Higher education and tertiary vocational education in Norway

Students studying
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Here you can read more about tertiary vocational education and higher education at universities and university colleges in Norway, and how to apply for admission to these educational programmes.

The Nordic countries have concluded an agreement on equal access to higher education. This means that anyone with an upper secondary education qualification from one Nordic country can apply for admission to a higher education programme in another Nordic country on the same or equivalent terms to applicants from that country.

What types of higher education are there in Norway?

Norway has 27 universities and university colleges and 24 vocational colleges. There are also a number of private higher education institutions.

Universities and university colleges in Norway

Universities and university colleges offer bachelor’s and master’s degree courses of three and five years respectively. In addition, professional studies and one-year programmes (årsstudium) are offered in many places. There is no longer much difference in how universities and university colleges operate. One of the reasons for this is the constant mergers between educational institutions. 

Tertiary vocational education institutions in Norway

There is a vocational alternative to education at university colleges and universities, called tertiary vocational education (fagskoleutdanning). These are short, vocational programmes from six months to two years. These programmes provide skills that can be used directly in working life. Tertiary vocational education builds on an upper secondary education or a corresponding level of competency, and is often arranged so that you can study while you are working. 

All counties offer tertiary vocational education, but the tertiary vocational sector also has private actors. 

Tertiary vocational education in Norway is the equivalent of the Danish ‘erhvervsutdannelse’ and the Swedish ‘yrkeshøgskola’.

What degree levels are there in higher education in Norway?

Higher education in Norway is divided into different degree levels (grader). Norway follows the Bologna Declaration, and therefore has final degree levels that correspond to levels in the other European countries. In addition, all universities and university colleges use the international grading system with letters from A to F. After completing a master’s degree, you can apply for admission to doctoral level studies (PhD), lasting three years.

You can apply for basic educational programmes if you have an upper secondary education that gives you a higher education entrance qualification (generell studiekompetense). 60 credits correspond to 1 year of full-time studies. 

  • One-year programmes (60 credits)
  • University college degree (short cycle) (120 credits)
  • Bachelor’s degree (first cycle) (180 credits) 
  • Masters’s degree (second cycle) (300 credits)
  • Professional studies (360 credits)
Bachelor’s degrees and one-year programmes in Norway

The first and lowest degree you can attain at university or university college in Norway is called a bachelor’s degree (bachelorgrad), and is a three-year degree. You can also study certain courses over one academic year (årsstudium). A one-year programme gives 60 credits, and can comprise individual courses, be incorporated in a bachelor’s degree, or form the basis for entry to a professional programme in the subject. 

For admission to a one-year programme or bachelor’s studies, you must either have a higher education entrance qualification from upper secondary school or be qualified in some other way. If you have a three-year upper secondary qualification (gymnas) from another Nordic country, you are qualified for admission, and do not need documented proficiency in Norwegian if you had sufficient Norwegian, Swedish or Danish teaching in your home country. You do not require documented proficiency in English. Applicants with a foreign education qualification from a non-Nordic country must prove their proficiency in both English and Norwegian.

The Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS) administers and coordinates admission of new students to Norwegian universities, university colleges, and tertiary vocational education. The service has information on admission regulations and on how education from another Nordic country is assessed in Norway.

Professional studies in Norway

Professional studies (profesjonsstudier) are educational programmes within specific disciplines that lead to a specific profession. Examples are psychology, law and medicine. These programmes are often five years.

NUCAS (Samordna Opptak) has information on admission regulations and on how education from another Nordic country is assessed in Norway.

Master’s degrees in Norway

You must have completed a bachelor’s degree to apply for a master’s degree (mastergrad). Bachelor’s degrees from other countries are not always approved as a basis for admission. You may have to study a subject at a Norwegian university before you can apply for admission to a Norwegian master’s degree, even if you have completed a bachelor’s degree in another country. A master’s degree can be attained after five years of study.

In general, you apply for admission to a master’s degree at the educational institution where you wish to study.

PhD in Norway

When you have completed a master’s degree, you can apply for a PhD. This is the highest level of degree you can attain in Norway, and you receive a salary while you take it. Usually, a PhD means that you conduct research on a certain theme, and write articles about your findings. It generally takes 3-5 years to complete a PhD.

How do you apply for a higher education place in Norway?

In Norway, you apply to higher education through NUCAS (Samordna opptak). This applies even if you do not have a Norwegian national identity number. Some programmes and educational institutions are not included in the coordinated admission system. You apply for programmes at these institutions directly on their websites.

The deadline for applications at NUCAS is 15 April. The application deadline for special groups of applicants, log-in details for your application, and an overview of application procedures can be found on the NUCAS website. You can change the order of the programmes for which you are applying up until 1 July. On 20 July, you receive a decision on whether you have been admitted to your first choice, whether you have been admitted to one of the programmes you gave lower priority to in your application, and whether you may be a reserve. You must log in to your online application on the NUCAS website to see the admission results. The deadline for replying to offers of places is 24 July. If you do not accept the place you have been offered, you lose the place. To accept the place, you must log in to your application on the Samordna opptak website.

Studies generally start around 10 August, but this varies from place to place.

If you want to apply for a master’s programme, you apply directly to the educational institution at which you want to study.

Admission to higher education in Norway

Different admission requirements and regulations apply for counting credits at tertiary vocational education institutions or at universities and university colleges. 

To study at a tertiary vocational college you must satisfy the admission requirement. Most colleges require that you either have a trade / journeyman’s certificate or a three-year vocational training relevent for the course you want to apply to. There may also be additional requirements. You can also apply with prior learning. 

To study at a university or university college, you must have general university admissions certification from upper secondary school. In addition, some programmes may have special admission requirements. When you have applied for admission, your application will be automatically assessed in the ordinary application group and possibly in the group with an upper secondary certificate.

Other things that are relevant when you take higher education in Norway

Here, we have compiled relevant information for people who wish to apply for higher education in Norway

Language at the higher education institution

Tuition is in Norwegian unless specified otherwise. Study materials can also be in English, and sometimes in another Scandinavian language. 

Student finance for education in Norway

In general, you can apply for student finance from the country in which you are a citizen. Check with the authorities in your country whether they support the educational programme you want to take in Norway.

Student finance

Higher education is free in Norway, but you must pay a semester fee and buy study materials. This semester fee finances welfare benefits for students, such as physical training, health services, etc. This is paid to the student organisation to which the educational institution is affiliated. At some educational institutions, you must also pay a fee for copying, so the size of the semester fee can vary between the different study locations.

When you are a registered student and have paid the semester fee, you will receive a certificate that gives you discounts on, for example, travel costs or cultural events.

Note that private university colleges have their own student fees. Contact the relevant educational institution for an overview of prices.

Who should you contact if you have questions?

Contact NUCAS (Samordna opptak) if you have any questions about higher education and tertiary vocational education in Norway. 

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