A Development in Polar Education


  • W.P. Adams
  • H.G.R. King




Active layer


Although a remarkably large number of organizations exist which are devoted to research in polar regions and/or to the collection and dissemination of knowledge about them, very few of them are "polar" institutions, or even "arctic" institutions in the sense of being interested in everything polar, or arctic. ... The major exceptions are the Arctic Institute of North America, the Scott Polar Research Institute in England and, to some extent, the Arctic and Antarctic Scientific Research Institute of Leningrad, with their large diversified libraries. Many of the existing polar and arctic institutions ... perform their teaching roles, if any, principally through the involvement of their staffs in the academic departments of the universities with which they are most closely associated. As institutions, they appear to stimulate teaching rather than act as centres of it. This situation is illustrated in the case of Canada where a report by Kupsch and Caillol shows that virtually all teaching about the Arctic is being carried on within specialist academic departments - of history, anthropology, biology, geography, geology, etc. ... Some polar institutions seem to have stimulated more teaching than have others over the years. In Canada, again, the relatively recent upsurge of courses dealing with aspects of the Arctic at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Alberta, including very successful extension courses conducted at locations in the Arctic, are a reflection of the efforts of the Institute for Northern Studies, Saskatoon, and the Boreal Institute, Edmonton, respectively. Similarly, it would appear that the Centre d'Etudes Nordiques has greatly stimulated teaching about the Arctic at Université Laval, Québec. In the United States, Dartmouth College at Hanover, New Hampshire, with its Steffansson Collection has been a focus for teaching about the Arctic; and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Ohio State Institute of Polar Studies are other centres which are currently active in the field. The development of universities at high latitudes has, of course, provided a fine opportunity for students to pursue their studies within normal academic disciplines while gaining real experience of the Arctic. Developments in the U.S.S.R. (Syktyvkar and Yakutsk), Sweden (Luleå), Norway (Tromsø) and Finland (Oulu) are clearly of great significance in this regard. In the English-speaking world, the University of Alaska is still the only institution of university status located in the Arctic. ... It would appear, ... that the first formal programme leading to a postgraduate qualification in polar studies - outside the U.S.S.R. at least - will be inaugurated in October 1975 by the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) of Cambridge, England. ... A new development will be the commencement in October 1975 of a one-year postgraduate course, for graduates of any discipline, leading to a Diploma in Polar Studies of the University of Cambridge. The objects of this course are to provide a broad background of polar knowledge and to offer to each candidate a topic of his or her choice to investigate in depth. Lectures and seminars will cover the following subjects in their relation to both the Arctic and Antarctic: natural environment, peoples, history, resources and problems of development, government and social relations. As no such course is given elsewhere in the world, this is an experiment which will be observed with much interest.