Diversity measures for students

(Illustration: iStockphoto)

Based on research on ethnic diversity in academia, it is essential to implement measures at the bachelor’s and master’s levels in order to keep students in the researcher career track for the long term. To ensure diversity in academic positions, efforts must begin with the students.

In 2019, 11 per cent of the students in Norwegian higher education had an immigrant background. Norwegian-born ethnic minorities pursue higher education after upper secondary school more often than the rest of the population. People who have actually immigrated take higher education less often than the rest of the population. A higher percentage of women pursue higher education compared to men, regardless of background.

Among Norwegian-born ethnic minorities, only a few groups tend to study less than the rest of the population. These are the children of immigrants from e.g. Chile, Morocco, Iraq and Turkey. On the other hand, Norwegian-born children of immigrants tend to pursue higher education more than the general population if their parents came from China, Sri Lanka, India or Vietnam (Statistics Norway, 2020).​ 

More statistics  

Immigrant drive and differences in choice of studies

Research indicates that gender and ethnicity affect choice of studies (Egge-Hoveid & Sandnes, 2015). Norwegian-born ethnic minorities are more likely than their parents to pursue higher education, and are more likely than the rest of the population to choose professional programmes associated with high status, such as dentistry, medicine and law. On the other hand, people with immigrant backgrounds are vastly underrepresented in teacher education programmes.

Many researchers, including Ida Drange, use the term “immigrant drive” to explain this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon: while many immigrants and children of immigrants have family backgrounds with a low level of education, they often choose prestigious professional studies anyway. This narrative is sometimes criticized as a simplistic generalization. In her doctoral thesis, Marianne Takvam Kindt (2019) calls for more research on how culture and class influence the education choices of immigrants’ children.

Read more about education choices, gender and ethnic diversity:

Universities and university colleges employ a number of measures aimed at increasing the proportion of students with international and immigrant backgrounds – both to encourage more students with different backgrounds to apply, and to help students enjoy and continue their studies.

In addition to recruitment and language measures, universities and university colleges are working to provide a variety of inclusion measures intended to promote well-being and healthy study environments.

Measures

Below are some examples of measures for students at Norwegian universities and university colleges, grouped into the following categories:

Diversity recruitment

A number of institutions have taken various steps to ensure diversity awareness during recruitment processes. Examples include communication targeted to specific groups, developing a solid knowledge base and portraying diversity at the institutions in outreach communications.

  • Diversity committee 

OsloMet makes a strategic effort to recruit diversity among students and staff, and to 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.

  • Diversity in communications

UiT The Arctic University of Norway actively portrays diversity among staff and students in its outreach communications.

Diversity in Focus in Academia is a programme that works for greater cultural diversity at the university of Oslo (UiO). Efforts are organized through a series of courses for pupils at selected upper secondary schools in the Oslo region. The programme is a collaboration with 10 upper secondary schools in Oslo.

  • Student diversity in boards

The University of Agder (UiA) charts its practices and organization when it comes to the distribution, facilitation and inclusion of student members of the university’s boards, councils and committees. Responsibility for this lies with the Division of Academic Affairs and Agder’s student organizations.

Diversity days

To feature role models and promote diversity, several institutions organize events such as diversity days and international days.

  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway has a stated goal to organize an international day (or week) to portray UiT as an international university.
  • The University of South-Eastern Norway holds a diversity day targeting recruitment of ethnic minorities at upper secondary schools.
  • Kristiania University College seeks to increase its proportion of students with immigrant backgrounds or who are Norwegian-born with immigrant parents. Efforts include organizing a diversity day at upper secondary schools to recruit more ethnic minorities. The university college is also overhauling its recruitment profile to appeal to a more diverse range of students. This is to be reflected in the use of photos, digital interfaces and other materials directed at prospective students.
  • All UiT campuses observe 6 February (Sámi National Day), 16 March (Day of the Kvens) and 17 May (Norway’s Constitution Day).

Measures to create an inclusive study environment

“In addition to a diverse recruitment practice, institutions should work to create an inclusive working environment for all,” wrote the authors of the 2016 AFI report “Being a foreigner is no advantage”.

A number of institutions have implemented measures to create a more diverse study environment. This revolves around forming a shared sense of identity and striving towards an inclusive study environment, which starts with preventing discrimination, bullying, harassment and racism.

In accordance with legislation, universities and university colleges have a duty to work systematically to ensure that individual students and employees are not discriminated against on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other factor.

