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A practical take on governance and public management

A new Nordic master programme offers students a practical understanding of the Nordic welfare model. Courses are given in Kristiansand, Tampere and Stockholm.

"The researchers are the driving force behind this programme, and that is an important factor in its success", says Anne Elizabeth Stie (left), head of the Department of Political Science and Management, here with professor Romulo Miguel Pinheiro and administrator Jannik Stølen Timenes.

"This is much more than a master's", says Romulo Miguel Pinheiro, the professor in charge of the Nordic Master Programme in Innovative Governance and Public Management (NORDIG).

Along with research colleagues from the University of Tampere (Finland) and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm), Pinheiro is the driving force behind the master programme that starts autumn 2017.

"The world is changing, and there is an increasing need for candidates with a good understanding of networks, who think holistically and are able to work across different sectors", Pinheiro says.

The master programme builds on the Nordic tradition in governance, and bridges it with innovative studies and design thinking. From the University of Tampere students will get an introduction to management, while the University of Agder supplies organisation theory and political science. In Stockholm the different perspectives will be joined together at the KTH OpenLab.

Real world experience

At the OpenLab, students work together across different fields, working from an idea concerning a societal challenge towards a solution on how to address it. For instance, a nurse, a political scientist and an engineer work as a team and in close collaboration with external partners from the region.

"The education aspect of the OpenLab is much closer to the way students will actually work after they graduate. Students with different backgrounds have a way of looking at problems from different angles", says Anne Elizabeth Stie, Head of the Department of Political Science and Management at UiA.

OpenLab also invites regional stakeholders that in turn gain a new arena to discuss the problems they are facing.

"Even though students will experience OpenLab first in their third semester, they will start thinking about society's challenges and teamwork from day one. When they get to Stockholm they will not only have grasped the concept but also developed teams for cooperation", Pinheiro says.

Exporting the Nordic model

The master programme will educate students on public interests and values, and the impacts of public services and policies on citizens, organisations and society at large. While the course is open to students with different academic backgrounds, an understanding of public management or organisational study will be advantageous.

"Traditional studies in political science don't offer students practical experience. This programme will lead the students to understand the decision-making process in public services", Stie says.

The graduates will be equipped with generic and domain-specific competencies needed in both the labour market and post-graduate studies.

"The Nordic Model is ripe for export, especially in this time of Brexit, Trump and a Europe in crisis. There are a lot of students, especially from China, who wants to understand the Nordic model better", Stie says.

A different path to internationalisation

The department head emphasises how the programme lets students be present in different international research environments, without having to commit to a degree at each university.

"This is a different way for UiA to think about internationalization. The network model gives our students access to very good research environments and a larger group of researchers that provide them with an education of great quality", Stie says.

UiA has been granted 1,5 million Danish crowns from The Nordic Council to run the programme. Further down the road, the university wished to expand the collaboration to even more international partners, and use the network to apply for research projects.

"This is the path UiA should take onwards. We are improving our research profile and the research and education is carried out across sectors in a close collaboration with stakeholders", Pinheiro says.

Both Pinheiro and Stie describes the programme as a Swiss army knife:

"The students get to experience the dilemmas facing public servants. At the same time the teachers and professors get access to good research projects and themes. Perhaps we will even succeed in finding workable solutions to some problems", Stie says.

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