The University of the Arctic

  • P.G. Johnson
Keywords: Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies, Association of Circumpolar Universities, Relocation, University of the Arctic, Rural conditions, Social conditions, Economic conditions, Curricula, Native peoples, Traditional knowledge, Distance education, Public participation, Arctic regions, Canadian Arctic


... The advent of the Arctic Council renewed interest in northern post-secondary education and particularly in university education on the international scene. In early 1997, following informal discussions, the Arctic Council asked the Circumpolar Universities Association (CUA) to appoint a task force to report on the concept of a circumpolar university. The Arctic Council accepted the report in late 1997 and charged the CUA with forming a working group to develop a feasibility study. The working group consisted of representatives of the eight circumpolar countries and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The feasibility study was subsequently approved by the Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Iqaluit in 1998, and the working group became the Interim Council for the University of the Arctic, independent of the CUA. Canada is represented on the Interim Council by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (I am the current President) and by Sally Ross, President of Yukon College, who represents the three northern colleges. The indigenous peoples' participants' the Sami Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North - endorsed the concept of the University, provided that the full participation of indigenous people was ensured. ... The concept of the University is one of a university without walls. Programs are intended to be delivered through a range of distance learning technologies, through formal classroom settings at a number of locations in the circumpolar world and elsewhere (depending on the nature of the program component), and at field locations around the Arctic. In many locations, technical capacity will have to be upgraded to allow distance learning to be available not only in community centres, but in individual homes. This capacity is essential to maintain the strength of the community in northern cultures. However, mobility will also be promoted for some components of the programs, to bring together Arctic students and Southern students. ... One of the major challenges will be to develop information sources to support the curriculum. Since the focus of most extant texts is mid or low latitudes, it will be necessary to promote materials that emphasize the Arctic reality, which can readily be translated and produced in both hard copy and electronic formats. The University is therefore moving ahead with its mandate to provide undergraduate and postgraduate training with a focus on Northern issues and delivered in the North. The University is seeking full participation of northern people for its governance and instructional staff, while continuing to promote the integration of expertise in existing institutions.