Higher Education in Norway

Last of the free: will Norway's universal no-fee policy endure?

A wind in their sails: by not charging tuition fees to foreigners at its universities, Norway has increased the number of overseas postgraduate researchers who come to work in areas such as renewable energy

As Sweden introduces tuition fees of up to €15, 000 (£13, 145) for non-European Union students this year, Norway is now one of the few European states to stick to the once-sacrosanct belief in "free education for all".

While its Nordic neighbours Sweden and Denmark continue to provide free tuition for domestic and EU students only, Norway stands alone in offering free higher education to students regardless of citizenship.

Last year, that offer was taken up by almost 16, 500 non-EU students - up per cent from 12, 997 in 2007-08. They included nearly 2, 000 Russians, 699 Chinese students and 376 Iranian nationals.

Several hundred students from Ethiopia, Pakistan and Ghana enrolled at Norwegian universities last year, as did young people from the US, India and Nepal.

Applications to Norwegian universities have soared even further after Sweden's move to institute charges from 2011-12 was followed by an 85 per cent drop in applications from outside the EU.

Norway's largest institution, the University of Oslo, experienced a 60 per cent increase in applications from non-EU students this year, while applications rose 45 per cent at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The fact that Norwegian universities are offering a growing range of courses in English further strengthens the country's appeal as a destination.

Tora Aasland, Norway's minister of research and higher education in the ruling Centre-Left coalition, says that support for free education remains strong.

"It is a fundamental principle for the Norwegian government. It is important for us to promote the welfare state and free higher education is very central to this. It has not been questioned by many (Norwegian) governments. Equality is a value that we support - we don't make a difference between foreign students and domestic students."

Indeed, access to the combined state grant/loan of up to NKr90, 800 (£10, 060) a year is extended to foreign nationals studying in the notoriously expensive state, where a pint of beer can cost as much as £10.


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