Enable Javascript in your browser for an improved experience of regjeringen.no

Meld. St. 7 (2014-2015)

Long-term plan for research and higher education 2015–2024

To table of content

2 Predictable increase in efforts

2.1 Ambitious objectives

The Government wants to increase appropriations to research and higher education to follow up the priorities in the long-term plan. These funds will particularly target measures that contribute to high international quality in research and higher education, and to more research in the business sector. Proposals for increased appropriations to follow up the long-term plan will be made in the annual fiscal budgets.

The Government's objective is for research and development to amount to 3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030. Achieving this target will require a public sector commitment to research and development of at least 1 per cent of GDP. The Government will boost research appropriations beyond GDP growth every year until the one per cent goal is achieved. Given current prospects for future GDP growth, the Government aims to achieve this goal in the 2019–2020 timeframe.

A few basic premises must be in place in a well-functioning system for research and higher education. Norway must have the right people with the right skills. We must have suitable buildings and equipment to promote education and research, and allow us to excel in international competition. And we must take part in international knowledge development. These preconditions are the most important input factors in research and higher education policies.

2.2 Human capital

2.2.1 The right – and sufficient – skills

There will always be a need for qualified labour. Highly-developed competence in the Norwegian workforce enables us to produce smarter and with higher quality. We need qualified professionals to provide good and effective public services. Capable people in business and industry do not just develop new products and solutions, but also enable us to utilise products and services developed abroad. We have to know that we have enough people, that their expertise is good enough, and that they have the right knowledge and skills. Therefore, following up the long-term plan entails assessing the future need for expertise within each of the six long-range priorities. Educational institutions, research institutes, the business sector and the public sector must also be closely interconnected to ensure necessary capacity, quality and organisation in these areas.

2.2.2 Good higher education

Who is responsible?

Educational institutions are responsible for the quality of the education. The content must be relevant and up-to-date, and students must benefit from what they learn. The institutions themselves put together and discontinue the programmes of education they offer. The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) is responsible for overseeing the education offered and the institutions' quality assurance systems. The various ministries are responsible for expertise and knowledge needs within their areas of responsibility. The ministries shoulder their share of this responsibility by highlighting the need for greater higher education capacity within their areas, in dialogue with the education authorities. Analyses and surveys of the future need for university places through projections may provide some direction. However, they are less suitable for discerning needs that arise as a result of changes along the way; for example the rapid development within ICT and other technologies.

Need for capacity

We can start with analyses of future needs and strategic objectives in order to gauge how many students and researchers we need in the future. In other words: we can examine projections to gain an impression of what society will need if the same development trends continue, and we can also determine the level we wish to attain based on political and strategic objectives. Statistics Norway (SSB) draws up projections of supply and demand. For example, SSB's latest projections show that there will be steadily declining demand for people who have only completed compulsory schooling or just started on upper secondary education. At the same time, projections indicate a significant deficit in the number of people with vocational expertise from upper secondary education. People with training in health-related subjects will be in particular demand, while there may be a surplus of people trained in economic-administrative subjects, social sciences, law and the humanities. A need for more people with advanced ICT education has also been documented.

Educational institutions, employers and employees and the public authorities need good meeting places to achieve a common understanding of future needs for expertise and to ensure the availability of relevant education closely linked to practices in public services and industry. The Ministry of Education and Research has therefore established a project aimed at developing an overarching system for analysis, dialogue and communication of the competence required in working life. Such a system will provide a better foundation for scaling the education offered, i.e. how many students will be needed within the various subjects. This system will be incorporated in the knowledge base towards the next long-term plan.

Content in the programmes of education

The Government wants to promote excellent educational environments in Norway. An assessment of the state of affairs in Norwegian higher education reveals several good development trends, as well as areas that need improvement. The Government believes that high quality education built on solid expert communities is an all-pervasive objective for all Norwegian universities and university colleges. This requires the ability to set priorities and the willingness to adapt.

The Norwegian Centre of Excellence (SFF) has demonstrated that good research leadership contributes to the development of outstanding research communities. Similarly, leadership and management are probably significant factors in cultivating outstanding educational environments. Generally speaking, good research and education environments must be cultivated together, and joined even more closely. Developing clusters and interplay between education, research and innovation are important for several of the priorities in the long-term plan; take, for example, the importance of marine and maritime clusters. The educational institutions must also stimulate greater cross-discipline and international cooperation. This helps increase the relevance of the studies and can contribute to making academic environments more exciting for the students when they select the courses of study they wish to pursue.

Digitalisation and use of new technology in higher education can promote quality. Digitalisation makes the education more relevant for the needs in working life. Digitalisation allows students to work more actively with the subject matter in different ways. This opens the door for greater cooperation with other institutions, as well as with the business community, trade and industry. This also makes the education more flexible for each student, who can choose when he or she wants to work on the study material. The rapid development in massive open online courses (also referred to as MOOCs) in recent years is another example.

2.2.3 The best and brightest – the need for doctorates

People with tertiary degrees are in demand in working life, also outside professional academic communities. More people who possess such expertise are particularly needed within science and technology. The Government therefore intends to increase the number of recruitment positions by 500 by 2018.

