Measures for ethnic diversity

(Illustration: iStockphoto)

In its mandate, the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee) is instructed to work to enhance both gender balance and ethnic diversity in the research sector.

Recommendations for ethnic diversity measures

The KIF Committee makes recommendations on a variety of measures for educational and research institutions, management, the Ministry of Education and Research, and other relevant government bodies.

The KIF Committee recommends the following:

  • Diversity strategies: Institutions should recognize the benefits of diversity for teaching, research and international collaboration, and this should be expressed by the management.
  • Recruitment: Institutions should formulate merit criteria to attract a diverse pool of applicants.
  • Management training: Courses on implicit bias for managers and recruiters should be offered.
  • Inclusive workplace culture: Institutions should organize academic and social activities to promote an inclusive workplace culture.
  • Counteract racism and discrimination: Institutions need to recognize that incidents of racial discrimination may occur within the institutions, just as sexism and sexual harassment do. They should have clear routines for handling and registering discrimination and harassment.
  • Equality/diversity advocates on recruitment and search committees: One person on each committee should be responsible for making sure the equality and diversity dimension is made explicit when considering the candidates. Institutions should consider training measures for committee members.
  • Support of career networks: Facilitation and support of career promotion networks for academic staff with a foreign or immigrant background. The networks should aim to share knowledge of the system while establishing ties to people in the majority population at the same time.

In addition, the KIF Committee has recommended that the Ministry of Education and Research measures how well the institutions handle diversity. The Ministry holds regular meetings with the institutions in which diversity policies can be discussed.

Read more in the report Action for diversity: Recommended measures to promote academic staff diversity in research and higher education (2016).

Recommendations from diversity report

The KIF Committee commissioned the report “Being a foreigner is no advantage” (2016), which was prepared by the Work Research Institute and the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education. In this report, the researchers recommended a range of measures to the research sector:

  • A shift in focus from recruitment to inclusion: In addition to a diverse recruitment practice, institutions should work to create an inclusive working environment for all.
  • Diversity management: Mid-level managers must be held responsible and trained in diversity management.
  • Critical view of diversity rhetoric and statements: Not all immigrants are familiar with the diversity rhetoric used in job vacancy announcements. This includes the use of language, images and diversity statements. This symbolism should be revised so that it works as intended.
  • Adaptation: Immigrants’ need for adaptations at the workplace should be studied and addressed.
  • Mentoring programmes: Norwegian-born employees or immigrants with a long employment history in Norwegian higher education can act as mentors and advisers for immigrants.
  • Awareness-raising and motivation: The Ministry of Education and Research should require research institutions to clearly state, both internally and externally, why ethnic diversity is important, and design targeted measures for how they can create a framework that promotes ethnic diversity.
  • Academic mobility: Think through the discourse on academic mobility. It should entail more than internationalization.

Researchers on diversity

According to researcher Tatiana Maximova-Mentzoni of the Work Research Institute, the key to greater diversity in research is decisive managers who ensure the development of an organizational culture that cultivates respect for differences and encourages communication and openness. She believes that international recruitment from abroad has been given too much priority over recruitment of foreign academics already residing in Norway.

As researcher Arnfinn Midtbøen of the Institute for Social Research has noted, we must ask whether so few immigrants choose academia because certain characteristics of academia cause them to be excluded or whether they simply want to pursue other careers. This is an issue we know very little about.

Read more in our articles on ethnic diversity in research:

Diversity statistics raise new questions
“Diversity efforts must be customized”
Ethnic diversity challenges academia

Read also Sevil Sümer’s report Difference as Resource? A Pilot Study on Diversity at Uni Research (2017).

Measures to improve gender balance

A number of institutions use measures to improve gender balance, many of which could also be suitable for increasing ethnic diversity; see measures for gender balance.

Survey of ethnic diversity measures

There are many recommendations for measures, but how do universities, university colleges and research institutes work with ethnic diversity?

In 2017, Kifinfo cooperated with the KIF Committee’s secretariat to send out a questionnaire to the institutions to learn about their work to increase ethnic diversity in the research sector. The survey was sent to 34 universities and university colleges and 84 research institutes. We received 24 responses. Of these, 20 are from research institutes, 3 from university colleges and 1 from a university.

