Professor, Department of Information and Media Studies, University of Bergen
International academic life is largely not oriented towards gender equality or room for family life.
This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
What does the radical internationalization of university researchers and teachers really mean? Researcher Cecilie Hellestveit recently raised some key issues. Here are a few more.
In October, economics professor Kjell Erik Lommerud presented one overview of new appointments at the HF and SV faculties at the University of Bergen (UiB). It strengthens the issues raised by Cecilie Hellestveit about the international orientation of an internationalized staff.
But it also raises other reasons for discussing the situation: Nearly 80 percent of the applicants for professorships at the University of Oslo (UiO), UiB and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) were from other countries.
From 2017 to 2020, 23 new associate professors and professors were employed at UiB’s SV faculty. Of these, 17 were men, 13 of whom were foreign. There were six women, four of whom were foreign.
In the same period, the HF faculty had 19 new employees. Ten were men (all foreign) and nine women (six foreign). Only three had a Norwegian background – all researched the Norwegian language.
Of the total of 42 new employees at the two faculties, 27 are men and 15 women.
The figures obviously challenge goals of balancing the sexes in permanent positions and especially top positions. Are women, especially Norwegians, simply too ill-suited for such academic positions? There are a couple of other possible explanations.
Among all foreign applicants, there is a marked predominance of men
Among all foreign applicants, there is a marked predominance of men. Gender equality does not characterize foreign academia in the “Norwegian” way.
Norwegian research recruitment is also special in that all studies are mainly free and the doctoral studies are also paid. 77 percent of the scholarship applicants are now foreigners. Doctoral fellows are thus and in other ways implicitly encouraged to behave like others of the same age: Become a couple, and feel free to have children before you get too old! This takes time and perhaps especially for women.
I do not know of any good comparative studies of love life and family formation among young academics. But based on my own anecdotal knowledge, based on 40 years of international experience, almost Norwegian norms are difficult to find outside the Nordic region. International academic life is largely not oriented towards gender equality or room for family life.
Hypothesis: The foreign applicants who beat Norwegians, and especially Norwegian women, are mostly men who for several years have concentrated more than the Norwegians on qualifying scientific production.
Should Norwegian researchers be considered the best based on current criteria, it will require significant changes in Norwegian research recruits’ lifestyles and public support measures. Children, relationships and family life are taken care of by others.
But an alternative hypothesis is that “scientific excellence” is now problematically measured: The number of publications in international journals is crucial. The expert committees’ own readings have become less important, and the book format and various dissemination have little to say.
The question is really what kind of research and researchers we want.