Strategy for the Department of Sociology and Human Geography (ISS) 2021-2026

This document describes ISS's goals and strategies for the period 2021-26.

The ISS strategy is a tool for defining and realizing common goals for the department. The strategy provides direction for choices and priorities made at the department during the aforementioned period.

ISS today

ISS is a large and complex department. It accommodates two disciplines with associated study programs and is responsible for several interdisciplinary study programs.

It has been well documented by expert evaluations, rankings and application numbers that ISS is the most important, largest and best academic environment in Norway for its two respective disciplines.

The department has a resourceful staff with wide expertise, both thematically, theoretically and methodologically, and which collaborates with a professional administration.

The department's employees are active and successful in the competition for external research funding, both nationally and internationally.

Application numbers to the department’s study programmes are good. The students are engaged, and graduate surveys show that the majority are successful in finding relevant work once graduated.


ISS is in a very good position for continuing to develop the high quality of both its education and research and strengthen its place in the top tier of Nordic social sciences. But we also face challenges:

  • The competition is intensifying. We face increased competition both for students, for researchers and for research funding.
  • There is a shift towards research more often requiring large projects with multidisciplinary collaboration and high demands on data, which requires external funding.
  • International recruitment gives us access to new skills, but means that we have to compete to a greater extent for qualified personnel.
  • A more international staff is a resource but also presents us with new challenges related to linguistic diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • We are met with greater challenges from the outside world to succeed in international arenas of excellence, but also for relevance in meeting societal challenges.
  • High demands related to data processing, privacy and reporting in both research and teaching.
  • There are increasing demands for efficiency and quality in education, and closer collaboration between academic and administrative staff.
  • Some of our study programs have relatively high drop-out rates and low completion rates compared with other programs at the faculty.
  • The social sciences are increasingly required to demonstrate their relevance for employment and to introduce a more practical education.
  • Administrative tasks at the department are becoming more complex and require a high degree of specialization.

Overall goals

  • ISS shall continue to be a leading research and education institution in the Nordic region within Sociology and Human Geography. In some areas, the department should be an international leader.
  • ISS shall continue to be an environment for basic research and applied research of high quality and relevance. The department shall safeguard academic freedom, integrity and academic independence.
  • The department will continue to attract highly qualified researchers and lecturers, and participate in guest exchanges and collaborations with other universities.
  • ISS shall continue to offer pertinent educational programs of high academic quality and educate candidates who are well equipped to apply social science competence and skills to their careers and to meet society’s challenges. The programmes ISS offers must be predictable, coherent and give the students academic progression.
  • ISS shall be an attractive working environment for all employees.


ISS shall promote independent, pioneering and enduring social science research. 
ISS shall be a broadly composed professional community with space for both individual and joint initiatives.

Research shall be based on the initiative of the researchers, who shall also determine research questions, theory and research methods employed. 

Sub-goals and measures

Sub-goal 1: High quality research

ISS will facilitate that the research at the department is of high quality through:

  • Research at ISS must be independent and driven by the researchers' own interests and curiosity.
  • The department shall facilitate that the researchers have sufficient time to do research, e.g. through the long-term planning of teaching responsibilities and planned research sabbaticals.
  • Clear expectations that researchers publish widely, both in leading international journals and publishers, as well as reputable Norwegian journals and publishers.
  • Supporting researcher initiatives to begin new projects, both individually and in collaboration.
  • Organizing research seminars at the department.
  • Supporting research groups that take responsibility for academic development and peer supervision.

Sub-goal 2: Sustainable research funding

ISS shall have an infrastructure for research that ensures independent research free from funding cycles. To a large extent, research at ISS will be financed through positions covered by the department's basic grant. The research at ISS can also be funded by external funds that enable collaboration, data acquisition and recruitment of more PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. ISS wants to maintain the existing number of permanent positions in the long term; this makes it necessary to ensure a certain growth in income from external financing.

ISS shall support permanent academic staff who wish to initiate and participate in externally funded projects. Externally funded projects should, when possible, be located at the department.

  • ISS shall prioritize the sources of funding that to the greatest extent enable researchers to pursue their best ideas and that contribute to strengthening research at the department.
  • For funding sources where self-financing is required, applications that are coordinated by ISS and that contribute to strengthening collaboration at the department will be given priority.
  • The extent of “frikjøp” must be determined in light of teaching requirements and the individual's total workload.
  • ISS will continue to prioritize individual researcher funds and internal R&D funds that give all scientific staff the opportunity to receive support for their research.
  • ISS shall have a competent and professional research administration. 

Sub-goal 3: Collaboration and exchange visits among researchers

ISS will stimulate exchange visits and cooperation in selected thematic areas, also across disciplines and methodological traditions. These areas can be organized in the form of thematic seminars and research groups.

