The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) will gain access to oil industry data for teaching use under a new partnership deal.
Signed on 9 December, the agreement commits Statoil, Norsk Hydro and Saga Petroleum to contribute NOK 30 million over five years to help develop project-based learning (PBL) at the Trondheim-based university.
This collaboration is due to be extended next year to the University of Bergen and the Rogaland Regional College in Stavanger.
One outcome is that students will be able to work with genuine subsurface data, initially from Statoil's Gullfaks field in the North Sea.
Before formalisation of the present agreement, four courses have been completed with the students working in multidisciplinary groups to interpret and evaluate real information.
Experience has been very positive, reports Jonny Hesthammer, manager for accounting and strategy in Statoil's exploration and production technology unit.
Giving students and teachers the opportunity to work on the same data dealt with daily by specialists in the Gullfaks organisation enhances their enthusiasm, he adds.
Their work can also yield useful results for the industry, while graduates will be well prepared when recruited by the oil companies.
"They're already familiar with these issues, and will need less training than is the case today," Mr Hesthammer points out.
Ole Bernt Lile, dean of the faculty for geosciences and petroleum technology at the NTNU, agrees that training students to work in teams – the normal industry mode – is an advantage.
He adds that sponsorship is very significant for the faculty, since government funding remains inadequate for quick implementation of new modes of working.