Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik

An independent international centre for advanced studies


In memoriam: Ørjar Øyen, Co-founder of the IUC

Professor Ørjar Øyen, Co-founder of the IUC passed away on 2 March 2024.


Ørjar Øyen has been one of the central figures for the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik. Already in 1971, when Ivan Supek was establishing the IUC, he joined the group of founding mothers and fathers, finding the mission of an independent academic institution building bridges between divided societies a worthy task. At that time, he was a Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Bergen. Since then, he has held different positions at the IUC, making Dubrovnik his permanent academic post. Ørjar Øyen was the first Chair of the IUC Council (1972 – 1981), a member of the Executive Committee (1981 – 1988), a Director General (1988 – 1996), co-founder and Vice-president of the IUC Association, and an IUC Honorary member. He has been leading the Centre through different turbulent times, from the very establishment, through Croatian's war for independence when the home of the IUC was destroyed and when the existence of the institution was at stake.  Skilfully navigating through different perils, avoiding political threats from various sides, he has been firmly and wisely safeguarding the independence of the institution. Ørjar Øyen remained with the IUC throughout his whole life, being available for advice and counsel. At the same time, he infatuated many of his younger colleagues with his dedication for a place where academics transcended borders to create better societies.


Ørjar Øyen’s journey was one of intellectual curiosity and unwavering commitment. He was born on 19 February 1927 and grew up in Brønnøy in Northern Norway, where his father was a teacher and headmaster at a small primary school. After compulsory schooling, Ørjar Øyen completed high school through correspondence and one year at a public school. Then, he completed a college education and became a primary school teacher. After a year as a teacher, he went to the University of Oslo in 1949 to study the newly introduced study programme of sociology. In 1951, Øyen went to the University of Washington, where he received his MA in sociology in 1953. After working as a research assistant at the University of Oslo for a few years, he returned to the University of Washington to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology, which he received in 1962.

At the age of 35, Ørjar Øyen returned to Norway and was first hired as a university lecturer at the University of Oslo. From 1968 until his retirement in 1997, he was a professor of sociology at the University of Bergen. However, being an Emeritus Professor, he continued coming to his department office until long after his 90th birthday, contributing actively to both the continuity and the further development of the sociological environment. His office door in “Ørjar Øyen’s House” was always open, especially for the young colleagues in the department.

Ørjar Øyen was the Dean of the Faculty of Social Science (1970-1973), and later (1978-1983) the Rector of the University of Bergen, where he played an important role in building professional environments for social sciences and in the further development of an expanding University.


Internationally, besides the IUC, Ørjar Øyen was a member of and (from 1988 to 1991) President of the Board of Directors of the European Coordination Centre for Research and Documentation in Social Sciences, Vienna, a centre established to facilitate collaboration between researchers in Eastern and Western Europe.

Ørjar Øyen received several distinctions. He was Commander of the Order of St. Olav for his efforts in Norwegian and international university and research cooperation. He was a 'Distinguished Honorary Citizen' in the state of Washington. In 2005 he was awarded by the Croatian President the Order of the Croatian Star with Effigy of Ruđer Boković for his merits in promoting the international position of Croatia and for his great contribution to the development of the Inter-University Centre.


As a sociologist, Ørjar Øyen wanted to counteract ethnocentrism and promote increased tolerance across peoples and cultures. And he had the ability to do it personally, developing understanding and friendships with people of different social standards, even without speaking the same language. In Dubrovnik, and at the IUC he was a friend to so many, from members of the IUC staff, housekeepers, sellers at the green market to IUC students, lecturers, and university leaders alike. His firm guidance of the Centre was enriched with his warm and generous personality, kindness, and love for mankind. Ørjar Øyen has been a true beacon of dignity and an inspiration for those who had the privilege to know him. As we celebrate his rich and meaningful life, the Inter-university Centre scholarly community remains forever grateful to him for his dedication and commitment.

Farewell our friend! You will be missed.


Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund,

Ivan Šimonović

Sigmund Grønmo

Nada Bruer Ljubišić

On behalf of the IUC community