By Richard Vedder
Some 36 years ago, while standing at a banquet at an international economic history meeting in the Taurida Palace in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), the chap next to me introduced himself and thereby began a 36 year friendship. Rune Ryden was a young Swedish scholar who later became a distinguished parliamentarian in his country. While in politics, Rune also continued to dabble in higher education, serving on the governing board of the University of Lund and, after retiring from Parliament, running the Latin American research institute at the University of Stockholm. In a recent chat, Rune mentioned he was now on the governing board of one of the world's most interesting universities, the University of the Artic.
The University of Artic is a confederation of several dozen universities located above the 60th parallel, from every nation in that region --Russia, the U.S., Canada, various Scandinavian countries. I believe the current head of the university lives in an Scandianvian country,while the admissions office is in Canada. It is truly a multinational university. Students at the U. of the Artic can take courses at any member institution, The two official languages are English and Russian. Thus the U. of Alaska at Fairbanks may teach a class for its students, and any U. of Artic student can also enroll. Credits are freely transferable between the various members of the broader University. The University serves an area with low population densitites where Internet education is critical, and by pooling resources, the various schools can offer more courses more efficiently.
No doubt there are some problems, but the concept is a sound one. In particular, the barriers between U.S. universities are too rigid, and institutional hubris trumps efficiency and convenience considerations most of the time. We need to make interuniversity student migration more seemless and less costly, and encourage more multi-university cooperative ventures. Perhaps the University of the Artic is a model worth exploring.