Report exposes ethnic and gender inequality in universities

Non-Finnish nationals account for 38.5% of doctoral students but only 9.4% of professorial staff and experience nearly twice the discrimination of their Finnish counterparts, according to a new report on the state of equality, non-discrimination and diversity among teaching and research staff at Finnish higher education institutions.

The report, based on the KOTAMO project (2021-22), focused on gender equality and ethnic diversity and comprised a literature review, a survey of 2,765 higher education personnel, interviews with personnel and workshops held with staff and funders.

It found that with only 10% of international staff in its higher education institutions, Finland lags significantly behind both Norway (with 30%) and Sweden (with 24%).

The project was funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and implemented by Demos Helsinki; Oxford Research; Includia Leadership; Innolink, the knowledge management consultancy firm; Inkeri Tanhua (Equality Research Helsinki); Liisa Husu and Kaskas Communication Company.

Co-authored by Julia Jousilahti, Inkeri Tanhua, Juho-Matti Paavola, Leena Alanko, Amanda Kinnunen, Jonna Louvrier, Liisa Husu, Maria Levola and Jenni Kilpi, the report was published by the Ministry of Education and Culture in Helsinki on 7 November 2022.

It represents one of few official studies to be carried out on the realisation of equality in Finnish higher education institutions and one of hardly any on racial or ethnic equity.

Career advancement and discrimination

The report found that the most significant problems in ethnic equality are related to career advancement and discrimination. Respondents belonging to ethnic minorities experience their opportunities for career advancement as being much worse than their Finish counterparts.

More than one third of respondents from ethnic minorities do not want to or do not believe they can pursue an academic career, compared to less than one quarter of Finnish respondents, the report noted.

For tenure track positions, non-Finnish nationals accounted for 56.6% of the applicants but only 32.7% of those selected. Respondents from ethnic minorities said they found the processes to be opaque and had observed favouritism and outright discrimination more frequently than ethnic Finns in both universities of applied sciences and universities.

Nearly half of the ethnic minority respondents in both universities and universities of applied sciences reported having experienced discrimination. This is nearly twice that reported for ethnic Finnish respondents. The survey respondents indicated they had met with more discrimination, insults and threats within their higher education community than outside it.

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