meny
søk
English

'Being a foreigner is no advantage'

Career paths and barriers for immigrants in Norwegian academia

Forfatter(e): AFI Report 2016:12

Last ned gratis

Together with the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), the Work Research Institute (AFI) conducted a study based on a variety of methods and data sources, aimed at obtaining knowledge about the career paths of persons with an immigrant background in higher edu- cation and research in Norway for the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee).

The study consists of a literature review, analyses of selected, available and relevant statistics, as well as qualitative case studies of three institutions. The case studies have encompassed individual inter- views and focus group interviews with academic staff, diversity advisers and managers, as well as anal- yses of strategy documents compiled by three sample institutions in the higher education and research sectors.

The study shows that master’s degree holders with an immigrant background have a much greater desire to work in research and more often plan to pursue a doctoral degree than master’s degree holders without an immigrant background. Persons with an immigrant background are also less likely to hold a position in academia compared to those with a majority background. This tendency is the same within all subject areas, but the disparities vary somewhat. The fewest disparities are seen in technical subjects, health studies, social studies and law. The disparities are greater in the arts and humanities, pedagogy, and business and administration. The case study shows that most of the in- formants have not viewed the recruitment process as problematic, but they feel there is a lack of in- clusion in the workplace. They also say that little is done in their research communities to create an inclusive environment. 

Sammendrag av publikasjonen

Sammendrag av publikasjonen

Researchers from the Work Research Institute (AFI) at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences and the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) have jointly prepared this report on diversity and the career paths of persons with an immigrant background in the Norwegian higher education and research sectors on commission from the Committee for Gender Bal- ance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee).

The report contains a literature review of relevant research literature from the Nordic countries, anal- yses of a selection of relevant and accessible statistics, as well as qualitative case studies at of three institutions in the Norwegian higher education and research sectors. The case studies include individ- ual and focus group interviews with academic staff, diversity advisers and representatives of the man- agement, and analyses of strategic documents on diversity produced at the three institutions.

In recent years, the Norwegian higher education and research sectors have become more ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse. The share of foreigners in higher education and research institu- tions has grown substantially since 2000, from 14 per cent in 2001 to 22 per cent in 2009. The growth has been most pronounced among PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows. The share of foreign-born academic staff is about 20 per cent among associate professors and professors.

Like the academic staff from the majority population, the foreign academic employees are segregated along a gender axis. We find most women in the health and medical subjects, and the share of women is lowest among the professors. At the same time, the share of foreign-born women in the MNT sub- jects (mathematics, natural sciences and technology) and among professors is larger than the share of women from the majority population.

What does Nordic research say about ethnic diversity among employees in higher education and research?

The literature review shows that very little research has been carried out in the Nordic countries on diversity and career paths among persons with an immigrant background in academia. Most of the studies conducted on ethnic diversity in academia have been done in the USA. Teaching and research employees with an immigrant background make up a group that has been almost completely ignored in higher education studies.

However, the research that has been carried out in the Nordic countries shows, for example:

- the need to clarify the terminology used in the discourse on diversity in academia;

- that it is more difficult for foreign-born academics to gain employment in higher education and research than it is for scholars from the majority population;

- foreign-born academics experience exclusion caused by internal recruitment and unwritten rules;

- mastery of other languages besides English is a vital key into the academic community.

Plans and aspirations for working in research – are there disparities between master’s degree holders with and without an immigrant background?

Master’s degree holders with an immigrant background are considerably more likely to work in re- search and have plans to obtain a PhD degree than master’s degree holders from the majority popu- lation. The disparities in research ambitions are found across the full range of grades. This means that more master’s degree holders with an immigrant background and poor grades aspire to working inresearch than their peers without an immigrant background. It also means that master’s degree hold- ers with an immigrant background and good grades have such aspirations more often than their peers with good grades from the majority population.

Young people with an immigrant background who have completed upper secondary school are more likely to enter higher education directly than their peers from the majority population. Individuals from the Asian region stand out in this respect. Young people with an Asian background who have the op- portunity to enter higher education because they have completed upper secondary school have high academic ambitions.

We do not know whether their aspirations will ever be realized, but we can say with a large degree of certainty that there is considerable potential for research recruitment among master’s degree holders with an immigrant background.

Does an immigrant background influence the probability of obtaining a relevant position in Norwe- gian academia? Statistics concerning labour market participation among doctoral degree holders in Norway

The analyses show that persons with an immigrant background are less likely to be employed in higher education and research compared to persons from the majority population. The tendency is the same for all disciplines, but varies to some degree. The fewest disparities are found in technical subjects, health studies, social studies and law. The disparities are more pronounced in the arts and humanities, pedagogy, and business and administration.

Gender differences are similar across regional background, and are generally more noticeable than the differences related to immigrant background. Further research should nevertheless perform intersec- tional analyses of the importance of gender and immigrant background to find out whether the barri- ers in academia are similar for women with and without an immigrant background.