We need experts with doctorate degrees to achieve our long-term plan objectives in several priority areas. For example, recruitment positions in nano-technology will both form the basis for developing leading expert communities in the field, and create business activities within green energy. There is a need to reinforce recruitment efforts within several of the priority areas in the long-term plan. The number of people taking doctorates has more than doubled over a little more than ten years. Compared with other Nordic countries, a lower percentage of doctoral candidates choose technology, while the percentage choosing medicine is high.

A survey conducted by consultant agency DAMVAD for the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (2014) revealed that the need for advanced ICT expertise will grow in the time ahead. The private services sector will show particularly robust growth, while needs are also rising in the public sector and in industry. Projections show that, starting in 2015, there will be under-coverage of ICT personnel in Norway. For this reason, the Government particularly wants to devote resources to recruitment in this area.

Excluding private sector R&D, the research institutes were responsible for nearly half of Norwegian research efforts in 2011 in mathematics and natural science, and for two-thirds of research in technology subjects. The thematic specialisation of the institutes and close cooperation with industry, the greater community and the public sector means that the institutes play a key role in linking research, education and innovation. For example, the institutes can offer doctoral candidates experience from inter-disciplinary and project-oriented research that is relevant for both the private and public sector. The Government wants to utilise the research institutes' expertise to reinforce recruitment, particularly to mathematics, natural sciences and technology subjects. The Research Council will have the task of formulating financial or other instruments that can contribute to strengthen the role of the institutes in this work. The Government will consider introducing an economic stimulus scheme for research institutes that cooperate with an educational institution to train doctoral candidates.

2.3 The best equipment

Outstanding expert communities must have access to the best equipment. Two examples of such equipment are large DNA sequencing machines that are used to read genes to diagnose diseases and weather buoys that float along the coast and provide information about weather conditions and the environment.

Modern equipment is important if Norway is to attract good researchers and assert itself in international competition. High-quality modern equipment is necessary for the business community to see the benefit of collaborating with the research communities. It is also necessary if we are to develop expert communities at the global forefront. Not least, good laboratories with up-to-date equipment are important for the quality of education.

The Research Council's national research infrastructure scheme is a highly-developed tool to ensure that funding of major research infrastructures goes to high-quality, strategically important projects. In order to secure approval of funding applications, the institutions must join in national consortiums and submit plans showing how they will cooperate on laboratories, data acquisition, etc., how they plan to divide the work and how they will ensure access for all researchers who may have a relevant interest in such equipment. These demands have contributed to a better structure for the Norwegian research landscape. They reinforce quality and efficiency, and make it possible to realise projects that individual institutions could not carry out on their own. Based on the applications to the national infrastructure programme, the Research Council of Norway has drawn up a Norwegian roadmap for investments in research infrastructure. This roadmap is updated every second year, after each major call for proposals.

At the same time, investment growth in research infrastructure in the higher education sector and health trusts in recent decades has been much lower than the growth in research expenditures. The current investment level is not sufficient to meet the needs. The Government therefore intends to expand appropriations to these schemes by NOK 400 million by 2018. The Government also intends to raise appropriations for other equipment at universities and university colleges.

The national infrastructure scheme also contributes to Norway's active participation in the joint European collaboration on research infrastructure through the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). This cooperation gives us access to world-class equipment and data. One example is the national consortium on biobanks. Biobank Norway on the Norwegian roadmap has received funding to upgrade and collaborate on Norwegian biobanks. Biobank Norway is the Norwegian part, or the node, of the major European biobank collaboration, Biobanking and Biomolecular Research Infrastructure, on the European roadmap for research infrastructure. In other words, national investments gain admission for Norwegian researchers not only to Norwegian biobanks, but to all biobanks in Europa.

2.4 The most important construction projects

Norwegian universities and university colleges must fulfil their core assignments and adapt education and research to reflect society's changing needs if they are to contribute to achieving the objectives in the long-term plan. Modern, functional buildings with appropriate equipment are essential in order to solve the complex challenges of the future, as well as to promote value creation in Norway. Good buildings are also crucial for excellent quality in both research and education. High-quality buildings for teaching and research are necessary in order to attract the best students and researchers, and to be attractive partners for the public and private sectors.

Textbox 2.1 Campus Ås

The Norwegian School of Veterinary Science in Oslo and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences at Ås were merged in 2014. The new institution, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) will be gathered in a single location at Ås in 2019. The National Veterinary Institute will also move to Ås that same year. The Nofima food research institute is also located at Ås. The research institutes Bioforsk, the Norwegian Agricultural Economic Research Institute (NILF) and the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute will merge on 1 July 2015 and the new institute will also be headquartered at Ås. The Government expects that when these institutions are located in the same place, a solid hub of knowledge will emerge for sustainable development, the environment and climate challenges, better human and animal health and animal welfare, food safety, clean energy, food production and land and resource management. The Ås Campus will lay an important foundation for developing new business activity within bio-economy (see Box 7.1).

