«‘HiOA is a metropolitan institution, located in a region whose demographic structure is more diverse than in other regions in Norway. This diversity gives us an advantage in terms of understanding and reaping the benefits of diversity. We must stimulate equality and demand tolerance of other people’s beliefs and life philosophy, cultural background and gender.»
New knowledge, new practice, Strategy 2020 for Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.
Have you thought about what kind of creature HiOA is? What identity it has? This is not a question that is easily answered, because HiOA is a wonderful, complicated, creative, charming and slightly chaotic circus made up of many different facets. HiOA is diverse. And perhaps that’s the best way to describe HiOA: Diversity.
Diversity has many dimensions. Gender, ethnicity, culture, nationality, politics, religious affiliation and life philosophy, functional ability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity.
HiOA has become a very international university college with students from 115 different countries! And it clearly stands out from the rest of the universities in Norway with respect to the proportion of women in academic positions, as the figure below shows. Each bubble represents an institution in the university and university college sector, and the size of the bubbles indicates how many students the institution has. UiO is a bigger bubble than HiOA because it has more students. The bubbles are arranged along the x-axis according to how large a proportion of the institution’s professors are women, and along the y-axis according to how large a proportion of professor/associate professor positions are filled by women. All of the universities are represented, in addition to HiOA. As you can see, HiOA has a truly unique position in Norway.
Figure 1: This chart shows that HiOA clearly stands out from the rest of the universities in Norway with respect to its high proportion of women in academic positions. The figure shows both the proportion of women in professorships and the number of women in professor/associate professor positions. (Source: Status report 2015, Tables V8.10 and V8.11 )
These are top academic positions. Unfortunately, however, although we have a good gender balance in our top academic positions, the gender imbalance in HiOA’s study programmes and other job categories is fairly high. A good gender balance in all positions and all study programmes is a goal for HiOA.
Not only is it diverse, it is very concerned with diversity. The work on diversity is enshrined in HiOA’s main strategy. In the strategy, diversity is described as one of HiOA’s three core values. And, not surprisingly, HiOA has a dedicated action plan for diversity. In 2013, HiOA created a position in its joint administration where work on diversity is part of the job description, and HiOA’s rector, Curt Rice, chairs the Committee on Gender Balance in Research, whose mandate was recently expanded from gender balance to ‘gender balance and diversity’.
On 27 January this year, HiOA launched its first diversity committee, which is composed of representatives of all the faculties, centres, students and administration. The establishment of the committee was a right and important step towards establishing systematic diversity work at HiOA. There is student representation on the committee, and further formalisation of the cooperation with students is on the agenda this autumn. This, in turn, will reflect the measures in HiOA’s Diversity Action Plan in the next plan period (2016-1018(20)).
Different aspects of diversity have also become a permanent feature both at the HiOA school and in its cultural calendar. All of HiOA’s HR employees have an important role in recruiting and developing diversity. A policy for equality in recruitment and personnel policy is therefore on the agenda at all HiOA’s four HR forum meetings.
Not surprisingly, we work extensively on diversity. HiOA’s further education programme in ‘Multicultural teaching methods’ and ‘Multilingualism and second language teaching’, a research group on ‘Mastery, work and diversity’ and a group with the title ‘Diversity in teaching practice‘ are all examples of this. At the turn of the year, a joint report will be submitted on diversity in the research sector by HiOA’s Work Research Institute and the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation. It was commissioned by the Committee on Gender Balance in Research.
Diversity is dependent on a number of factors, including individual freedom, fairness, tolerance and inclusion. These are values we are committed to. Diversity does not just depend on these values, it can also contribute to developing them. Diversity can help create tolerance, understanding, acceptance, freedom from prejudice, openness, respect, esteem, recognition and inclusion. These are not just important ideals of general education, they are also a precondition for knowledge development.
Today, I had the pleasure of opening a three-day Pestalozzi workshop at HiOA on the topic of sexuality and gender in schools. The photo above is from the workshop. In two weeks, a new website will be launched to promote awareness of gender norms in children’s literature, and HiOA’s Department of Early Childhood Education has been an important partner in the development of this website. On 21 October, assistant professor of psychology at UiO, Henning Bang, will hold a seminar for HiOA’s staff entitled ‘Organisational culture and diversity’, in which he takes a closer look at the types of diversity that can exist in an organisation, what research says about the consequences of diversity in organisations and how dialogic communication can be a means of utilising diversity in a workplace. And on 28 October, the Committee on Gender Balance in Research held a workshop at HiOA on diversity management.
In spring 2016, professor and head of research at FAFO Research Foundation, Jon Ringstad, will hold a course at the HiOA school on the topic of recruiting diversity. In April, psychologist and research fellow at NHH, Mads Nordmo will hold a course at the same place on how our implicit prejudices can be a barrier to diversity in the workplace.
To mention just a few of the forthcoming events.
Photo: Guðrún Ragnarsdóttir
The mandate for the diversity committee
The committee’s mandate is to (1) prepare, implement and evaluate the two-year diversity action plan, (2) report on and analyse HiOA’s work on equality, (3) contribute to strategic discussions and the work on defining goals at HiOA, (4) be a driving force for an inclusive and non-discriminatory personnel policy, and (5) facilitate research dissemination and competence development in relation to diversity.
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 ‘New knowledge, new practice, Strategy 2020 for Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences’, HiOA 2012
 ‘Vedlegg, Tilstandsrapport Høyere utdanning 2015 , the Ministry of Education and Research.
HiOA: Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
NMBU: The Norwegian University of Life Sciences
NTNU: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology
UiA: The University of Agder
UiB: The University of Bergen
UiN: The University of Nordland
UiO: The University of Oslo
UiS: The University of Stavanger