Branches of study
For all branches of study, bachelor programmes are of three years duration (180 credits). The only exception is performing music, in which there is a four-year bachelor's programme.
In teacher education, the four-year general teacher education programmes are now being replaced by five-year integrated master programmes for grades 1 – 7 (primary school) and grades 5 – 10 (primary and lower secondary school), respectively. To qualify for teaching in grades 5-13, (late primary, lower and upper secondary school), there is an integrated master's program or a one-year post-graduate program. The one-year post-graduate program requires a master`s degree in a school relevant subject. There is an exemption from the master`s requirement for candidates from selected subject domains. In addition, there are three-year bachelor's programmes in specialised teacher education, early childhood education, and vocational teacher education. The teacher education programmes qualify for teaching in adult education at the corresponding levels.
Application to higher education (NQF 6) is regulated through the Act relating to universities and university colleges and national regulations. Formally, it is the higher education institutions that are responsible for admission. For most study programmes, the application process is centralised, and applications for admission are processed through the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS). Exceptions to the centralised procedure include applications to study programmes in performing arts and some private institutions (mainly business studies).
For most programmes, it is sufficient to fulfil the minimum admission requirements, also termed the general matriculation standard.
The general matriculation standard includes the following components:
- successful completion of 3 years of upper secondary education (general/academic)
- successful completion of 3 years of vocational upper secondary education and training, or else two years of vocational education followed by two years of apprenticeship training leading to a craft or journeyman’s certificate, followed by an additional year with general subjects
- included in, or in addition to the above, applicants must have a minimum level of achievement in six basic subjects from upper secondary school: Norwegian; English; history, social studies; mathematics, and natural sciences.
Applicants can also be admitted to higher education without having passed the normal upper secondary final examinations. Such students must, however, fulfil the specific minimum subject requirements mentioned above, be 23 years of age or more, and have at least five years of work experience or a combination of work experience, education and training.
Some study programmes, for instance, medicine and engineering have specific admission requirements in addition to general matriculation standards. These often entail the completion of certain subjects from the upper secondary level, such as mathematics and natural sciences subjects. For teacher education and nursing programmes, there are minimum grade requirements from upper secondary school. For other programmes, mostly in art, applicants must pass an entrance examination or aptitude test.
Applicants without a general matriculation standard, but with a relevant craft or journeyman’s certificate or other vocational qualification from upper secondary education and training (ISCED 3), may be admitted to specially adapted study programmes in certain subject areas, most commonly programmes in engineering. This is called the VET pathway (Y-vei). Applicants with a trade certificate as an electrician, for instance, can be admitted to adapted bachelor programmes in electrical or electronics engineering.
Since 2001, applicants aged 25 or above can be admitted to higher education on the basis of recognition of prior learning, i.e. their total documented formal, non-formal, and informal competence (realkompetanse).
For applicants with various types of special needs and requirements, there is an early deadline for application (1 March instead of 15 April). This concerns:
- people who need to resign their job to start studies
- people who have to close down a business to start studies
- mature students who need to move with their family in order to take up studies and need places for their children in kindergarten, school, etc.
- those in need of a residence permit to take up studies
- those with a disability requiring special measures and services.
Admission to many study programmes is competitive since demand exceeds the number of places available. For such programmes, the ranking of applicants follows the rules laid down in the national regulations on admission to higher education. These are mainly based on the results from the upper secondary level.
Academic freedom is seen as essential to the sound functioning of the higher education system. The Act relating to Universities and University Colleges clearly states that the institutions cannot be instructed as to the content of their teaching, research, or artistic and scientific development work. Within the limits laid down by law, higher education institutions are free to develop and establish new subjects, disciplines, and programmes.
At all Norwegian higher education institutions, all study programmes are described in credits. 60 Norwegian credits correspond to one year of full-time studies (ECTS credits).
The choice of teaching methods (lectures, seminars, paper and/or thesis writing, laboratory training, etc.) and the number of teaching hours per week may vary according to the subject, level, and institution; they are decided by the institutions themselves. Detailed curricula and subject/discipline design are likewise decided by the institutions. Such information is found in student guides or study catalogues which are available on the websites and the learning platforms of higher education institutions.
For certain professional programmes, like teacher education, engineering and nursing, there are national framework curricula. These are published on the web pages of the Ministry of Education and Research, and of Lovdata, the official website where all national legislation is published and accessible free of charge.
Active learning methods, such as collaborative projects and excursions, are becoming increasingly prevalent as a supplement to traditional lectures and seminars. In addition, students are encouraged to write papers or reports. A thesis or other major independent project is a compulsory requirement in all master's programmes. It is also normal to have some form of an independent project at the end of bachelor's programmes.