Persons with a non-Western immigrant background and those with a majority background have ap- proximately the same length of tenure; however, persons with an immigrant background are under- represented among professors and over-represented among researchers and in lower-level teaching positions at universities and university colleges.

Foreign-born academic staff in Norway: challenges related to career paths and HR response

It can be more challenging for immigrants than the majority to attain a permanent position in the Norwegian higher education and research sectors. This may be due to poor or non-existent Norwegian language skills, a lack of networks and references, or a lack of cultural or contextual understanding which is important in teaching positions and in Norwegian academia in general – perceived by some of the informants in the case studies as ‘too Norwegian’. The challenges may also be caused by uncon- scious or implicit bias in recruitment processes, or incompetence in the system, making it difficult for Norwegian institutions to evaluate foreign applications, educational qualifications and formal compe- tencies which may be formulated using styles and profiles different to the Norwegian ones. The in- formants from the case institutions also stress what they perceive to be structural discrimination in the recruitment processes in academia. This discrimination is expressed in specific forms of nepotism, cultural cloning and closed recruitment processes.

Even if gender, class and ethnic background probably intersect in different ways and with different outcomes for different individuals and groups, the case informants pay little or no regard to this – even when asked directly about their experiences and reflections on, for example, being foreign and female in a male-dominated environment. In these cases, the informants did not regard the intersection be- tween ethnicity and gender as relevant at all. Rather, they perceived ethnicity and gender as somehow oppositional or competing within the academic context, as many of them emphasized that they defi- nitely found it ‘harder to be a woman than to be foreign’ in Norwegian academia.

In the higher education sector, a great deal is being done to foster diversity among staff. Both HR and management at many institutions seem to base their work on the understanding that diversity is best facilitated and ensured through effective recruitment processes. Most of the informants at our case institutions have experienced the recruitment process as unproblematic.

Based on our case studies, it seems that rather than recruitment problems, it is workplace inclusion that represents a challenge for the academics and the institutions in higher education and research in Norway. The informants feel that little has been done at their institutions to facilitate inclusion at the workplace level.

The informants describe the lack of inclusion as a stumbling block to a successful career in academia, and many say insufficient diversity management at all levels of the organization is part of the problem.

The case studies also show that the various needs for support arrangements among the foreign-born academic staff have not been surveyed, and are therefore not known and identified by HR and man- agement at the institutions.

Language skills are perceived to be a key to inclusion in academia. At the same time, the case studies reveal tensions between ambitions related to diversity at the institutional and workplace level (where proficiency in Norwegian is important) and ambitions related to international competence and excel- lence (where English is the internationally recognized language of communication at all levels).

The case studies indicate there is a need to clarify diversity ambitions pertaining to higher education and research, as well as the relationship between diversity, anti-discrimination and inclusion in the sector. Two of our case institutions have chosen to employ a ‘broadened concept of equality’ in their diversity work. This is ambitious, but it may be challenging for the efforts to remove barriers to foreign academics’ career paths in Norwegian academia. The general shift towards diversity in traditional equality work in academia entails not only greater complexity, but it is also challenging since it is re- lated to a shift towards more focus on individual careers.

The findings form a diverse backdrop for both reflections on diversity and diversity efforts in higher education and research, and result in a number of recommendations for measures and further re- search on diversity in academia.

Recommended measures:

-  A shift in focus from recruitment processes to inclusion processes;

-  Greater focus on diversity management;

-  A critical look at diversity symbolism and declarations;

-  A survey of the need for specific support arrangements among academic staff in Norwegian academia;

-  Establishment of mentoring programmes for immigrants in academia;

-  Greater involvement from and raising awareness within the higher education and research institutions;

-  New conceptualizations of academic mobility.

Recommendations for further research

Little research has been done on diversity and career paths among immigrant academics in higher education and research in Norway, so there are plenty of knowledge gaps to be filled with further research:

-  There is a need for systematic mapping and studies of practices of inclusion and management of ethnic diversity in both Norwegian and Nordic higher education and research contexts.

-  The literature review carried out for this project indicates a need for a systematic review of international research literature on the subject.

-  There is a need for research on similarities and differences between various disciplines pertaining to career paths for both women and academics with an immigrant background.

-  There is a need for knowledge about immigrant academics and Norwegian academics with an immigrant background who apply for, but do not succeed in obtaining a permanent position at higher education and research institutions in Norway. What specific barriers do they meet?

-  There is a need for longitudinal studies of whether and how descendants of immigrants to Norway manage to attain permanent positions in higher education and research.

-  There is a need to look closer at career paths in academia in light of accompanying studies of descendants of immigrants to Norway and their social mobility paths.

There is a need for knowledge about the trade unions’ role and participation in either maintaining or dismantling barriers in academia and their potential contribution to inclusion and promotion of diversity at both the institutional and workplace level. 

Lukk sammendrag
Utgivelsesår:

2016

Antall sider:

88

ISBN:

978-82-7609-384-1

ISSN:

0807-0865

Publikasjonstype:

Rapport

Publisert:

Oslo: Work Research Institute (AFI)