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.
On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:
- 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
- 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
- Plan and deliver a short academic presentation based on own written text
- Provide structured and constructive criticism on peers' work in progress
Level of Study
Semester of Instruction
Required Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
The course is open for students who have been accepted to Master programmes at the Department of Government.
The course gives priority to students accepted to the Master programmes at the Department of Government. Students accepted to other master's programmes in Social Sciences, Pshycology and Law can sign up if there are places left. Maximum students per course is twenty (20) students. Exchange students at master level may be accepted upon application. Applications may be rejected due to capacity.
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
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 (excluding the title page, table of contents, references, tables, and all attachments).
The exam will be given in the language in which the course is taught.
The exam answer can be submitted in Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. It is also possible to submit in English.
Assessment in teaching semester.
A retake exam is arranged for students with valid absence according to § 5-5 in the UiB regulations.
If there is a retake exam, this will be available for students with the follow results/absences:
- Medical certificate/valid absence
- Interruption during the exam
If you have the right to take a retake exam and a retake exam is arranged for students with valid absences, you can sign up yourself in Studentweb after 1. August