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Helpful advice on the road towards status as a Centre of Excellence in Education

Include your students, document excellence thoroughly and reflect upon what kind of documentation you present in your application. This was one of the advice given at NOKUT’s seminar for SFU applicants.

– The SFU initiative has started a minor revolution in Norwegian higher education, a revolution that has helped raise the prestige of teaching and educational quality. Many of you who are sitting here today now have an opportunity to take this revolution still further.

These were the words of Helen Bråten, NOKUT’s project manager for the SFU arrangement, when opening the seminar at Gardermoen on 8 March. We know that many are already well underway with their applications. The seminar has been composed with the idea of offering inspiration as well as answering questions concerning the process.

The Ministry of Education and Research announced earlier this year that the new call for applications may result in six new centres at the most, and the applicants may ask for any sum between four and eight million NOK. The deadline for applications is set at Friday 13 May.

Applicants must see themselves in an international context

The application process is demanding and will take time; applicants must be able to refer to innovative plans and ambitions for their centres. In addition, NOKUT demands documentation of excellent quality in existing provision.

Duncan Lawson, Chair of the expert panel in 2013, said in his talk that only thoroughly worked out applications, with knowledge-based analyses and development of teaching and learning, will get through the needle’s eye.

– It is quite essential that you know what others are doing in your field, internationally as well as in Norway. There is no need to invent the wheel over and again; rather, one should build on what others have done and what research can tell us.

Lawson also emphasised the importance of reflection around the use of indicators as documentation of excellence.

– The applicants themselves must choose indicators and documentation that say something about quality in the given context. All documentation must be chosen with great care. Not all the applicants did well on this score in the previous round, he said.

Stephanie Marshall will chair this year’s expert panel. She greeted the seminar participants by video and said among other things that the best applications not only express a clear vision, but also an action plan of how to get there:

– Where do you see yourselves as being ten years from now – and how will you get there?

Emphasis on student engagement

Bråten, Lawson and Marshall emphasised the importance of student engagement. Student involvement and ownership of learning is highlighted in the refined assessment criteria for applications. The academic communities were advised to expand their understanding of involving students, from formal representation to actually including students in an academic community.

– Goals and ambitions must be set together with the students, former teacher training student at University of Oslo, Asbjørn Bråthen said. He has thorough knowledge of the SFU initiative as a former student leader.

In order for the Centres for Excellence to have impact on the educational programmes, the students have to take an active part in identifying the problems and to find the solutions, he stated.

NOKUT launched an anthology of articles about SFU

During the seminar, NOKUT launched its new anthology of articles related to the SFU arrangement. (Only in Norwegian, except for two of the articles.) The idea behind the anthology is to highlight what experience has been gained. What we have learned so far will contribute in the further development of the SFU initiative, both for NOKUT as administrators and for the institutions – with and without SFU centres today. Editors are Helen Bråten and Astrid Børsheim at NOKUT. The anthology may be ordered at sfu@nokut.no.

Photo: Presentation of the new SFU anthology
From left: Duncan Lawson, Asbjørn Rogne Bråthen, Helen Bråten and Kirsti Rye Ramberg

 

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