Measures and instruments in the research sector

Here we have compiled the measures reported by the institutions. This list is not exhaustive, but instead gives examples of the actions research institutions are taking. We have categorized the responses into seven different types of measures:

  1. Recruitment: These measures show how institutions work to achieve diversity in recruitment.
  2. Language courses: Here are examples of how institutions use Norwegian language courses to integrate employees who do not speak Norwegian.
  3. Welcome programmes: The institutions’ measures for new employees with a foreign background are listed here.
  4. Joint measures for gender balance and ethnic diversity: These measures target both gender balance and ethnic diversity.
  5. Follow-up and reporting: Here are examples of how the instruments are followed up and reported on.
  6. Student-centred measures: Diversity measures targeted towards the institutions’ students are compiled here.
  7. Action plans: In this category are the institutions’ action plans for gender equality and ethnic diversity.

Working with ethnic diversity

In contrast to measures for gender balance, the effort to increase ethnic diversity is often more complicated. Gender is simple to count, while ethnic diversity cannot be measured in the same way. It is therefore difficult to know if the measures are effective for the target group(s). Moreover, the definition of ethnic diversity can encompass many different groups (see the KIF Committee’s three main groups in the fact box).

For the research sector, gender equality measures can be easier to work with for several reasons. Employers have a legal duty to promote gender equality and counteract ethnic discrimination, pursuant to the Equality and Anti-discrimination Act. At the same time, the Personal Data Act sets strict limitations on the collection and storage of information about the ethnic background of employees and job applicants.

Read our article: Ethnicity cannot be counted

Measure 1: Recruitment

Recruitment processes are crucial in the effort to increase the overall ethnic diversity in working life. 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. We know less about whether or not recruitment processes in academia have a discriminatory effect. Employers should work consciously to achieve diverse recruitment.

Read our article: What is diversity management?

Uni Research posts its job announcements internationally. The announcements are published in Norwegian and English, on both Norwegian and international websites. Applicants with a background from other countries and cultures who already live in Norway are assessed on equal footing with applicants from abroad and Norwegian applicants.

The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) posts its job announcements internationally, through portals such as ResearchGate and EURAXESS, to reach applicants outside Norway.

The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) announces its researcher positions internationally. These are distributed through English-language application portals.

The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) reports that one of its measures is not to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, ethnicity, etc., but to recruit according to the competence principle. The percentage of employees with a foreign background has risen in the past 10 years.
The University of Oslo (UiO) posts its job announcements in English to recruit internationally.

The International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) writes its job announcements in English in certain departments and publishes them on international websites.

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) recruits candidates for a wide range of positions – permanent employees, post-docs, research fellows, guest researchers and students – mostly from outside Norway. About 30 percent of its employees have a foreign background. NGI publishes its job announcements on social media, in international channels and through international networks.

NGI also takes on participants of labour market measures. On several occasions, the institute has taken in trainees when their professional background and expertise fits in. These are often people from other countries who lack work experience in Norway.

Measure 2: Norwegian language courses

Learning Norwegian is critical for integration into the Norwegian workplace and society at large. Although an increasing number of research institutions use English as their working language, employees’ knowledge of Norwegian can help increase diversity. Below are examples of how some institutions use language courses to adapt the workplace for employees whose native language is not Norwegian.

The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) offers Norwegian language courses for researchers who are employed from abroad, and covers a certain amount of the course fees.

The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) offers employees whose native language is not Norwegian courses and training in English. This measure 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 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.

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) offers language training for employees who do not speak Norwegian.

The International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) provides Norwegian language courses for employees with a foreign background and others whose native language is not Norwegian.

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.

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.

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.

Measure 3: Welcome programmes

For many people, relocating to Norway can be a challenging process that involves many practical arrangements. The institutions’ welcome programmes for new employees from abroad are important for making an employee’s transition to Norwegian society as problem-free as possible.

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.

The International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) has services for new employees throughout the Stavanger region, including for those from abroad. The introduction 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. Norwegian language courses for employees from abroad who do not speak Norwegian are included in the programme. New employees receive a newsletter about activities and events in the region. Depending on an employee’s prior knowledge, IRIS may provide financial support for Norwegian courses.

The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (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.

Uni Research 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.

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.

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.

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (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.

Measure 4: Joint measures for gender balance and diversity

Some measures can be used to improve gender balance as well as to increase ethnic diversity. In the survey, we asked the research institutions to give examples of the measures they use to address both gender balance and ethnic diversity.

