University in Norway’s Arctic mulls cuts to Russian programs

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - October 26, 2016

An evaluation report issued last week by the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø proposes to make a number of cuts in study programs, among them a bachelor program in Russian studies.

The report, which is authored by the University leadership itself, argues that cuts are needed in order to “dynamically meet the society’s and the labor market’s needs for relevant labor, and adjust to natural changes of conjuncture.”

A total of 13 study programs are proposed for closure, while another 14 will undergo adjustments, the report reads.

University staff now voices concern. According to Tore Nesset, Professor at the University’s Department of Language and Culture, the closure of the Russian studies could ultimately lead to a loss of valuable competence on neighboring Russia.

“Norway needs these people, and especially northern Norway,” he says to the Barents Observer. “Their competence is very relevant for the region,” he underlines.

According to the professor, the university’s Russian studies are unique because of their combination of language and history, cultural studies, economy and political science.

“A comprehensive understanding of Russia is of key importance for the understanding of developments in the High North,” he argues.

Northern Norway has a long history of relations with neighboring regions in Northwest Russia and the University of Tromsø is engaged in a wide range of cooperative efforts in the area.

Despite the close relationship with Russian partners and the relevance of Russia in the North, the number of Norwegian students in the University’s Russian programs have been in decline over several years.

In the fall of 2015, there were only 14 registered students in the program for Russian studies.

That is too little, the university leadership says.

According to university report, the program is “not sustainable.”

At the same time, the university acknowledges the importance of Russia in further university developments. “Knowledge about Russia remains strategically important for the university and is in many ways a part of our profile as the Arctic University of Norway,” the report states.