International Summer Programme

Introduction to Norwegian life and society

This summer lecture series at the University of Oslo (UiO) aims at providing an introduction to and an overview of Norwegian culture and society in a historical and contemporary perspective.


The lectures are included in the BI Summer social programme fee and no formal registration is required. All lectures are held in English.

Students who are interested in receiving documentation of their attendance at the lectures need to sign the Attendance sheet which is passed around at every lecture. Please note that BI students need to attend a fixed number of lectures in order to receive a Certificate of Attendance.

Synopsis of each lecture

The Emergence of Modern Norway: A Historical Overview

This lecture takes a look back over the last 1000 years of Norwegian history highlighting important historical events and picking out those that have helped form Norway and Norwegian values as you find them today. It explores the journey towards a modern democracy from the signing of the Constitution through the developments of the 19th century and towards full sovereignty in 1905. It further attempts to explain why, during this period, Norwegian nationalism was rooted in different ideals than those of many other European countries. Themes covered are the arts, religion, minorities and immigration, educational provision and the position of women as well as politics and the economy.

Norwegian Art: from Oseberg to Odd Nerdrum

This lecture surveys the history of Norwegian art from the Viking Age to the present. Key works from each of the major historical periods will be discussed, and broad general themes will be highlighted. It aims to provide a broad introduction to Norwegian art and to demonstrate the important role that it has played in Norwegian culture. The links between art and politics in the modern era will receive special attention, as well as the emergence of a distinct national style. The unique contributions of Edvard Munch, Gustav Vigeland and their contemporaries will also be discussed.

Norwegian Literature

This lecture traces the development of Norwegian literature from the runic inscriptions and medieval sagas to the present day. Special attention is given to the role of literature as a nation building instrument after the dissolution of the union with Denmark in 1814, and Ibsen’s writings are used as a paradigm for the Golden Age of Norwegian literature in the second half of the 19th century. The role of writers in giving voice to Norwegian self-reflection in the wake of the full independence in 1905 and the wartime experiences in the 1940’s will be discussed, as well as the role of literature in the media society which has emerged in the second half of the 20th century.

Politics in a Progressive Democracy

This lecture deals with democratic ideals and how these work in practice. Questions being addressed are: What is progressive democracy and how is it different from other types of democracy? What is a non-democratic state? What type of rule benefits the ruled? It will further deal with the way democratic ideas affect citizens’ relationship with the state and its role. It will give an overview of the Norwegian political structure, the different parties and how proportional representation and minority governments have worked in Norway during the 20th century. Other themes are Freedom of Information and transparency, the notion of a “stakeholder society” and voters’ participation, and the relationship between local and central government.

The Economy:  A Tool or an End in Itself? 

This lecture addresses the question of who runs the economy and for whose benefit? It will further look at the conditions that, in accordance with economic theory, are necessary for a successful economy and see how far Norwegian economic development fits these theories.   Other subjects covered are economic policy and the argument for and against funding services through the public purse, available natural resources, trade, the need for skills, the importance of interest rates for the housing market and for inward investment, as well as labor conditions and unit costs. Changes brought about in national economic policies by increased globalization will be discussed as well as the importance of oil and the role the Norwegian Petroleum Fund.

Gender, Politics and the Family 

In accordance with UN research, women in Norway enjoy a better life than women in most other countries. The questions; how did this happen and why, are addressed in this lecture. It charts how women by entering politics changed the political agenda which, in turn, set new norms. Issues raised are the ability to combine career and family, the need for sharing, not only of house and home, but also of the work that goes with running a home and a family. Other issues discussed are equal pay and surnames after marriage, quotas for women at work and in public life, and the most controversial issue of all, abortion on demand. Some comparisons with other countries will highlight how important legal rights are for women’s quality of life.