Need for political focus on education - Ilisimatusarfik looks ahead
board & management
The management and the newly elected board at Ilisimatusarfik are following the ongoing general election. So far, however, the field of education - and especially higher education - has been a somewhat under-represented topic.
The field of education is too important a topic not to be in focus - therefore, the board and management at Ilisimatusarfik will bring this contribution to the debate. To make the importance of the field of education clear, we will first dive into the history and results of Ilisimatusarfik.
THE LATEST MILESTONES
On the occasion of the recent winter graduation in February and a successful defense of yet another talented PhD candidate, this is a good time to take stock. Ilisimatusarfik has experienced a massive development during the last decade. We have three new bachelor programmes: Translation & Interpreting; Business Economics and Law. There has almost been a doubling in the number of enrolled students - from app. 400 to app. 800 - and more and more master students are graduating. At this most recent winter graduation, we celebrated 43 new graduates, 11 of whom were master graduates. Even with the country's highest level of education, it is progressing strongly. The number of PhD students has exploded. Throughout the period from 2009 to now, Ilisimatusarfik has awarded 18 PhD degrees, and we can proudly say that right now we have enrolled as many as 30 PhD students.
In 2008, Ilisimatusarfik moved into the new buildings in the university park ‘Ilimmarfik’. The new buildings were not an uncontroversial decision, and many thought it was an unnecessary prestige project. Today, however, it is clear how good a political decision it was. Ilisimatusarfik and Ilimmarfik continue to be a success story. In fact, so much that the physical surroundings already now seem too small for everything Ilisimatusarfik wants - and all the new programmes and students that have started.
Ilisimatusarfik has throughout its existence been a central part of Greenland's nation-building. The ability of the population to take higher education, with the building of local competences it provides, is absolutely indispensable when building important self-supporting institutions in our society. And also, absolutely essential if you want to reduce the need for outside labor. A good and concrete example of Ilisimatusarfik's results is our nursing programme. A few years ago, we celebrated the milestone that more than half of the nurses in the Greenlandic healthcare system are now trained in Greenland. The same development can be seen in many other of the country's important social institutions. Several Greenlandic educated primary school teachers. Several Greenlandic trained administrative officers for the municipalities and the Greenlandic government. Several social workers trained at home - and so on. More citizens with higher education, with greater roots in the community.
The extremely important function of Ilisimatusarfik in society is evident when we look at our graduates. In many other countries - including Denmark - newly graduated academics are suffering from very high unemployment.
Ilisimatusarfik is very proud that we are not educating for unemployment. There is a great demand for our graduates, and they are used in all parts of Greenlandic society. The need for them is so great that the unemployment rate among people with long education is only half a percent.
Despite these good stories about Ilisimatusarfik, we must also note that there are challenges. Challenges that need to be addressed if we are to be able to continue the good work being done at Ilisimatusarfik. These are challenges that need political backing.
The biggest of these challenges is the Institute of Learning and the physical surroundings of the teaching programme. Today, Greenland's oldest education is located at Ilinniarfissuaq and Qorsussuaq. The main building at Ilinniarfissuaq is a very beautiful building, but also a very old and outdated building. The Qorsussuaq buildings are doomed to be demolished in the near future.
Ilisimatusarfik is working to expand the university park ‘Ilimmarfik’ so that the teaching programme can be moved to modern premises. Premises that can be an active help rather than an obstacle to educating the best and most competent teachers for the schools in this country. Ilisimatusarfik has contact with many actors in Greenlandic society, and they are very interested in becoming part of the active research and education environment, which is the dream that Campus Ilimmarfik should be. We must create a university park that, in addition to the teaching programme, must also be the foundation that develops the entire country's educational and research collaboration. That is why political support is very necessary.
IMPROVE THE FIELD OF EDUCATION
Political support for the entire area of higher education is urgently needed. Year after year, the Economic Council's reports indicate that there is a need to give the education area a boost. There is a need for political focus on education, and active political action is needed. Unfortunately, Ilisimatusarfik often experiences the opposite.
We find that the grant is smaller, which makes it more difficult for us to offer new programmes. For example, a planned bachelor's degree in Arctic Biology, which has been in the making for several years. This could be the first higher natural science programme in Greenland. Such an Arctic Biology bachelor's degree would lead Ilisimatusarfik to take another step towards greater participation in the development of new business areas. In addition, there is a great desire from both students and customers that Ilisimatusarfik offers more master's programmes - of which we so far only have three, in relation to the 11 bachelor programmes we offer.
We experience that the salaries of university lecturers cannot compete with the salaries at colleges or other public workplaces. This makes it very difficult for us to retain our talented and good employees.
The field of education in general, and higher education in particular, is an area that Greenland cannot afford to cut back on. That is far too important. It must be an area we focus on as a nation. Ilisimatusarfik performs a societal task that we are getting better and better at. Ilisimatusarfik should, to an even greater extent than now, be the center for the development and management of all new higher education in Greenland. We need our politicians to support us and work with us - for the best of Ilisimatusarfik and Greenland.