The University of Oslo (UiO) has a mentoring programme for female post-docs that seeks to promote women’s career development. UiO points out that the programme is a gender equality measure that also encompasses diversity.

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) conducts an annual portfolio analysis which contains an overview of the gender of all project managers for all ISF projects. This analysis makes it possible to see who is given this type of management responsibility. ISF reports that the portfolio analysis could potentially be expanded to include ethnic diversity as well.

The Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KhiO) has an action plan for equality that aims to ensure genuine equality between the sexes and prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, political views, membership in labour unions, age or sexual orientation. KhiO has good gender balance among its top-level managers and docent and professor positions, and a high percentage of international experts serve on the evaluation committees that recruit for academic positions. According to KhiO, this helps to promote diversity in academic assessments when hiring new academic employees and ensure there is a significant share of employees from different countries.

Measure 5: Follow-up of measures and reporting

According to our survey, not all institutions follow-up their measures closely. On the other hand, institutions that do keep a close eye on the measures they implement also report good results.

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) holds annual employee reviews in which individual development and follow-up plans are drawn up. According to ISF, the plans are now used to facilitate the career development of female researchers, but they could also be useful in assisting employees with a minority background.

Simula Research Laboratory assesses whether the measures are working as intended and which improvements can be made to ease the transition to working life in Norway, and helps to ensure that the working environment is well adapted for all groups. The institute conducts various surveys to clarify issues around this, including a questionnaire for new employees from abroad hired in the past year and a half. In this survey, Simula receives feedback on what is working well and should be continued, and what can be adjusted so that the institute can offer an even better support system.

The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) monitors the status of diversity at its institution and reports this to its own board, as well as to Statistics Norway and the Nordic Institute of Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU).

The Nofima Food Research Institute has annual reporting of employee statistics from the human resources department to the management group relating to gender balance in the organization, female and male managers at various levels, and employees whose native language is not Norwegian.

Measure 6: Student measures

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.

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.

The University of Oslo (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. In addition, UiO offers guidance on academic writing for students whose native language is not Norwegian, and a mentoring scheme for all male bachelor’s degree students in the Faculty of Education.

Measure 7: Action plans for equality

Many institutions have action plans for equality, gender balance, inclusion and diversity. Here is a link to a list of English-language action plans for gender equality and diversity at all Norwegian universities and university colleges that are members of the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Gender equality at NTNU
Action plan for a better gender balance 2014-2016

Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
Diversity action plan 2017-2019

University of Bergen
Gender Equality Action Plan
Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan

University of Oslo
Gender equality initiatives
Action Plan for Gender Equality and Gender Balance 2015-2017

Responsibility for measures

Where and how responsibility for initiating measures is placed within the institution is crucial. It can determine whether measures are implemented, made known to the employees and followed up. This responsibility should always be anchored at top management level and they should also be held accountable for the results from this work. The KIF Committee has been working for several years to ensure that knowledge about gender equality is integrated into management training at the institutions. Read more about the KIF Committee’s work.

Responsibility for measures in the research sector is assigned at various levels, mostly with the management. Some examples are:

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) places responsibility for development and follow-up plans with the head of each research department. These plans are also set out in the strategic and action plan, which is approved by the board and reviewed in the management group. The top-level management follows up the project manager responsibility. Monitoring of project manager responsibility is also laid down in the action plan and reviewed in the management group. Language training is the director’s decision.

The International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) places responsibility for Norwegian language courses with the head of research.

Simula Research Laboratory has assigned responsibility for all its measures to the management.

The Nofima Food Research Institute reports that diversity and equality in recruitment processes are described in the personnel handbook under recruitment and employment, and responsibility is distributed throughout the organization.

The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) has placed responsibility for all its measures at the departmental level.

The University of Oslo (UiO) has incorporated its action plan for equality into the Strategy 2020 and included it as part of UiO’s personnel policy.

SINTEF has assigned responsibility for measures for non-Norwegian employees to the corporate management group. In addition, the SINTEF school is responsible for Norwegian language courses, and support upon arrival and language training are laid down in strategies and closely linked with the management.

The Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) facilitates the recruitment of students with diverse artistic and cultural references. This is set out in the academy’s strategy under the section “students at the forefront” and responsibility lies with all levels of management.

