Higher education and tertiary vocational education in Norway

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Yadid Levy / Norden.org
Here you can read 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.

Universities and university colleges

Norway has many universities, university colleges and specialised university institutions, all of which are regarded as higher education. There are also a number of private higher education institutions. Both universities and university colleges offer bachelor’s and master’s degree courses of three and five years respectively. In addition, one-year programmes (årsstudium) are offered in many places.

The main differences between a university college and a university are that university colleges offer teaching in smaller classes, have more group lessons, closer monitoring of students, and more project work. Universities are more focused on self-study, and teaching takes place in larger groups. There are also some differences in the subjects offered at the different institutions.

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.

Degree levels in higher education in Norway

Higher education in Norway is divided into different degree levels (grader).

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 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, Samordna opptak) is a service and coordination body for admissions to undergraduate educational programmes at university colleges and universities in Norway. The service 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.

Professional studies

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.

How to apply for a place on a higher education programme

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

The final date for applications at Samordna opptak 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 Samordna opptak website. If you want to apply for a master’s programme, you apply directly to the educational institution at which you want to study.

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 at Samordna opptak to see the admission results. The deadline for replying to offers of places is 26 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.  

Semester fees

Public higher education is free in Norway. However, everyone studying at a Norwegian university college or university pays a semester fee every six months. 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.

Tertiary vocational education

There is a vocational alternative to education at university colleges and universities. Tertiary vocational education (fagskoleutdanning) comprises short, vocational programmes from six months to two years. These programmes give competencies 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. The tertiary vocational sector also has private actors. 

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

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