The Transformation of Humanities Education in Norway, 1960-2000 (PhD Project) (completed)

The major thesis of this project is that during the period from 1960 to 2000, university education in the humanities in Norway to a large extent became decoupled from the future working life of its candidates. The project will assess the validity of this thesis through analyses of how three aspects of humanities education changed during the forty years in question: 1) recruitment/admissions, 2) curricula, and 3) the career paths of graduates. Particular attention will be paid to possible interrelationships between these variables.

About the project

Prior to 1960, humanities education at Norwegian universities viewed itself and was viewed by the general public as first and foremost a teacher education. About eighty percent of the candidates went on to become teachers in secondary school. In the year 2000, shortly before the introduction of the Quality Reform in higher education in Norway, the share of humanities graduates who went on to teach had dwindled to about twenty percent. The rest, almost eighty percent, were upon graduation scattered across a wide variety of careers, many of which (probably most of which) did not require an education in the humanities. In the same forty year period, the humanities curricula were also transformed. The stated aim of study programs gradually shifted from being a (largely appreciative) transmission to students of a “cultural inheritance,” in order that this inheritance should be further disseminated by the graduates through school teaching, to becoming an autonomous and research-driven, critical engagement with a much more diverse set of cultural materials. Parallel to these developments runs a dramatic increase in the production of candidates.

Each of these three processes of change (in scale, content and career prospects) are major; together they constitute a transformation of both the identity and the social function of humanities education. The “humanities debate” of the past decades has shown clear signs that this transformation is insufficiently understood (and not seldom completely ignored).

The project will take a mixed-methods approach to its materials (policy documents, curricula, statistical data), including both discursive and statistical analyses.  The conceptual framework of systems theory (Luhmann, Stichweh, Baecker) will be employed in order to address the difficult relationships between the operations of the social systems involved: education, research, politics, and the economy (the labor market).

Research category

Basic research


Published Oct. 6, 2010 4:51 PM - Last modified May 20, 2016 12:00 PM


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