GRID Polar Division News

University of the Arctic, ready for the students!

Over fifty representatives of the University of the Arctic member institutions met in Tromso and Kautokeino, Norway for the Council meeting of the University of the Arctic.

Kautokeino November 19, 2002 - Over fifty representatives of the University of the Arctic member institutions met in Tromso and Kautokeino, Norway from Nov. 11-18, 2002 for the Council meeting of the University of the Arctic.

Five new members were accepted into this network of higher education institutions: University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS), and Finnmark University College in Norway, Yakutsk Agricultural Academy and the Arctic State Institute for Culture and Arts in the Sakha Republic of Russia, as well as the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

"It is exciting that our membership is so inclusive," commented Sally Webber, Chair of the Council. "This unique partnership of small and large institutions, as well as indigenous peoples organizations is a true celebration of our Shared Voices principle."

The total number of members is now 46 institutions and organizations from Norway, Finland, Sweden, the United States, Denmark/Greenland, Russia, Canada and Scotland. The University of the Arctic is now moving from planning to implementation. The Council discussed plans for the delivery of the Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies (BCS) curriculum.

The next pilot courses, with funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers, will be offered online to students in eight of the member institutions through the UArctic online portal residing at Athabasca University in Canada. Greg Poelzer, Chair of the BCS Program Team, commented "This is real. We have real students participating in real UArctic programs in eight Arctic countries. All the planning that went into the organization and the curriculum is paying off -- it is now happening. I am really excited."

Björn Haugstad, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Education, responsible for Higher Education, finished his address to the Council in Tromso with a quote from the Ministerial Declaration of the Arctic Council in Ivalo, Finland, earlier this year: "The Declaration welcomes 'the good progress of the University of the Arctic and encourages appropriate authorities in the Arctic states to increase their efforts to secure financing of the core activities of UArctic.' Representing one of these authorities, I admit to my responsibility."

With this clear reiteration of not only the support of Norway but the governments in all the Arctic states, State Secretary Haugstad laid a foundation for a further process for the University of the Arctic to work with the Icelandic Chair of the Arctic Council to increase the participation of higher education authorities in implementing the sustainable development work of the Arctic Council. Recognizing Iceland's key role for UArctic in the next two years, the Council welcomed the invitation from the University of Akureyri and the Stefansson Arctic Institute in Akureyri, Iceland, to host the next Council meeting. This meeting will be held in conjunction with the first meeting of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council under Icelandic chairmanship in April 2002.

"It has been truly valuable to meet in a real Northern community, Kautokeino", commented Lars Kullerud, Director of the University of the Arctic. "The feeling of warmth and welcome from the local community gave us a true sense that the work we are doing is important and needed. I am really pleased that the Council will meet in another northern community, Akureyri, in the spring."

State Secretary Haugstad referred to the role of UArctic for Northern communities in another comment where he discussed the UArctic curriculum and the north-north student mobility program: "It is important to have competence in issues that impact the Northern societies-tourism, sustainable development and good governance are key topics. It is important to open higher education to northerners that historically may not be that eager to enter the academic systems, and it is important to get the possibility to study within the region." On this, everyone seemed to agree.

Contact information:
Sally Webber, Chair of UArctic Council Yukon College Box 2799 Y1A 5K4 Whitehorse, Canada Tel. +1-867-6688 704 Fax. +1-867-6688 896

Greg Poelzer, BCS Coordinator University of Northern B.C., Political Science 3333 University Way V2N 4Z9 Prince George, Canada Tel. +1-250-960 6636 Fax. +1-250-960 5545

Lars Kullerud, UArctic Director UArctic Coordination Office Box 122 96101 Rovaniemi, Finland Tel. mob.+47-9087 0099 Fax. +358-16-341 2777

Ms. Outi Snellman Head of the University of the Arctic Circumpolar Coordination Office University of the Arctic Circumpolar Coordination Office Tel. +358 40 5010209 FAX +358 40 3412 777

Tuesday 19 Nov 2002