  • The thematic areas will function as professional meeting points that can embrace large parts of the staff, but not restrict the thematic scope of new recruitments.
  • The thematic areas must be revised periodically.
  • Participation in departmental seminars is an important part of the research process and the development of the academic environment and identity at the department. ISS will further develop the tradition of monthly seminars.
  • ISS will facilitate the organization of larger and smaller research conferences.
  • ISS will work for a more comprehensive guest researcher program, in which prominent researchers within the department's thematic areas may have both short or longer stays at the department.
  • ISS will support researchers who want research visits to other recognized research institutions for varying periods of time.

Sub-goal 4: Recruitment and skills development

A motivated, curious, confident and knowledgeable staff is ISS’ most important resource in the work to achieve the department's goals in both research and education. Recruitment of highly qualified staff and the development of young research talent is an important part of ISS' mandate and contribution to the development of our disciplines.

  • ISS prioritizes open international job advertisements. This must be balanced with the need to ensure academic breadth and covering teaching needs.
  • ISS prioritizes recruitment to combined research and teaching positions so that as many academic employees as possible are active in both areas.
  • ISS aims to recruit outstanding researchers with good pedagogical qualifications and the ability to create activity and a professional environment at the department.
  • Through a deliberate use of postdoctoral positions ISS will prioritize talented young researchers early in their careers to qualify them for further advancement.
  • As the demand for teaching competence increases, the department will provide research fellows and postdocs with the opportunity to develop their skills through teaching and pedagogical training.
  • Consideration of gender balance and diversity in the staff must be incorporated in recruitment strategy.

Sub-goal 5: High-quality education for researchers

ISS shall be an attractive research and work environment for PhD candidates. ISS wants to attract strong and highly motivated PhD candidates who actively contribute to the academic environment at the department.

  • PhD candidates must be included in the department's academic environment through seminars and interaction with staff.
  • The PhD programme must have a certain breadth and be relevant to all candidates, so that it contributes to strengthening their expert knowledge and identity. Research fellows’ academic identity can also be strengthened by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the teaching.
  • ISS will facilitate PhD candidates who require long study visits at prominent international research institutions or long-term fieldwork.
  • ISS will stimulate completion through:
    • Improvements in the recruitment process
    • Closer supervision of internal and external fellows
    • More social gatherings
    • Supervisor meetings
    • Reducing the time between submission of thesis and disputation
    • Appropriate planning of ‘work duties’ to ensure that PhD completion is not unduly delayed.


ISS shall offer students high quality and varied academic courses. Teaching is developed together with the students. It shall maintain a high academic standard and be rooted in the department staff’s research and expert knowledge. The department will employ various forms of learning and assessment that activate the students, and make use of relevant digital tools that promote students' joy of knowledge and creativity.

Sub-goals and measures

Sub-goal 6: A content-rich portfolio of high academic and pedagogical quality

ISS shall offer educational programmes of outstanding quality, both academically, pedagogically and organizationally. Quality in teaching must be ensured through:

  • A strong and varied programme and course portfolio that promotes students' learning and development.
  • Comprehensive and coherent course portfolios in all programmes.
  • Strategic development of the programme and course portfolio that strengthens ISS 'position as a social sciences department of excellence.
  • Further development of digital learning methods and tools.
  • Support for staff’s pedagogical development in all employment categories.
  • Good education leadership that ensures close collaboration between teachers and administration.
  • The strengthening of research-based teaching by linking optional courses to the research projects of the academic staff.

Sub-goal 7: A good learning environment

ISS shall promote an active, engaging, academically stimulating and safe learning environment for its students. Today, ISS experiences withdrawals from its programs, especially in the bachelor programmes. Most of those who withdraw do so in the first semester or in the first year. Completion on time is also a challenge.

Student well-being, programme completion and reduced withdrawals shall be ensured through:

  • Increased focus on introductory courses for new students.
  • Increased use of forms of work that promote student collaboration and social interaction.
  • Students'participation in programme development across cohorts and support for students' social activities. The programme committees (programutvalg) play a central role in this work.
  • Low threshold for contact and exchange between students and teachers, including the use of student contacts and open social events.
  • Systematic collection and analysis of data on withdrawals. 

Sub-goal 8: Cooperation and integration within and across programmes

ISS's varied programme offerings are an excellent starting point for collaboration within and across programmes. Relevant teaching collaboration provides better use of resources and is a starting point for increased professional exchange and learning across disciplines and programs. Cooperation and integration shall be ensured through:

  • Shared courses across programmes where it is appropriate in relation to resource use.
  • Creating fora for the exchange of information among all programme convenors at ISS.
  • Create fora for the exchange of experience among all teachers at ISS.
  • Agreements on courses and study places across programmes.

Sub-goal 9: Relevance for careers and work

Social sciences are relevant to the future work and careers of the students. Just saying so, however, is not enough. The students need to be able to experience or observe the relevance themselves. Relevance to work shall be ensured through:

  • Targeted use of problem-based learning in several courses.
  • Connecting up work experience, practical courses and other teaching activity that is aimed at career relevance.
  • Establish networks with employers and alumni and actively invite them into the teaching environment.
  • Collaboration with LINK and the Career Center to increase both students' and employees' awareness of their own skills and the study programmes' careers relevance.

