UNIS Annual Report 2020

Performing drone fieldwork at Fridtjovbreen in May 2020. Photo: Christina Hess.

Top image: Performing drone fieldwork at Fridtjovbreen in May 2020. Photo: Christina Hess.

28 May 2021

In 2020, 299 students from 32 countries spent shorter or longer periods at UNIS, including both course students and guest students. Norwegian citizens (43%) were the largest group, followed by students from Germany and the Netherlands in second and third place, respectively. The drop in student numbers are due to the Covid-19 pandemic and cancelled courses.

After the Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in March 2020, UNIS cancelled all the courses that had not started yet. Ongoing courses switched to digital teaching. The lecturers made an impressive effort to quickly switch from physical to digital teaching. The guest students could stay at UNIS, and a financial incentive was introduced for the guest master’s students to maintain or increase the number in this group. Owing to the cancellation of courses, the number of students and the credit production in 2020 were significantly reduced compared to previous years.

A total of 97 student-labour years were produced at UNIS in 2020, which is less than half the production target for UNIS of 220 student-labour years. Of these, 72 student-labour years were linked to credits (ECTS) from completed courses and 25 student-labour years to guest students. While naturally enough there has been a large decline in production at course level, the production from guest students increased significantly. In 2020, guest students accounted for 26% of the total credit production at UNIS.

UNIS had 25 PhD candidates in 2020, and five public defences were held.

The research at UNIS focuses on local and global issues of relevance to climate, environment and sustainability. The temperature increase in Svalbard is stronger than elsewhere. UNIS has a particularly favourable location for researching a broad spectrum of climate and environmental indicators through developments in ecosystems and food chains in the sea and on the land, thawing of permafrost, erosion and landslides, movement and cracking of glaciers, natural gas and natural gas emissions from the ground, the impact of the North Atlantic Current and glacier melting on fjord systems and sea ice, and how all this relates to the Earth’s geological development. Another field of research is how the solar wind affects the upper parts of the atmosphere that create disturbances to navigation and communication systems, how this can affect the ozone layer and thereby affect transport of energy through the atmosphere, and thus also the regional climate. UNIS is also conducting research on how to protect ourselves against natural hazards such as avalanches, traffic in and on sea ice, foundations in permafrost and renewable energy solutions.

As of 31 December 2020, the faculty at UNIS comprised of 14 professors, 12 associate professors, two researchers, nine postdoctoral fellows, 15 PhD candidates and 40 staff with adjunct professor/associate professor attachments. The technical and administrative staff comprised 41.1 full-time equivalent work years. The proportion of Norwegian citizens in permanent positions at UNIS was 53%.

Women accounted for 39% of the faculty positions, 45% of the technical and administrative positions and 55% of the students. Five of the 11 members of the Board of Directors were women.


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Annual reports from previous years can be found here.


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