“These are encouraging figures and mean that Norwegian research and educational institutions have considerable diversity in their workforce. That being said, we know that a large proportion of these researchers come from top universities in Europe,” says Ronald Mayora Synnes.
He is a member of the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF Committee) and so closely monitors developments in the field of diversity.
When the proportion of the population with an immigrant background increases, this eventually affects diversity statistics, but this kind of shift doesn't just happen, according to Synnes, it requires specific measures such as moderate quotas.
“Although we can be pleased that diversity is increasing, we need to ensure that immigrants educated in Norway are also recruited into higher education and research. This group is just as underrepresented as descendants of immigrants,” he says.
Few Norwegian-born researchers with immigrant backgrounds – many students
Diversity statistics are a compilation of several datasets and have been released every three or four years. The figures were first released for 2007. One person who keeps track of and systematises the data is Frøydis Sæbø Steine.
She believes that one of the main findings in this year's statistics, though perhaps not very revolutionary, is that there is a steady shift towards educational institutions and research communities becoming increasingly diverse.
“It’s also interesting to track the differences between immigrants and people who are Norwegian-born to immigrant parents.”
“Can you explain how this can be seen?”
“The group Norwegian-born to immigrant parents make up a small proportion of researchers.”
“In 2021, there were about 39,300 researchers and academic staff in academia. Of these, almost 12,750 were immigrants, while about 270 were Norwegian-born to immigrant parents.”
This equates to 32 per cent of researchers being immigrants and only 0.7 per cent being descendants of immigrants in Norway. (More in the fact box.)
Compared with other population groups, the group Norwegian-born to immigrant parents is underrepresented among researchers. According to Steine, this group accounted for about 1.5 per cent among both the population and the labour force (15-74 years).
However, the proportion was higher among students in higher education, where 4.4 per cent of students in higher education in 2021 were Norwegian-born to immigrant parents.
“It is also important to remember that this is a relatively young group and, as they get older, we expect them to be more visible in the statistics on diversity in research.”
Temporary positions at the top
As in previous years, the 2021 diversity figures show that the largest group of immigrants in Norwegian academia comes from Europe. The two countries that particularly stand out are Germany and Sweden.
Another finding, which has been seen over time, is that immigrants mainly hold temporary positions.
“Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents constitute a large proportion of staff in temporary positions, such as postdoctoral and research fellowships, and the highest proportion can be seen in the disciplines mathematics, science and technology,” says Steine.
“What about non-European countries? How many come from countries outside Europe?”
“China is by far the largest but we also see a steady increase from India and Iran.”
In total, 24 per cent of researchers with an immigrant background come from Asia. North America comes in second with 6 per cent, with the largest share coming from the United States.
Improved gender balance
As in previous years, statistics show a clear correlation between academic disciplines and recruitment of foreign researchers. The disciplines science and technology particularly stand out.
“In total, one in three researchers have a foreign background, but if we group and compare by discipline, we find that in humanities and social sciences, and medicine and health sciences, only one in four have a foreign background.”
“However, the science and technology numbers raise the average, since almost half of staff recruited fall under the category of immigrants.”
“What about gender balance? How is it affected by immigration?”
“There has typically been a gender imbalance among researchers in certain disciplines. In 2021, 38 per cent of researchers in medicine and health sciences were male, and while 36 per cent of researchers without an immigrant background were men, 46 per cent of researchers with an immigrant background in medicine and health sciences were male.”
“So there is evidence to suggest that in medicine and health sciences, recruitment from abroad helps to mitigate the gender imbalance,” says Steine.
According to the diversity statistics, the same difference cannot be seen in gender distribution among researchers, with and without immigrant backgrounds, in science and technology and humanities and social sciences.
A large proportion take a PhD
Nearly 80 per cent of researchers with an immigrant background are internationally mobile researchers. This means that they come to Norway with a higher education from abroad, typically a master's or PhD.
“Our figures indicate that many take up temporary positions, such as postdoctoral or research fellowships, in which immigrants accounted for 71 and 43 per cent of the staff respectively in 2021. So a fairly large proportion.”
“What about the group Norwegian-born to immigrant parents? What changes and patterns have you identified?”
“The number of researchers in the group Norwegian-born to immigrant parents is increasing, but this group still represented a small proportion of the total in 2021. At the same time, we again see that almost half of them held a research fellowship position in that year.”
“This is a high proportion when compared to immigrants and the general population. Many of these researchers will likely move to other positions in academia after completing their doctoral degrees. It will be interesting to follow this in the future,” says Steine.
“When will the next diversity statistics be released?”
“We will publish the statistics annually from now on because there is huge interest in this compilation and statistics.”
Translated by Allegro Language Services.
On Monday 6 March 2023, Statistics Norway (SSB) released statistics (in Norwegian) that show the number of immigrants and descendants of immigrants in Norwegian research and higher education in 2021.
The figures show that this group is increasing year by year, and that one in three researchers had an immigrant background in 2021.
In 2021, there were about 39,300 researchers and academic staff. Of these, almost 12,750 were immigrants, while about 270 were Norwegian-born to immigrant parents.
This equates to 32 per cent of researchers being immigrants and 0.7 per cent being descendants of immigrants in Norway in 2021.
This has increased from 29 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively in 2018.
In total, one in three researchers have a foreign background, but the vast majority are found in science and technology, in which 49 per cent have a foreign background.
In humanities and social sciences, and medicine and health sciences, only one in four have a foreign background.