Sub-goal 10: Facilitate sustainable use of teaching resources

There must be a correspondence between the department's current financial situation, teaching resources and research needs. Sustainable use of teaching resources shall be ensured through:

  • Develop a balance between teaching and research needs among the academic staff through proven use of teaching planning, hourly accounting, external teaching staff, sabbaticals etc.
  • Review of the course portfolio across programmes to identify opportunities for collaboration and coordinate resource use between similar courses.
  • Enter into or renew agreements with other departments on the mutual use of courses and study places.
  • Differentiate the use of teaching resources between subjects with many and few students.
  • Create and develop a mutual relationship between research and teaching, among other things by regularly renewing course convenorships.

Communication and dissemination

The research and education that takes place at ISS is highly relevant to current societal challenges and important public debates. The staff's contribution to public debate and policy development is a central part of the department's social mission.

Through the department’s educational programs, we develop people with the skills to actively contribute to a knowledge-based society as critically thinking citizens. The students are also ambassadors for the importance of our disciplines in the progress of society.

Sub-goals and measures

Sub-goal 11: Contribute to a more knowledge-based public debate

Social science researchers contribute to laying the foundations for social development and make important contributions to the community in democratic societies. ISS will encourage our researchers to take the initiative, participate in and be heard in important public debates in Norway and globally.

  • Develop research projects with good dissemination plans.
  • Further develop communication strategy in accordance with the communication work at the Faculty of Social Sciences and UiO.
  • Offer the staff a variety of courses on dissemination.
  • Promote the significance of ISS’ research for social progress in the department's own dissemination work.

Sub-goal 12: Promote the department in a way that contributes to better student recruitment to our programmes

ISS wants to recruit well-qualified and motivated applicants for our programmes who know what awaits them. The goal is that increased awareness, satsifaction and motivation contribute to more people completing their studies at ISS.

  • Promote ISS as an attractive place to study with good research-based teaching.
  • Promote the topicality and relevance of our study programmes for dealing with key societal challenges.
  • Raise awareness of the varied career opportunities that studies at ISS open up.
  • Focus news on study-related stories in the department's communication in digital media.


ISS should be an attractive, challenging and stimulating workplace for all employees. The employees must have a considerable influence on the preparation and organization of the work, and leaders must be clear about expectations and frameworks for the work.

ISS's staff shall work together to ensure that the department fulfills its administrative responsibilities in an appropriate and professional manner.

Sub-goals and measures

Sub-goal 13: A safe and inclusive work environment for all staff

ISS shall have a good physical and psychosocial work environment that gives all groups of employees good opportunities for professional development.

  • An active personnel policy where employees are followed up through employee interviews [medarbeidersamtaler] and where leaders are available to staff.
  • Social events that span all groups of staff (Sociology, Human Geography and administration).
  • A mature and inclusive language policy that actively facilitates parallel language use.
  • Well ingrained participation, internal communication and representation.
  • A growth in the total number of employees must take into account the need for a good physical working environment for all employees.

Sub-goal 14: Competence and development in the entire staff

All employees at ISS need to learn and develop their skills, both to develop their own career opportunities and to help achieve the department’s goals.

  • All PhD students and postdocs must be followed up in accordance with UiO's guidelines on career development.
  • Facilitate new teachers in quickly acquiring the necessary pedagogical skills.
  • Facilitate all employees in having the opportunity to acquire the necessary language skills to function well in a parallel-language work environment. Permanent academic staff are appointed with a requirement to learn Norwegian.
  • All employees shall be offered the necessary training and support to use new digital tools in a constructive way in teaching, research, communication and administration.
  • Administrative employees must be able to make use of course and conference opportunities that contribute to professional development and learning new skills within their field.

Sub-goal 15: Efficient use of resources

ISS shall organize its activities in a flexible manner with extensive collaboration within and across expert groups in order to utilize resources and skills in the best possible way.

  • Collaboration between the study programmes on courses and study administrative solutions.
  • Develop research collaborations and thematic groups across disciplines.
  • Dialogue between the administration and academic staff must be rooted in clear leadership and roles that have defined areas of responsibility and authority.
  • Constructive use of digital tools.
  • Make programme convenors and project leaders aware of resource use, priorities and the balance between teaching and research tasks at the department.
  • Collaboration and coordination between the study programmes administratively with a view to common solutions, avoiding duplication of work and promoting learning across programs.
  • Administration shall collaborate across disciplines to identify common challenges and solutions.

Sub-goal 16: ISS will take an active role in the work of following up UiO's goal of reducing its climate footprint and develop knowledge to contribute to solutions

ISS conducts world-class climate research, and our employees and students have a strong commitment to global development and environmental issues. The department therefore has a particularly strong motivation to contribute to a sustainable future through research, education and our own practices.

  • Develop and comply with local guidelines for climate-friendly choices in procurement, events and travel.
  • Communicate the department's contribution to knowledge development and education in the field.
  • Actively contribute to draw attention to UiO's role in sustainable development in the fora where ISS is represented.
Published June 3, 2021 11:32 AM - Last modified June 3, 2021 11:32 AM