Need for facilities

There is a significant need for investment in training and research buildings, particularly for state universities and university colleges. The most important reason is the need for modernisation and renewal. Social developments, new technology and new challenges lead to changes in the way we learn, and research methodology that requires new or upgraded teaching facilities, laboratories and scientific equipment. There is also a need for more space for students and employees. The overall activity level at the institutions has grown considerably since the late 1980s, and continues to rise. Higher activity means more employees and students who must have a roof over their heads.

Investments in buildings will always be an important element in research and higher education policy. It takes a long time to complete construction projects, often ten years from when planning starts until the building is finished. The Government's long-term plan places particular priority on two construction projects which are considered to be the most important projects for achieving the objectives in the plan. These projects are a building for life sciences, pharmacology and chemistry at the University of Oslo and upgrading the Ocean Space Centre in Trondheim for Marintek and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The projects are at different stages of the planning and engineering process, and the Government will make a decision on concept, management basis and cost framework when a sufficient basis for decision has been secured. The concept for upgrading the marine technology centre has not yet been selected. See also the discussion in 8.5.

New building for life science, pharmacology and chemistry

A new building for life science, pharmacology and chemistry at the University of Oslo will facilitate closer cooperation between different expert environments, as well as collaboration with business and industry and the public sector. Cooperation between the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital will be important in ensuring high quality and relevance in education and research. Life science itself is an interdisciplinary field, and the building will facilitate more cooperation within medicine, biology, pharmacology and odontology, supported by physics, chemistry and mathematics subjects. The investment will be an important contribution towards Norway being able to assert itself among the best within these areas.

Upgrade of the Ocean Space Centre

Investment in the upgrade of the Ocean Space Centre in Trondheim is a substantial commitment designed to assist Norway in remaining at the global forefront in marine and maritime research. Ocean space technological research and marine technology and expertise are key to innovation and future value creation within maritime industries, the oil and gas activity and the fishery and aquaculture industries.

2.5 Making the most of Horizon 2020

There are time-honoured traditions for international cooperation on research and higher education. Human beings searching for knowledge have always travelled to other countries to seek out learning institutions or master teachers, or to check out conditions in other parts of the world. The international programme collaboration that has developed in Europe through the EU's framework programmes for higher education, research and subsequently innovation collaboration, have become the largest in the world over the last decade.

Through this European collaboration, we have created a competitive international arena for research and innovation, characterised by extensive cooperation and sharing of work between countries, where quality and European added value determine who receives research funding. Norway has taken part in this competitive arena as an associate member for more than 20 years. The new research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, started in 2014. The Government's strategy for cooperation with the EU on research and innovation sets ambitious targets for Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020. The Government's clear expectation is that Norwegian expert communities will participate actively in this cooperation, and that they will, in some areas, be at the forefront of the European competitive arena. The Government's objective is for Norwegian expert communities to secure 2 per cent of all funding made available by Horizon 2020. If this is to occur, the scope of Norwegian activity must increase radically. Therefore, the Government wants to increase efforts and stimulus schemes to assist Norwegian scholars in succeeding in Horizon 2020. The Government will raise appropriations to such stimulus schemes by NOK 400 million by 2018.

Different sectors need different types of stimulus schemes. In order for the research institutes to expand their participation, support is needed to meet the gap betweencosts covered by funding from the European Commission and the actual costs of the project. The institutes play an important role in mobilising business and industry for participation. Measures that can assist the institutes in covering costs can therefore also increase participation by the business community. Cost coverage is not as important for the higher education sector and the health authorities. Here there is a greater need for information and support for positioning activities, to write applications, as well as to establish and run projects. As regards the business sector, the greatest need for support appears to be for funding that can mobilise companies to take part, and assist them in establishing the projects. There is an inherent potential of increasing the scope of participation in all sectors and in most expert communities. Therefore, the Government will develop a set of measures and instruments to respond to the needs in the various sectors, taking a point of departure in the strategy for research and innovation cooperation with the EU, and in cooperation with the Research Council of Norway.

The Government also expects Norwegian experts to participate in Erasmus +, the EU's new education programme which started in 2014. The programme emphasises cooperation between educational institutions, as well as between these institutions and workplaces.

Textbox 2.2 EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND)

Right now, more than 70,000 people live with a dementia disease in Norway, and at least 300,000 have a family member afflicted with dementia. Estimates indicate that the number of people with dementia will double by 2040. Dementia ailments affect the entire society, but are still associated with a lack of expertise and knowledge.

We know too little about causes, development of the disease, treatments and organisation and facilitation of services for people with dementia. Norway is an active participant in the European joint programme for research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases (JPND). This programme is the largest global research commitment that addresses challenges associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Norway provides funding for this effort through the Research Council of Norway.

Norwegian research groups participate in several of the projects. The University of Oslo and Akershus University Hospital are taking part in a project to map gene combinations that increase the likelihood of developing such illnesses. Another project, where the National Resource Centre for Aging and Health takes part, will follow around 200 dementia patients in several European countries over a period of two years to chart development of the disease after the patients have received a diagnosis, and which treatment options they receive.

Go to front page