Norway’s oldest and most illustrious university, with five Nobel Prize winners among its alumni, may soon add the self-confessed fascist whose terror campaign two years ago killed 77 people.
Anders Behring Breivik, serving a 21-year sentence in a maximum security prison, has applied to the University of Oslo to study political science, Norwegian television revealed on Monday nigh.
Breivik killed 69 students at a summer camp on Utoya island after a bomb he planted in government offices in Oslo killed eight people.
The university, whose Latin motto is et nos petimus astra (we strive for the stars), said it would consider Breivik’s application “on its merits.”
University rector Ole Petter Ottersen confirmed that Breivik had applied to study a single topic that would not lead to a degree, but could not go into details on how the application would be treated.
“Prison inmates are allowed to study, and we have a set of rules that we stick to in assessing applications. We don’t want to change them — although obviously some people would like them changed,” he said.
Last summer, Breivik announced his intention to study politics and write several books.
National Union of Students in Norway vice president Andre Almas Christiansen said: “I understand that this is sensitive, but we do not comment on individuals. Everyone can apply — it’s up to the university to look after this.”
Many staff at the University of Oslo had “reacted quite negatively” to Breivik’ application, Ottersen said, adding that in the “hypothetical” case that Breivik was admitted, lecturers would have the right to refuse to teach him.
“Should we find ourselves in that situation, we will be very attentive to the problems that could arise and to the views of our teachers,” he said.
The Norwegian Association of Researchers, which represents university teachers, could not be reached for comment.
Despite the reluctance of Norway’s higher education institutions to be drawn on the sensitivities of the case, Breivik’s application to study is likely to be highly controversial.
Per Anders Langerod, who was among the survivors of Breivik’s massacre on Utoya Island and finished a master’s degree in political science at the university last year, said he did not want Breivik there.
“We cannot expect people to accept it,” he told TV2. “[The university] is a place where you learn that you should pursue your opinions with words... You cannot go out and tape over their mouth or shoot them just because you disagree.”
Knut Bjarkeid, director of Ila prison where Breivik is being held, told Norwegian journalists: “The prison will always try to pave the way for the inmates to get a formal education, so that they are able to get a job when they come out.”