Gender Balance in Arts Education (2015-2018)

The Research Council of Norway initiated the BALANSE programme in 2013 “to promote gender balance at the senior level in Norwegian research through new knowledge, learning and innovative measures”. The programme facilitates the funding for projects that work with Gender balance in senior positions and research management in the Norwegian HE sector. The BALANSE project at Faculty of Fine Arts at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway applied successful for funding of 3 million NOK to promote gender balance at the senior level in higher arts education in Norway. Hilde S. Blix and Lilli Mittner were running the project for a period of three years (RCN 2015-2018/245487).


There are alarming conditions in higher arts education when it comes to the representation of women and men at all institutional levels. Art-related challenges in quality assessment is one of the factors that seems to make it difficult for women in particular to enter the field, and this is even more apparent with regard to senior positions. Assessment in hiring and promotion processes in arts education institutions in Norway is based on criteria that differ from traditional research quality assessments. The criteria are more vague and less predictable than in other areas of research, which can constitute additional hindrances for women who seek promotion and tenure positions.

To increase recruitment of women to senior positions in the field, it is necessary to adopt a holistic approach that comprises both general cultural awareness and individual support systems. Motivation and courage are vital for women considering an academic career. Transparency in assessment processes influences whether women apply for professorships or leadership positions.

The research component of the project aims (1) to map the gender balance in the field, (2) to identify gender equality strategies and (3) to analyse institutional attitudes towards the deployment of these strategies. In addition we look at assessment processes and ask: what is assessed and what are the criteria for excellence in the arts?

Since its inception in 2015, the project has developed several equality strategies with a specific emphasis on awareness and positive feedback for those who engage in gender equality work. Rewarding people through prizes and attention, publishing articles, organising seminars for leaders, and giving acknowledgement to women in the field are some of the strategies we employ. The ending of the project was marked by the international conference ‘Music and Gender in Balance’ in April 2018.