Diversity measures for employees
“Descendants of immigrants are underrepresented in academic positions, even though they are overrepresented in the student body,” wrote the researchers who founded the Forum for International Researchers in Oslo (FIRO) (Morgenbladet newspaper, 2019).
True, immigrants are overrepresented among research personnel in Norway – but about 80 per cent of researchers with an immigrant background are internationally mobile researchers. The largest group of immigrants in Norwegian research are from Germany, followed by Sweden and China, according to figures from the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU). There are large statistical differences between disciplines, with the highest shares of immigrants in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Overall, nearly half of researchers in temporary positions had an immigrant background (2018).
Among research staff nationwide, there are few descendants of immigrants or Norwegian-born individuals with immigrant parents – accounting for just 0.5 per cent of researchers in 2018.
Different barriers demand customized measures
Research indicates that students with origins from Asian countries express higher ambitions to become researchers than the majority population, but that the likelihood of holding an academic position is lower for doctoral graduates with an immigrant background who live in Norway (Askvik and Drange, 2019). More knowledge about possible obstacles is needed to ensure more diverse recruitment.
“What I find fairly striking about the [diversity] statistics is when the barriers arise. For descendants of immigrants, it’s the transition to post-doc positions, and for international researchers it’s the move to a permanent position,” says Ida Drange, a researcher at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) (Forskerforum magazine, 2021, in Norwegian only).
So for these two groups, immigrants/descendants and internationally mobile researchers, different measures may be called for.
Read the article: We recruit a uniform group of international researchers
Lack of predictability and inclusion are shared challenges
In the research community, immigrants/descendants and international researchers face the same trials of a lack of inclusion, networks and knowledge of the system – all identified as main challenges in the AFI report “Being a foreigner is no advantage” (2016). The authors of the article recommend supportive diversity management to help bring more of these researchers into academic positions. Read more about diversity management here.
A 2019 survey (in Norwegian only) conducted by the Young Academy of Norway reported that 25 per cent of foreign-born researchers (with an immigrant background, most of whom were internationally mobile researchers) had experienced discrimination due to their immigrant background.
Like research on gender equality, a number of studies on ethnic diversity, including Askvik and Drange (2019), highlight temporary, unpredictable career paths as a possible cause for the low proportion of immigrants educated in Norway, as well as their descendants, in Norwegian academia.
Although new surveys continue to monitor the status of Norwegian knowledge institutions, more knowledge is needed as to why this situation has arisen. A number of researchers (e.g. Askvik and Drange, 2019) point to the need to find out whether so few immigrants choose academic careers due to characteristics of academia that exclude immigrants, or whether the cause is more related to other career choices.
Read more in our pieces on ethnic diversity in the research community.
Below is an overview of measures and examples from the action plans of universities, university colleges and research institutes.
Since few institutions differentiate between academic staff and other employees, these measures apply for all employees (unless specified as for academic staff).
Measures are grouped into the following categories:
- Diversity recruitment
- International announcement of jobs
- Inclusion measures
- Language courses
- Welcome programmes
Sound recruiting processes are crucial in the effort to increase the overall ethnic diversity in working life. These processes span the entire range from inclusive language formulations in job announcements to the actual interview procedure. See the Government’s guide on good practices within the various stages of recruitment processes in order to enhance diversity (in Norwegian only).
Biased, unconscious attitudes have proved to play a key role in recruitment processes, e.g. the chances of being called in for an interview is 25 percent less if the applicant has a Pakistani-sounding name (Midtbøen, 2016).
We know less about whether or not recruitment processes in academia have a discriminatory effect.
Thus far, institutions’ efforts to enhance employee diversity have focused more on international recruitment (recruiting academic labour from abroad by announcing jobs internationally) and less on recruiting candidates already residing in Norway who are immigrants or were born in Norway to immigrant parents (Immigrants want to be included, but aren’t).
Nevertheless, a number of institutions have taken steps to identify their challenges to diversity and ensure that diversity perspectives will raise awareness during recruitment practices.
- Targeted recruitment
The University of Oslo (UiO) identifies the diversity challenges facing its faculties and other administrative units in order to design measures and targeted efforts and to ensure diversity awareness during recruitment.
- Target of 10 per cent with immigrant backgrounds
The University College of South-Eastern Norway (USN) has drawn up a “diversity declaration” that is incorporated into every job announcement, while also considering diversity throughout its recruitment processes. These are two of USN’s measures to achieve its target that at least 10 per cent of the permanent and temporary workforce (by number of person-years) are individuals with immigrant backgrounds or Norwegian-born individuals with immigrant parents.