  • Diversity perspective incorporated into project

OsloMet seeks to be an attractive place of study for a diverse array of students. To this aim, the diversity perspective is to be incorporated in the project “A better student experience”. Both the director of OsloMet’s programme for diversity management and the university’s diversity committee participate in the project.

  • The subject “diversity expertise”

The signature subject “diversity expertise” has been developed to prepare OsloMet students for the diverse working environments they will encounter as professionals.

  • Report discrimination

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is making students aware of the procedure for reporting incidents of discrimination.

  • Guide regarding discrimination and harassment

The University of Bergen (UiB) takes a zero-tolerance stand on bullying, harassment and discrimination. UiB is making information on its guidance and support structure easily available for students and employees, and is now considering whether to set out guidelines for religious articles of clothing and symbols.

  • Diversity charting

UiO seeks to identify its diversity challenges in order to form a starting point for specifying targeted measures.

NTNU is planning a study on inclusion and diversity at the university, with the aim of raising awareness of and competence in this topic. The study is intended to map the status of the current situation and identify challenges. Based on any needs discovered from the study, measures will be implemented to effectively strengthen inclusion and integration efforts.

Language measures

Norwegian institutions are focused on facilitating equal opportunity for all students. Language measures play an important part in integrating students who do not speak Norwegian.

  • The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) aims to provide an inclusive, diverse working environment and student environment where everyone is valued and has equal opportunity. One means toward achieving this is by offering Norwegian courses for employees and students.
  • UiA provides Norwegian courses for students in any study programme who come from outside the Nordic region or whose mother tongue is not Norwegian.

Reception and follow-up programmes

  • UiB is developing reception and follow-up programmes for students and staff to ensure an inclusive working and study environment. This will be done by individually adapting study conditions for students with special needs through the use of mentors and other means.
  • At the beginning of each semester, UiA takes responsibility for receiving incoming exchange students (foreign students to Norwegian institutions in higher education) in a way that helps them integrate into the student body. UiA also works to increase the number of academic and social events where part of the programme is in English. There is a particular focus on this at the beginning phase of their studies.
  • Molde University College (HiMolde) has measures to ensure that international students are formally welcomed by the Erasmus Student Network (ESA). HiMolde has an information brochure for international students. The university college has a strong international orientation, especially with regard to international students, and the student affairs coordinator organizes social activities and courses for students from abroad.
  • NTNU cooperates with other stakeholders on inclusion of refugees with an academic background.
  • UiT is planning a reception programme for foreign students and staff at all its campuses.

Collaboration with student organizations

If the universities and university colleges can cooperate closely with student groups, it can promote greater awareness and exchange of experience and lead to more targeted measures. This also applies to other relevant stakeholders in the sphere of diversity.

  • Meeting places for diversity

OsloMet will continue to develop into a regional meeting place for diversity where socially relevant topics such as #metoo, #blacklivesmatter and COVID-19 impacts are raised and debated. Internal expert resources on diversity are mobilized and cooperation is formed with relevant regional partners and local cultural institutions. The director of OsloMet’s programme for diversity management holds this responsibility.

  • Collaboration with student organizations

NTNU cooperates with student organizations to ensure an inclusive, diverse student environment.

More measures

UiO participates in Students at Risk (StAR), a programme that supports students who have been persecuted and had their right to study withdrawn due to their political views.

The Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) will soon establish a bachelor’s degree programme in English for students who do not speak Norwegian. Beginning in autumn 2019, NMH will offer a bachelor’s degree in music performance in English, which the academy believes will attract many international applicants. NMH also reports that it will review the student portfolio and consider establishing new programmes, e.g. in popular music and traditional Indian/Pakistani music.

The Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KhiO) has set a strategic goal that it will attract “highly qualified students with a diversity of cultural and artistic experiences”. According to KhiO, this results in a student body comprised of a large number of students from different countries.

 

WANT TO LEARN MORE, OR PROVIDE INPUT FOR THIS PAGE?

TELL US!
Are you a student or staff member in higher education with an idea for measures or projects that belong on our list? Email us!

Find relevant information from Kifinfo under these headings:

Students

Educational choice

Immigrants and descendants

FURTHER READING
The KIF Committee recommends mentoring programmes in order to promote career development for underrepresented minorities. Mentoring programmes are also used to improve gender balance, and apply to persons at doctoral/post-doctoral level, at associate professor level and post-graduate students. Read additional recommendations in the report Action for diversity (2016).