The digitalisation of higher education is far from reaching its full potential, with few programmes not based on a campus model and few programmes with a blend of free-standing, quality digital education and on-campus education. Most universities and university colleges are in the process of developing these, and there has been significant modernisation over the past decade. Students generally have access to information about their study programme, courses, syllabus, schedule and past lecture slides online, or else lectures are published as podcasts.
In parallel with the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has developed the "Strategy for digital conversion in higher education".
Internationalisation is emphasised in higher education, see chapter 13. Universities and university colleges have numerous exchange programmes both on the bachelor's level and the master's level and both receive many international students and send many Norwegian students abroad. In many fields, teaching is primarily done in Norwegian at the bachelor's level, but with a higher share of courses taught in English at the master's level. Students may submit written examinations in any of the Scandinavian languages or in English.
Progression of students
In most areas, students have to pass examinations in order to complete their programme. Students may repeat examinations they do not pass, a maximum of three times. There are regulations on the length of study programmes, but no national regulations on the maximum individual total period of study. However, financial support is only available for a limited number of years, see chapter 3, including a restriction for students with poor ECTS production.
As a means of facilitating and encouraging student mobility between higher education institutions, degrees can be conferred on the basis of studies from a combination of higher education institutions, and a system of inter-institutional credit transfer is regulated by law. Recognition of prior learning and education from abroad can also form the basis of parts of degrees that are included on the diploma. However, this system is complex and practice has varied somewhat between higher education institutions.
Institutions with professional programmes such as nursing and social work education have long traditions of interaction with employers i.a. in connection with work placements, which are obligatory for the students in such programmes. Relevant employers’ organisations and trade unions are also regularly consulted in connection with the development of national curricula for professional programmes. These forms of contact mean that HEIs receive continuous feedback from employers on the quality of the students and the content of the professional programmes.
To an increasing degree, work placements are also introduced in other, more disciplinary programmes where they are not mandatory, e.g. business administration and in some cases arts and social sciences. This is especially the case in fields where graduates have experienced difficulties in finding relevant full-time employment. For instance, a recent white paper on the humanities articulated increased ambitions regarding activities that may serve to enhance the humanities students' employability, including work placements and career guidance.
Since 2011 it has been mandatory for all Norwegian public HEIs to host councils for cooperation with working life. Many HEIs have in addition set up special offices responsible for establishing contact between the university and industry. The contact between higher education institutions and industry is also furthered through externally financed research projects at the institutions.
In November 2018, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has started work on a white paper dealing specifically with the cooperation between higher education and the world of work, with an emphasis on work placements. The white paper will be presented to Parliament in 2020 or 2021.
Student assessment in higher education is traditionally based on examinations at the end of courses. The diplomas issued at the end of a degree programme document the specialisation, depth of study and interdisciplinary aspects of courses.
Marks are given on the basis of written and/or oral examinations. Universities and university colleges generally hold individual written examinations. Group examinations and home-based examinations are other forms of written examinations used in professional studies at universities and university colleges. In addition, a term paper may constitute part of an examination. Oral examinations are normally individual, but can in certain cases be conducted in groups. Universities and university colleges are largely free to determine what types of examination best suit the course objectives, content and structure. With the Quality Reform, portfolio assessment was introduced.
The use of external examiners to set the marks (alone or in cooperation with the course teacher) has been obligatory for all written and oral examinations. External examiners are recruited from other institutions and/or professional work. With the Quality Reform, external examiners are no longer obligatory for examinations at the bachelor level. Besides, the increasing use of formative examinations instead of summative examinations has left the course teacher(s) more in charge of assessing the students.
Through the Quality Reform in higher education, a uniform grading scale inspired by the ECTS system was introduced in the academic year 2003/04. The grading scale is A-E for pass and F for fail.
A National Qualifications Framework for higher education was adopted in March 2009, based on the Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area as well as the principles of the EQF. It was included in the National Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning in 2011. See more details on the National Qualifications Framework in Chapter 2.
Section 3-9 of the Act relating to universities and university colleges regulates examinations and assessment. Questions concerning degrees, examinations, and the normal length of a study programme, are decided by the Ministry of Education and Research through regulations. It is the responsibility of the Board of higher education institutions to issue more specific regulations regarding examinations, tests, and practice periods.
Diplomas for teacher education include the authorisation to practice as teachers in Norwegian schools, and for many of the professional programmes for the health sector, the higher education institutions issue the authorisation to practice in the profession with the diploma.
A national registry, or portal, on diplomas and grades, has been developed. Graduates from all Norwegian state higher education institutions, and many of the private ones, can now share information on their qualifications with other higher education institutions and potential employers, etc., in a way that ensures authenticity and security of data. The Diploma Registry has been developed in cooperation with the Erasmus+ project EMREX.