Kristiania University College also takes active consideration of diversity in its recruitment process. Its target is for at least 10 per cent of its permanent and temporary workforce (by number of person-years) to have an immigrant background or to be Norwegian-born individuals with immigrant parents.
- Diversity committee
The university seeks to recruit diversity among students and staff, and will strengthen and highlight OsloMet’s course studies and academic groups on the topic of diversity. In connection with this work, a time-limited “Diverse OsloMet” committee is being established, headed by the rector and with internal and external resource persons.
- Quality-assuring recruitment processes
The Norwegian Police University College (PHS) has a stated goal to work actively with measures to help recruit and retain employees with different ethnic origins and a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. One PHS measure has been to draw up checklists for formulating job announcements in order to safeguard the diversity perspective, ensure that qualified applicants with ethnic-minority backgrounds are called in for interviews, and quality-assure interview templates.
For decades, internationalization has been a focal point of Norwegian policy for higher education, and educational institutions’ internationalization strategies have been considered a tool for fostering quality in higher education (NIFU, 2014, in Norwegian only).
The internationalization debate has been revisited many times over the years. Issues include working language and academic language, advancement of disciplines, exchange of academic resources, publication practices, and new perspectives from foreign researchers. A number of research and education institutions have measures aimed at reaching international researchers through job announcements written in English and posted internationally.
Many research institutions – including the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), UiO, the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) and the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) – post their job announcements internationally through portals such as ResearchGate, EURAXESS and other English-language recruitment portals and websites.
NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS is another research institute that publishes job announcements in Norwegian and English, on both Norwegian and international websites. Applicants with backgrounds from other countries and cultures who already live in Norway are assessed on equal footing with applicants from abroad and Norwegian applicants.
A number of institutions are striving to create inclusive work environments, using different approaches such as providing meeting places that promote a sense of belonging and well-being, as well as developing surveys and knowledge for taking steps to promote inclusiveness. Measures may also include courses and competence-building for staff and managers in order to generate new knowledge and a deeper understanding of ethnic diversity in the workplace.
UiA has implemented measures for providing meeting places and facilitating dialogue promoting a sense of inclusiveness, belonging and well-being.
The goal is to be an open, diverse work environment where staff members with different origins and backgrounds or a disability will experience a sense of belonging, being a meaningful member of the group, and having the opportunity to participate at the workplace.
- Diversity charting
UiO seeks to identify its diversity challenges in order to form a starting point for specifying targeted measures.
USN has appointed a working group to chart its measures underway, identify challenges and needs, and recommend measures targeted towards students whose native language is not Norwegian. The working group’s report is planned to be completed in December 2021.
- Buddy system for all employees
All employees of UiA are offered a buddy within the first workweek. This is designed to promote an open work environment where employees of different origins and backgrounds or with a disability will feel they belong.
- Diversity in communications
UiA ensures that diversity considerations are taken into account in internal and external communications. Photos from its database of inclusive and diverse photos are to be used actively so that diversity is reflected in the university’s photos used. UiA’s Division of Communication along with faculty heads have overall responsibility for this.
- Courses in Norwegian working life
UiA offers courses to introduce international employees to the main principles of participating in Norwegian working life.
- Diversity in boards
UiA charts its practices and organization when it comes to the distribution, facilitation and inclusion of members of the university’s boards, councils and committees to ensure diversity in their ranks. UiA’s Division of Human Resources is responsible for this.
- An inclusive workplace
The Norwegian Police University College (PHS) ) is to actively promote management, culture and attitudes that help to make PHS an open, inclusive workplace. PHS will actively pursue measures aimed at recruiting and retaining staff with different ethnic origins and varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
- Diversity courses
UiO offers competence-building courses and seminars on topics such as diversity recruitment, inclusion, discrimination, intersectionality, gender diversity, diversity management and implicit bias.
Learning Norwegian is critical for integration into Norwegian society and for developing a sense of belonging in the workplace. Although an increasing number of research institutions use English as their working language, research findings highlight the importance of language for inclusion in the workplace in terms of career development, taking part in social networks, and serving on local boards and positions. This is addressed by Maximova-Mentzoni and Egeland in their article Nationality Diversity in Academia (2019) and by the Young Academy of Norway in its report Rom for Mangfold (2019, in Norwegian only).
A number of institutions also have some information in English for employees who do not speak Norwegian. Below are examples of how some institutions use language courses to adapt the workplace for employees whose native language is not Norwegian.
- Free online Norwegian course
UiO has developed a free, four-week introductory course that can be taken even before arriving in Norway in preparation for a research stay (futurelearn.com)
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has developed the free, online NoW course in 10 chapters, each one focused on a separate theme as an introduction to learning Norwegian.
