Knowledge, Politics and Organization

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Knowledge has been an increasingly important aspect of public policy, administration and social life in general, in particular in modern affluent societies with a comprehensive public sector. The importance of knowledge has two key components.

The first concerns how various political actors use knowledge for decision-making, and the extent to which said knowledge-base relies on data, evidence and expertise. Free research and knowledge development as well as open public discussions based on the resulting scientific knowledge are critical to develop effective policies that can deal with a variety of societal challenges, including climate crisis, public health, migration, sustainable economic growth, clean energy, ageing, security issues, etc. At the same time, research-based knowledge, is increasingly challenged. This is evident, for instance, in opportunistic misrepresentation of scientific knowledge claims to legitimize specific interests or ideologies. The emergence of labels such as "fake news" and "alternative truth", as well as distrust by part of the public towards advice provided by knowledge producing organizations (such as public health institutes during the Covid-19 pandemic), point to a tension between long-held expectations concerning the legitimacy of democratic decision-making and the contemporary dynamics of an increasingly digitalized public sphere.

The second component concerns the production and use of knowledge within knowledge organizations and by 'street-level' bureaucrats. Universities, colleges, research institutes, schools and kindergartens are no longer regarded just as important characteristics of modern, democratic societies, but as strategic institutions and productive forces for the development of competitive strength and the maintenance of advanced knowledge-based welfare societies. The shift towards seeing and developing our societies and economies as knowledge based also means that many actors - collective and individual alike - have increasingly strong interests into how knowledge institutions are governed, how much resources they have, where the resources come from and how allocation of resources is linked to various measures of performance, and what determines the decision-making behaviour of those employed within them.

Thus, when policies and administration increasingly are presumed to be knowledge based, and when business life becomes ever more dependent on highly qualified labor with the competency to deliver research based products, it all mirrors how crucial the position of the knowledge dimension of policies and administration has become. It affects the population in a steadily increasing number of areas and the actors who deliver and utilize knowledge such as ministries, other civil service agencies, higher education and research institutions, think tanks, private consultancies, other private companies and voluntary organizations.

Therefore, in order to shed light on the different ways knowledge matters for politics and organizing, this course focuses on studies of the use of knowledge in administration and governance, how knowledge is organized and embedded in various policy sectors (e.g. health and climate), and how politics and administration contribute to knowledge development and transmission

The course is based on theories of public policy and administration, such as organization theory, theory of democracy and theory of professions. It investigates the tensions between institutional autonomy and professional discretion on the one hand and demands from superior authorities and government control on the other. It investigates these issues in the Norwegian context, as well as using cross national comparative studies and studies of international organizations.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:

Knowledge

  • Present the key elements (assumptions and propositions) of the main theoretical perspectives concerning the relationship between knowledge and politics, as discussed in the course
  • Explain how knowledge policy domains are governed
  • Discuss linkages between (1) analysis of the relationship between knowledge and politics, and (2) research on regulatory governance, professions, expertise and democracy

Skills

  • Compare and contrast different theoretical concepts and perspectives from the existing literature and assess the appropriateness and feasibility of using these concepts and perspectives for the topic chosen for the master thesis
  • Evaluate the quality of others' research, including research work by peers, in particular with regards to appropriateness and feasibility of theoretical perspectives used for a chosen research problem

General competence

  • Plan and deliver a short academic presentation based on own written text
  • Provide structured and constructive criticism on peers' work in progress

ECTS Credits

10 ECTS

Level of Study

Master

Semester of Instruction

Spring, irregular
Required Previous Knowledge
Students must have completed a bachelor's degree in political science or an equivalent (subject to approval by the administration of the Department of Government), or a bachelorĀ“s degree in Social Sciences, Psychology or Law.
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
  • AORG327 (10 ECTS)
  • Access to the Course

    The course gives priority to students accepted to the master's degree in Administration and organization theory and the students accepted to the master's degree in public administration (MPA). Students accepted to master's programs in Social Sciences, Psychology and Law can sign up if there are places left. Maximum students per course is twenty (20) students.

    If the number of students registered for a course is five or less, the Department may consider offering the course in seminar format.

    Teaching and learning methods
    Lectures, seminars, discussion and guest lectures. At five or less registered students, course activities and teaching will be in the form of seminars and comprise lesser extent of activities than as outlined in the timetable.
    Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

    Submission and presentation of a reflection paper of a scientific paper, maximum 1200 words. Full attendance to no less than 80 % of the class meetings and commenting on two reflection papers of to other students are required to be able to sit for exam.

    The compulsory assignments must be approved in order to take the exam. Approved compulsory assignments are valid in the current and following two semesters.

    Forms of Assessment
    Written essay on topic of own choosing that utilized literature from the course syllabus, approximately 4000 words.
    Grading Scale
    Graded A-F
    Assessment Semester
    Assessment in teaching semester. Only students who have a valid document of absence will be entitled to take a new exam the following semester.
    Reading List
    The literature list is available on 1 June for the fall semester and on 1 December for the spring semester.
    Course Evaluation
    All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
    Examination Support Material
    None
    Programme Committee
    The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
    Course Coordinator
    Course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB.
    Course Administrator
    The Department of Government at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme.