“A significant factor for the gender divide in the labour market is that young people choose along gender lines when deciding on their education,” write the researchers Liza Reisel, Øyvind Søraas Skorge and Stian Uvaag in a 2019 report.
This means that promoting gender balance in senior-level academic positions and among researchers in different disciplines needs to begin with students. A lack of gender balance at the student level skews the recruitment pool and in turn the gender balance among researchers.
Universities and university colleges have implemented numerous measures for students, both to encourage more students of the underrepresented gender to apply and to help students enjoy and complete their studies.
Recruitment efforts at higher education institutions consist of information campaigns, women’s day and men’s day events, and networks that can help prospective students take well-informed decisions. Positive differential treatment through the use of gender points in the admission process has also been introduced in certain educational programmes where gender distribution is particularly skewed.
In addition to their recruitment measures, the universities and university colleges are working to build gender-equal arenas for students already enrolled. The measures employed are intended to promote well-being and healthy study environments with role models and gender-equal participation in both academic and social contexts.
Below is an overview of measures and examples from the action plans of universities and university colleges, grouped into the following categories:
- Recruitment and marketing
- Gender-balanced study programmes
- Women’s day and men’s day events
- Gender points in admissions
- Role models and mentors
- Student and study environments
- Cooperation with student organizations
Recruitment and marketing
A 2019 report (in Norwegian) examined what it takes to recruit more men to choose primary school teacher education. Two measures recommended are to give young men experience working with children and enable them to meet role models who have made gender-unconventional career choices.
Recruitment is a key way for universities and university colleges to promote gender balance among their students. Measures may include reviewing the photos used in informational materials and websites or the words chosen to describe educational programmes, to ensure that they appeal equally to both genders.
- Integrated marketing strategy
The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NIH) seeks to publish informational materials about its programmes that will appeal to both sexes as well as to prospective students with immigrant backgrounds or disabilities.
- Marketing materials portraying both men and women
The Queen Maud College of Early Childhood Education (DMMH) attaches importance to featuring both women and men in its marketing materials, and to spurring men’s interest in early childhood education.
- Appealing to students of both genders
Recruitment efforts at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) are to appeal to both genders. This commitment is to be reflected in the use of photos, digital interfaces and other materials directed at prospective students.
Gender-balanced study programmes
A number of universities and university colleges have a 40/60 gender-balance target. However, there are large differences between disciplines in terms of how evenly men and women are distributed.
- An annual report on gender distribution and recruitment measures for educational programmes with extreme underrepresentation
The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences is to prepare an annual report on gender distribution among applicants and admitted students for these educational programmes, and implement recruitment measures accordingly.
- 40/60 ratio in all educational programmes
The University of Oslo (UiO) has a long-term target of a 40/60 ratio for its educational programmes, and is to work systematically to rectify instances of extreme gender imbalance (defined here as 20/80).
- Better gender balance
NTNU is to implement measures to balance the genders in all educational programmes where one gender is less than 40 per cent represented.
- Support for academic environments
The University of Bergen (UiB) is to provide support to academic environments for measures to recruit more women.
- Encourage non-traditional choices
Student counsellors at the University of Agder (UiA) are to be vigilant about gender issues and encourage students to choose non-traditionally.
Women’s day and men’s day events
For disciplines with a heavy gender imbalance, many universities and university colleges organize special information days targeting either women or men.
- NTNU’s Girl Project Ada is designed to encourage more women students to become technologists and engineering professionals. The project employs marketing for recruitment, and works to ensure that these students complete their studies.
- Girls’ Technology Week is a yearly three-day event where girls in year 2 or 3 of upper secondary school who are interested in technology can learn about studies at NTNU.
- NTNU holds an Annual Girls’ Conference for girls in lower and upper secondary schools in Trøndelag county, encouraging and inspiring them to pursue technology studies.
- Technology Week is for girls and boys across Norway looking to find out more about technology and ICT programmes at NTNU Trondheim.
- NTNU holds an annual welcoming day event for women, just prior to matriculation and the official start of studies.
- In 2019, NTNU organized for the first time a special day for recruiting more students, particularly men, to the health and social welfare fields.
- For male nursing students at NTNU Ålesund, a special project offers professional and social activities for the duration of their studies.
The purpose of all the measures above is to achieve gender balance in NTNU’s different educational programmes.
- Women’s day at UiO’s Department of Informatics is held just before studies begin and is for all girls starting a bachelor’s programme or the one-year informatics unit.
- IT Camp for Girls is meant to inspire more girls to choose an education in informatics. The camp consists of lectures and workshops for all upper secondary school girls who are earning entrance qualification.
- Girls and Technology is a day of inspiration intended to encourage more girls to study technology at the university.
- Boys’ Day in teacher education is held to inspire more boys to sign up to study pedagogy.
The above measures are for promoting gender balance at the University of Oslo.
- Men working in day care (mennibarnehagen.no)
This website is run by DMMH on commission from the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training to provide information promoting greater diversity among the day-care centre staff, for the benefit of children and adults alike. DMMH arranges professional training days for men working in day care.
- Girls & Technology conference
UiT organizes this conference to encourage and inspire girls to pursue an education in fields of science or technology.