- Free Norwegian course at the institution
UiA offers a free Norwegian course to permanent staff members whose native language is not Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. If more than one course is needed to master the language, additional follow-up is provided.
Simula Research Laboratory offers three types of Norwegian language courses: for those with no knowledge of Norwegian, for beginning level speakers and for intermediate speakers. These courses are provided for all those who do not come from the Nordic countries, including their spouses. Norwegian language courses are held in a separate venue each semester and emphasizes both verbal and written Norwegian.
SINTEF has an agreement with Folkeuniversitetet Central Norway and the University of Oslo on Norwegian language courses and individual measures when there is a special need for Norwegian language training. This measure applies to all employees and their spouses who need to learn Norwegian. Depending on the number of new employees requiring Norwegian language training, SINTEF organizes group courses in Trondheim and Oslo.
Several research institutions, including the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), the Institute for Social Research (ISF) and NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS, offer language instruction for staff members who do not speak Norwegian.
- Academic-language social hour
The University College of South-Eastern Norway (USN) holds weekly guidance/encouragement meetings for students whose native language is not Norwegian who study nursing or early childhood education at USN’s three campuses.
- Support for language courses
Uni Research provides support for Norwegian language courses for all new employees with a foreign background who want to learn Norwegian or improve their Norwegian skills. The institute pays for up to three Norwegian language courses plus books and materials.
The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) encourages all new employees who do not speak Norwegian to attend Norwegian language courses, primarily the Norwegian for Academics course at the University of Oslo. NILU covers two-thirds of the fees for the classes at UiO.
- Information in English
In administrative units with any staff members who do not speak Norwegian, UiA makes important information available in both Norwegian and English.
The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) offers courses and training in English to employees whose native language is not Norwegian. This offer applies to all researchers in permanent and temporary positions. The institute also provides some information in English and seminars that are held in English. The working language is Norwegian, but the institute wants to make adaptations for new employees so they are as well-integrated as possible.
The Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) has hired teachers of Norwegian and English, and offers courses for both permanent and temporary employees.
For employees from abroad, relocating to Norway can be a challenging process that involves many practical arrangements. The institutions’ welcome programmes for these new employees are important for making an employee’s transition to Norwegian society as problem-free as possible.
Many Norwegian higher education and research institutions are therefore boosting efforts to help international researchers make the transition, providing a solid training and start-up process for international staff.
- Extra support for foreign researchers:
UiA collaborates with Business Region Kristiansand to better welcome and include international staff and their family members.
The University of Oslo (UiO) has a website for international researchers with information about housing, taxes and registration before and after arrival. UiO has also established an International Staff Mobility Office (ISMO) to professionalize the reception system for international employees.
Simula Research Laboratory provides administrative support when new employees first arrive from abroad. The service includes help with formalities vis-a-vis relevant authorities, effective information adapted to the individual’s situation and process, and general support with all the practice arrangements that must be made when moving to Norway. New employees who relocate to Norway from abroad are offered temporary housing of up to three months so they have time to settle in, become acquainted and get a good start in their new jobs. Some relocation costs are also covered by the institute.
NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS has services for new employees throughout the Stavanger region, including for those from abroad. The introduction/welcome programme lasts about one year, and responsibility for the programme is divided among administrative managers, research project managers, mentors and administrative staff. Part of the programme is general in nature, but most is adapted to the individual employee.
UiO and many other Norwegian universities and university colleges are members of the international network Scholars at Risk, which among other activities offers temporary positions at member institutions to researchers who, for political or other reasons (such as discrimination, exile or censorship), cannot conduct their work at their home institution.
- Practical help for foreign researchers
NILU guides and advises new employees from abroad on the process of relocating to Norway, such as how to obtain a national identity number and open a bank account. NILU also has a room that can be rented to new employees who move to Kjeller and are looking for housing. All new employees are assigned a mentor who helps them integrate into the department both socially and professionally.
NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS offers adaptations and support before and after the arrival of new employees from abroad. This includes, for example, help with visa applications, moving and housing, and information that may be relevant for the individual candidate, such as leisure activities.
SINTEF offers help with housing, visas and many other practical needs. It offers conversation groups for Norwegian language training and information about activities and events in Trondheim. The Oslo Chamber of Commerce provides similar services in Oslo. Spouses of employees also receive assistance with finding work.
NGI helps employees to find flats, facilitates networking for spouses/domestic partners, assists with the relocation process and helps researchers find schools for their children.
Simula Research Laboratory provides legal advice on filing tax returns for all employees from abroad. Tax rules can be complicated for foreign employees, so the institute offers an information seminar which includes the opportunity to receive individual guidance from a tax lawyer.