Decentralisation is important in Norwegian educational policy. A part of this policy has been to integrate adult education with regular first-time education on both secondary and tertiary level, as opposed to establishing a separate system for adult education. The municipalities and counties have a responsibility for providing formal education for adults as well as for youths. Universities and university colleges have regional responsibility for continuing education.
From August 2000, adults born before 1978 and without completed secondary education have had the legal right to upper secondary education. From autumn 2008, this right has been extended and changed. Since then, adults have on the application the right to participate in upper secondary education and training, from the year they turn 25. The county education authorities are responsible for adult education at the upper secondary level and it is financed in the same way as ordinary upper secondary education, through a lump sum grant to the counties. Adult education at the upper secondary level is given at upper secondary schools and county-based adult education centers. Also, some study associations, distance education institutions and labour market authorities offer courses that qualify as parts of a full secondary education programme.
Universities and university colleges provide continuing education, both short updating non-credit courses and longer credit-giving modular programmes. Usually, a combination of meetings and ICT is used for flexible learning. Most participants are in employment. For adults, an alternative is to attend ordinary on-campus programmes, where one-third of the students are older than 30 years of age.
Three types of institutions providing adult education belong to the private grant-aided sector: folk high schools (college without examination or qualification), study associations, and distance education institutions.