strategies and policies established by the ministry and for implementing and following up sectoral initiatives. Practically this will take place by the development of strategies and proposals by the sector and the administrative agency, either on their own initiative or at the request of the ministry. A fundamental condition for the administration of the service agency is that it has a clear mandate from the ministry to make decisions for the sector. The greatest opportunities for realising benefits are expected to be found in the co-operation between the service agency and HEIs on shared solutions.

In addition, UNINETT will have specific tasks and roles in the administration of infrastructure services and information security and will constitute a key resource for overall administration tasks in the field of ICT. The distribution of tasks between the service agency and UNINETT must therefore be clarified before the final distribution of tasks and responsibilities can be defined. The ministry will specify which tasks will be delegated to the service agency in greater detail by way of the annual notice of funding, possibly by way of articles of association.

6.4 Higher education institutions

HEIs possess academic freedom when it comes to education, research and innovation. Furthermore they enjoy certain delegated administrative and organisational powers. Still, the state owned HEIs are government agencies, which means that, notwithstanding their academic autonomy, they are subject to the ministry’s authority and instruction, and that the responsible minister has overall constitutional responsibility for all activities beyond the academic level. HEIs are responsible for providing the services and for the value creation to be supported by digitalisation, and each institution has a delegated responsibility for its ICT systems and the initiation of digitalisation measures. Institutions are responsible, for example, for information security within their own infrastructure, systems, and services, even when these are outsourced to third parties. The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research expects HEIs to follow up the measures of the strategy where they are delegated the responsibility to do so, and to make a constructive contribution by way of sharing best practice and co-operating with other HEIs and the new administrative agencies for services and quality regarding the development of shared solutions and infrastructure.

6.5 Stakeholder involvement

There must be sufficient proximity to users at all levels in order to develop solutions that meet user needs and which can best utilise the resources available. In order to safeguard the institutions' needs to be able to contribute as premise provider to the shared solutions that they themselves implement and exploit, an appropriate user organization must be established which implies noticeable user involvement from both institutions of higher education and other users of the services.

In addition to participate in the role of premise provider, user involvement is necessary within the various sub-strategy areas and the operational administration of the various services and solutions. A more detailed solution to this must be developed in co-operation with the HEIs and other users, initially as part of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research’s implementation project. This will be followed up by the government’s decisions regarding the establishment of a new structure by way of two quality agencies and a central administrative agency for services to institutions.

The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research expects users at various levels to have a reasonable degree of involvement in all digitalisation processes.

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