The International Impact
The number of international researchers at the Department of Psychology has reached one third of the total number of scientific staff.
Most of the international staff from l to r: Samira Aminihajibashi, Alejandro Blenkmann, Malin Olofsson, René Westerhausen, Bruno Laeng, James Lubell, René Huster, Rolf Reber, Verónica Expósito, Liisa Raud, Sidsel Schaller, Anaïs Llorens, Nantje Fischer, Donatas Sederevicius, Lotte Thomsen, Maria Stavrinou, Tilmann von Soest, Beate Seibt, Claire Pendergast, Hang Liu, Francisco Pons, Karine Viana, Julien Mayor, Carolien Konijnenberg, Tim Brennen, James Roe, Johanna Blomster and Janis Zickfeld. Photo: Svein Harald Milde/ UiO
Internationalisation has been a buzzword in the realm of higher education for many years, but is it only a fancy word used by the management to dress up a dowdy institution, or were they serious about it?
At the Department of Psychology, they have converted words into action. Ten years ago, only two foreigners were working at Harald Schjelderups hus. Now the department consists of 50 international researchers from 18 different countries, almost one third of the scientific workforce of roughly 160 employees.
Most international researchers have arrived the recent years, due to recruiting more abroad.
“It is primarily the past five years that we have consistently advertised vacancies through international channels”, says Pål Kraft, Head of Department.
These years has been one of the most expansive recruitment periods in the history of the department, taking on average seven new employees per year, many from abroad.
Even before the University’s internationalisation initiative in the 2020-strategy, the Department had already begun advertising its jobs widely abroad.
The internationalisation initiative was kick-started by the University Board naming 2012 the year of internationalisation and followed up by an action plan for 2012-2014 (Handlingsplan 2012-2014 – pdf).
“We have stuck to this plan and over the course of a few years created an international environment at the department, which we consider of great value to our sections and research groups”, Kraft stresses.
Former Heads of Department, Siri Gullestad (2008-2011) and Kjetil Sundet (2012-2015), led the internationalisation project at PSI until Pål Kraft took charge from 2016.
“We went all in on the internationalisation initiative in 2012. It had top priority. Almost all job adverts were translated into English and we took some measures to make the international staff feel happy here”, Sundet adds.
Countries at PSI:
“The major change since I started in 2003 is the internationalisation of the department”, says Professor Tim Brennen.
He refers to the time when he began at PSI as the second researcher outside of Scandinavia. The other person, Margarete Vollrath from Switzerland, worked alongside until 2006. For one year, Brennen played a lone hand until Professor Francisco Pons, from Spain and Switzerland, came.
“When I started to work on the 1st of April 2007 there was just one permanent non-Scandinavian staff at PSI, Tim Brennen, and it is not a joke”, Pons jokes.
Five researchers are sitting round a lunch table at Harald Schjelderups hus eating their “niste”. Four of them are from abroad, only one Norwegian. They have all worked at PSI a year or two.
“Here in Norway everybody switches to English very fast during the meetings and in everyday communications. English seems to be like a second language for the Norwegians and it makes us foreigners feeling not left out at all but instead welcomed.”
“Of course then there is a challenge to learn Norwegian if someone is really interested in speaking the language”, says Postdoctoral Fellow Maria Stavrinou.
Her colleague at the table, Professor René Huster, agrees. He is soon celebrating his two-year anniversary at the department.
“I am happy here. It takes time to settle down, but I feel comfortable here. The Section of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience is very international. We hold staff meetings in English and have good discussions.”