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Norway faces long road as mergers begin

On 1 January, the Norwegian government began a process of mergers for universities across the country. The plan, announced in a white paper in March last year, will combine 15 higher education institutions into five, as the government tries to increase the quality of higher education and research.

Bjørn Stensaker, a higher education policy specialist at the University of Oslo, says that one effect of the mergers will be more professionalisation of research management to win international funding. “That’s part of the political argument—that larger institutions have the capacity to develop support for European Research Council or Horizon 2020 funding, while smaller institutions don’t really have the capacity to do so,” he says.

But as the mergers begin, Stensaker points out that these changes won’t happen overnight, and that support services and research quality are likely to decline in the coming decade. “When you merge institutions with mixed research cultures and capabilities, you can’t harvest the benefits immediately,” he says. “There are a lot of internal challenges to be taken care of.”

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