- Boys’ Day and Girls’ Day
USN holds a Boys’ Day event at the Faculty of Humanities, Sports and Educational Science and the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences. Girls’ Day is held at the Faculty of Technology, Natural Sciences and Maritime Sciences.
- Technology evening for girls
The University of Stavanger (UiS) collaborates with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) and the Norwegian Society of Engineers and Technologists (NITO) on this technology evening for upper secondary school girls.
- Girls and technology tour
NHO organizes this tour all around Norway to inform and inspire girls in grades 9 and 10 to pursue a technology education.
Additional admission points can be awarded to members of the underrepresented gender in connection with certain studies where the gender imbalance is extreme. These gender points are awarded during the admission process in much the same way as points for age or military service.
Gender points are awarded to members of the underrepresented sex in connection with admission to certain studies with an extreme gender imbalance, as directed by the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS).
Gender points are controversial; read our news articles addressing the issues involved.
- Men receive 2 gender points when applying for:
- veterinary medicine at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU);
- veterinary nursing at NMBU;
- nursing at Lovisenberg Diaconal University College (LDH) or UiA;
- child welfare studies at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet);
- customs, movement of goods and border control at the University of Stavanger;
- bioengineering at UiT - the Arctic University of Norway.
- Men receive 1 gender point when applying for:
- clinical psychology at NTNU, UiB, UiO and UiT.
- Women receive 2 gender points when applying for:
- some bachelor's programmes in engineering at NTNU Gjøvik, NTNU Trondheim and NTNU Ålesund
- other bachelor's programmes: nautical studies (Ålesund), programming and digital infrastructure and cyber security (Gjøvik) and music technology and digital infrastructure and cyber security (Trondheim)
- the following five-year integrated master’s programmes in technology and engineering at NTNU: computer science, electronic system design and innovation, engineering and ICT, cybernetics and robotics, marine technology, mechanical engineering and industrial economics and technology management.
Updated overview at NUCAS (in Norwegian)
- Gender points for recruiting the underrepresented sex
NTNU will continue awarding gender points for programmes that have a gender imbalance.
- Admission points for the underrepresented sex
UiA will implement special measures for recruiting members of the underrepresented gender to programmes with less than 25 per cent of that gender. In this context the underrepresented sex may be eligible for extra admission points.
Role models and mentors
A number of institutions employ measures involving role models and mentors for their students. Role models can be particularly valuable for the minority sex in subject areas that are extremely gender-imbalanced.
- Role model project
This nationwide project provides role models by sending persons with a background in natural sciences and mathematics to visit upper secondary schools and tell about their jobs, without charge.
- Male teachers for practicum period
DMMH endeavours to ensure that male students are assigned a male practical training supervisor for at least one practicum period and that male students studying day care are to represent their field at vocational and education fairs.
- Lecturers and expects of both sexes
The Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) states in its action plan that women are important role models in research, teaching and dissemination. Students in all programmes and levels are to encounter female and male lecturers. Moreover, the school tries to use experts of both genders as media sources in strategically important areas. Female students at NHH are to be brought into teaching and research by working as teachers’ aids and research assistants.
- Guest lecturers and advisers from the underrepresented sex
Molde University College encourages course organizers to motivate students by engaging people of the underrepresented gender as guest lecturers, substitute teachers, tutors, advisers and examiners/external examiners.
Student and study environments
Students desire gender balance in their studies and consider it positive for professional development. Educational institutions seek to create good study environments, including in disciplines with a heavy majority of one gender.
- Male students need to be together
The DMMH action plan emphasizes that male students have a need to study in the company of other males, so the college avoids spreading them into multiple classes with very few men in each. The college also encourages R&D projects addressing the gender imbalance in the day care sector.
- Dialogue on gender balance with other universities and university colleges
The University of Oslo engages in dialogue with other universities and university colleges to air problems and coordinate responses related to gender-imbalanced educational programmes. UiO also examines the student population for gender-composition challenges, and introduces local measures to address them.
- Annual overview of gender distribution among applicants and admitted students
USN draws up an annual report on the gender distribution of applicants and recruited students in each faculty.
The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences is required to do the same for students in each of its educational programmes.
- Local measures and support for national processes to increase the proportion of men in professional studies
UiB is to investigate potential local measures and actively contribute to national processes designed to boost the share of men who choose professional studies. The university is to compile and share knowledge about measures that promote gender balance in the educational programmes.
- Equal opportunity for both sexes to participate in project work and professional networks
Molde University College’s academic staff and deans are to ensure that students of both sexes have the same opportunities to participate in project work and professional conferences and networks.
Cooperation with student organizations
The National Union of Students in Norway (NSO) has a six-member working committee with a variety of responsibilities that include student welfare and gender equality.
The student organizations associated with Norway’s universities and university colleges are important channels not only for reaching students but also for determining what can be done to enhance gender balance.
- Inclusive and diverse student life
One measure stated in the NTNU action plan is for the university to cooperate with student organizations to ensure an inclusive, diverse student environment.
- Better conditions for students
USN involves its student organizations in an annual project designed to improve conditions for students in study programmes where the gender balance is skewed.
Are you a student or staff member in higher education with an idea for measures or projects that belong on our list? Email us!
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Also see Norway’s laws and regulations to prevent differential treatment and promote gender equality.