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) has placed responsibility for recruitment measures at the departmental level. Responsibility for labour market measures for the unemployed lies at the departmental level, while Norwegian language courses are the responsibility of the human resources department.

Other measures

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.

The University of Oslo (UiO), together with many other universities and university colleges, is a member of Scholars at Risk, a network that provides temporary positions to qualified scholars at UiO or partner institutions.

UiO takes part in Diversity in Focus in Academia, a programme that works for greater cultural diversity at UiO. The 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.

SINTEF has identified diversity and gender balance as key objectives in its strategy, which applies to the entire SINTEF organization.

The Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) places responsibility for all its student-centred measures with the Student Affairs Committee at the institutional level.

What works?

The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) believes that its primary measure is its standing as a recognized research institute with a high international profile and employees from over 30 countries. This results in an increasing number of employees from outside the Nordic countries. According to NIBIO, greater ethnic diversity has led to internationalization of the institute and access to expanded research networks with applications and projects.

Simula Research Laboratory conducts regular surveys to find out whether the measures are working as intended. With these surveys, the measures can be adapted along the way so that the intention can more readily be fulfilled. According to Simula, this works well.

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) reports that development and follow-up plans are an important tool, as these measures can be adapted to the individual.

SINTEF believes that its measures for receiving and integrating employees from abroad work very well and that language training in Trondheim works well when there are many employees in need of training. SINTEF’s language courses in Oslo work well.

The Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) reports that the elective courses in Indian/Pakistani folk music have worked well. The offering is popular among students and the skills they acquire are transferrable to other musical forms. Another well-functioning measure is guest lecturers with musical backgrounds from non-Western musical traditions, such as India, Egypt, Persia, Indonesia, Japan and Africa. Academic staff and students are exposed to a variety of musical traditions, which according to NMH has resulted in various collaborative musical projects. Moreover, a number of students have sought out teachers in Norway and other countries to learn more about these different musical forms.

The use of hourly instructors in the regular educational programmes and study abroad trips has also proved to be beneficial at NMH. This is critical for enhancing the students’ understanding of different cultures and making them more open to cooperating with musicians from different traditions.

The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) emphasizes recruitment from abroad as a successful measure. There has been a large influx of applicants from abroad and many good candidates. According to NGI, the result is that the institute has a much larger pool of candidates and can select from the best among them.


The main challenges within the sector are related to the many different ways that the term “ethnic diversity” can be defined. In contrast to the US, for example, Norway has no method of registering ethnicity. It is therefore extremely difficult to create measures for ethnic diversity that are suitable for so many different groups. Consequently, the institutions point out a range of challenges that should be taken into account to improve ethnic diversity measures.

Another aspect is related to internationalization, which has been a stated research policy objective in Norway. It is unclear whether the measures mentioned here are targeted towards ethnic diversity in particular or if they are designed to increase internationalization.

The Institute for Social Research (ISF) states that it has many researchers with foreign background (primarily European) as well as researchers who are children of immigrants. However, the individual differences between the researchers with various types of foreign background are so great that the institute has not found it relevant to develop joint measures for them. Individual development and follow-up plans are more important tools, according to ISF.

The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) reports that it is an international workplace that recruits researchers from around the world. It is therefore not necessary to have special diversity measures, according to CICERO.

Uni Research states that about 30 percent of the institute’s employees have a minority background or have moved to Norway from another country (40 different countries are represented). The institute has therefore not found it necessary to implement special ethnic diversity measures.

The KIF Committee’s work with ethnic diversity

Since 2014, the KIF Committee has worked with diversity in addition to gender balance. The Ministry of Education and Research prepared a new mandate and defined diversity as ethnic diversity. Read the KIF Committee’s mandate

The committee understands that ethnicity entails a number of identity-related criteria, but chooses to limit its work with ethnicity to three main groups:

  • people with an immigrant background,
  • international employees,
  • national ethnic minorities.

Read: KIF Committee Strategy 2018–2021

When ethnic diversity is lacking, the talent available in society is not utilized to the fullest extent. This is the same argument that has been used to promote gender balance. Read more about the reasoning behind the need for gender balance and diversity in research.

The committee emphasizes action plans and mentoring programmes as measures suitable for increasing ethnic diversity as well as gender balance.
Read the report: Recommended measures to promote academic staff diversity in research and higher education