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Mid-term evaluation: Successful national researcher schools

The mid-term evaluation of the scheme for national graduate-level researcher schools (FORSKERSKOLER) has concluded that the five national researcher schools launched in 2009 have been a great success. The Research Council of Norway is allocating a total of NOK 46 million to the schools for an additional three-year period.

“The evaluation shows that the researcher schools have enhanced the calibre of researcher training at the partner institutions. The doctoral students enrolled in these national schools have enjoyed a wider selection of courses than their home institutions could offer on their own,” says Anders Hanneborg, Executive Director of the Division for Science at the Research Council.

Photo: Sverre Jarild (Photo: Sverre Jarild) The national researcher training schools in Norway are organised as a network between Norwegian universities and university colleges and target a specialised subject area. A panel of Nordic experts led by Göran Gustafsson of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, was responsible for conducting the mid-term evaluation of the first five researcher schools.

Benefitted tremendously from networks

The mid-term evaluation concludes that the researcher schools have successfully established coordinated researcher training at the national level in their respective subject areas. They complement and enhance the selection of courses offered by the individual partner institutions and have attracted a significant number of Ph.D. students.

Together, the institutions in the researcher school networks provide a wide array of relevant, high-quality courses. However, the evaluation panel points out, coordinating activities between the institutions has been a challenging process, in part because the institutions have different cultures and in part because there is varying practice between the institutions when it comes to the approval of external courses for doctoral degree programmes.
The evaluation report provides specific advice to each of the evaluated schools for continued operations, as well as general recommendations for all of the schools.

Recommend more binding cooperation

The evaluation shows that close, constructive collaboration between the institutions is crucial to the optimal functioning of the researcher schools. It is therefore recommended that binding cooperation agreements are in place when a school is launched.

The evaluation panel considers the model in which each partner takes responsibility for certain courses to be excellent, pointing out that this will increase the likelihood that the initiatives can be continued after the funding period comes to an end. The panel recommends that the Research Council encourages this type of model in any future funding announcement under the FORSKERSKOLER scheme.

Photo: Sverre Jarild (Photo: Sverre Jarild)

The evaluation panel also recommends that Ph.D. students and their supervisors become more involved in the researcher schools and that the students are represented on the school board.

In general, the evaluation panel believes that a more targeted call for proposals directed towards selected strategic areas, and possibly smaller grants to a larger number of schools, would lead to greater benefits than the current scheme. Therefore, the panel recommends that the Research Council considers adapting the organisation of the scheme and the allocation framework to the individual schools before issuing a new call.

The following five researcher schools have received grants for the final three years of an eight-year funding period:

National Research School in Business Economics and Administration (NFB)
Host institution: Norwegian School of Economics
Partners: University College of Oslo and Akershus, University College of Vestfold, University College of Østfold, University College of Ålesund, University College of Buskerud, University College of Molde, Sør-Trøndelag University College, University College of Lillehammer, University of Nordland, University of Tromsø, University of Agder, University of Stavanger, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Norwegian Research School in Climate Dynamics (ResClim)
Host institution: University of Bergen
Partners: Uni Research, Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre, Institute of Marine Research, University of Oslo, University of Tromsø, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Norwegian Polar Institute, University Centre in Svalbard

National Graduate School in Educational Research (NATED)
Host institution: University of Oslo
Partners: University of Agder, University of Bergen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, University of Stavanger, University of Tromsø, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, University College of Oslo and Akershus

National Research School in Medical Imaging (MedIm)
Host institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Partners: University of Oslo, University of Bergen

National Graduate School in Structural Biology (BioStruct)
Host institution: University of Tromsø
Partners: University of Bergen, University of Oslo, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Written by:
Christian Lund/Else Lie. Translation: Victoria Coleman/Carol B. Eckmann
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