25 years of German scholarships for Norwegian researchers

Hundreds of Norwegian students have had parts of their education in Germany funded under the E.ON Ruhrgas scholarship program. A large number of Norwegians can thank the company for the opportunity to carry out research at German universities, while German researchers have been the recipients of researcher grants to Norway.

German trade and industry has a longstanding tradition of providing funding for research. The scholarship program for students and researchers under the auspices of E.ON Ruhrgas illustrates the close relationship that exists today between Germany and Norway. The 25th anniversary of the scholarship program was celebrated in Berlin in October this year.

Close and multi-faceted relations

“Relations between Germany and Norway are characterized by wide-ranging contacts and close cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and not least the scientific spheres. Over the past 25 years the E.ON Ruhrgas scholarship program has helped to add to the excellent climate of cooperation that exists between our two countries today,” stated Kari Kveseth, International Director at the Research Council, in connection with the anniversary celebration.

In 2007 the Norwegian state adopted a separate strategy aimed at strengthening and expanding cooperation between Norway and Germany. One of the priority areas is research and education.

Research areas of great benefit to society

In the 1980s Ruhrgas signed the Troll agreements, long-term agreements on gas deliveries from the Norwegian Troll field in the North Sea. At the same time the company extended an offer to fund a scholarship program for Norwegian students and researchers. The academic content of the programs was to be decided by their Norwegian partners. Over the years the program has encompassed economics, law, political science and history. Today the scheme offers scholarships in all but the last of these fields.

Economics – the first field chosen

The first field for scholarships funded under the program was economics; and the results are clear. “Today Germany is the country with which Norwegian economics researchers cooperate the most, in addition to the United States and United Kingdom. In the 1980s Norwegian economists were primarily oriented towards the United States,” explains Kveseth.

Professor Alf Erling Risa of the Center for Economic Studies in Social Insurance at the University of Bergen has used the scholarship scheme to fund several research stays in Germany. This has enabled him to establish contacts with leading German experts, such as Professor Bernt Raffelhüschen, the most eminent researcher in Europe in the field of generational accounting.

Several of Risa’s colleagues have had similar research stays in Germany funded under the scholarship program and the scheme has also made it possible for German researchers to come to Norway. The University of Bergen has established a close collaboration with the University of Freiburg in particular.

History – an unexpected choice

History was included as a new area for funding under the E.ON Ruhrgas scholarship program in 1986. This was an unexpected choice, as different interpretations of history could clearly lead to disagreement. At the time, some 40 years after the end of World War II, contact between Norwegian and German historians was almost non-existent.

In the publication Norsk-tyske forbindelser gjennom 100 år (“100 years of Norwegian-German relations”) Professor Jarle Simensen describes the program as a “tremendous success”. Of particular importance was the fact that the history program under the E.ON Ruhrgas scholarship program led to the increased internationalization of historical research, which until the 1980s had largely focused on national topics.

Law and political science on common European ground

Ten years later, in the light of developments in Europe and the entry into force of the EEA Agreement, law was launched as a new area for funding under the scholarship program. Germany had an outstanding research community in EU law and the Norwegian students who received grants under the scholarship program to study law there were among the best in the field in Norway. In Germany they had the opportunity to study at the top teaching institutions in the field. The scholarship program has also been of huge benefit to Norwegian researchers, who have initiated close contacts with the most prestigious German research groups specializing in EU law.

The most recent field to be included in the Ruhrgas portfolio is political science, which replaced history as a scholarship area. “The political science program was set up in 2003 against the backdrop of the extensive Europeanization processes in Europe,” explains Kveseth.

Click here to read more about the scholarship program.

Source: Research Council of Norway

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