The University of Oslo says mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has been admitted to its political science programme, adding that the 36-year-old right-wing extremist would remain in his cell to study – and one UK prisons expert has welcomed his university admission.
Oslo Rector Ole Petter Ottersen said “all inmates in Norwegian prisons are entitled to higher education in Norway if they meet the admission requirements”.
Two years ago, Breivik’s application was rejected after the university said his qualifications were insufficient. It is unclear why the decision has been reversed.
The submission stirred a debate in Norway over whether someone convicted of such a horrific crime should be considered for higher education.
Breivik is serving a 21-year prison sentence, which can be extended when it expires, for killing 77 people in bomb and gun massacres in 2011.
Norway has a rehabilitation-focused justice system aimed at helping inmates prepare for life after they get out, which includes giving them the right to pursue higher education. Since his 2012 conviction, Breivik has been studying in jail.
“He then didn’t meet the admission requirements. Now his grades live up to what is expected,” university spokeswoman Marina Tofting said.
Breivik will begin the university programme in August. Prison regulations will prevent him from going to the Oslo campus, attending classes, accessing digital learning resources or having any contact with students or university staff, Mr Ottersen said.
“The communication between the university and Breivik will take place via a contact person in prison,” he said, adding penitentiary regulations “entail that he will follow the programme by means of independent study in his prison cell”.
Before the 2011 attacks, Breivik attended high schools in Norway and took an online course in small business management, but he had not completed secondary education, which he has been working on since his 2012 conviction.
“It is important to us that he remains in his cell,” Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland of the victims’ support group told Norwegian news agency NTB.
“To us, it is irrelevant whether he sits there and reads fiction or whether he is studying a book of political science.”
Hours before the attacks, Breivik emailed a 1,500-page, anti-Muslim manifesto, citing counter-jihadist groups who have condemned his actions and dismissed him as a lunatic.
Breivik also claimed to be part of a secretive, non-existent network of Knights Templar.
He set off a car bomb explosion that ripped open buildings in the heart of Norway’s government quarter in Oslo, then went to a summer camp dressed as a police officer and gunned down youths as they ran and swam for their lives.
Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said he saw nothing wrong with the mass killer’s admission.
Mr Leech said: “Quite apart from the fact that in Norway we are dealing with a different culture to that in the UK, one which no doubt would have had David Cameron feeling disingenuously physically sick again had it happened here, Anders was sent to prison as a punishment and not for a punishment.
“I see nothing wrong with his admission to a political science undergraduate programme, on the contrary his dissertations will provide a unique insight to the mind of a man it is crucial we understand if only to provide us with a greater understanding of how we can understand the motives of and identify such dangerous people in the future.”