Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main types of provision


8.Adult education and training

8.4Main types of provision

Last update: 18 March 2024

The main types of adult education and training in Norway are lower and upper secondary education, vocational college, post-secondary and tertiary vocational education and higher education, the same types of providers as we have for children and youth. Also, the municipalities provide Norwegian and Social studies for immigrants and there is a wide range of training provided under the programme SkillsPlus. There is also a considerable provision of both formal and informal learning programmes provided by the study associations. The study associations, folk high schools, and distance learning have a long tradition in Norway and offer a wide range of non-formal learning activities.

In 2006, the Norwegian government established the Programme for Basic Competences in Working Life (Program for basiskompetanse i arbeidslivet (BKA)), and in 2015, the basic skills training was extended to other target groups with a similar program for the voluntary sector (Basiskompetanse i frivilligheten (BKF)). Since 2016, the programmes BKA and BKF are known as SkillsPlus. The SkillsPlus programme aims to allow adults to acquire the basic skills they need to keep up with the demands and changes in modern working life and civil society. The programme will make it economically more attractive and administratively simple for employers to educate employees in basic skills so that they can meet new requirements in working life. The programme is based on the realization that training and education in the workplace often gives the best results for persons with little formal education. As far as possible, the training offered shall be job-related and take place in the workplace. The programme concentrates on reading, writing, numeracy, digital, and oral skills. The programme also aims to contribute to social inclusion, increased self-esteem and increased motivation for further learning among the participants.  Any enterprise in Norway, private or public, and organizations in the voluntary sector can apply for funding from the programme. The Directorate for Higher Education and Skills has the administrative responsibility for SkillsPlus.

The following criteria have been emphasised:

  • The learning activity should be combined with work.
  • The basic skills training should preferably be linked to other job-relevant learning.
  • The courses should strengthen participants’ motivation to learn.
  • The courses have to relate to the skills goals, based on the curricula in the Knowledge Promotion Reform and the Framework for Basic Skills.

Skills goals, tests and educational tools have been developed to assure the quality of provision and to help providers in their task.

The most common providers are private providers, adult learning centres in the municipalities and counties, and study associations. In 2015, more than 10,000 participants attended the CompetencePlus courses (Skills Norway statistics; Statistikkbanken). The total number of lessons in a course may vary between 30 and 150, depending on how many skills are included in the training.

Provision to achieve a recognised qualification during adulthood certification

Since August 2002, adults have had a legal right to primary and lower secondary education. The general objectives of primary and secondary education for adults are stipulated in the Core Curriculum.

Adult education at the primary and lower secondary level (compulsory education) is organised by the municipalities. The County Governor in each county gives advice and stimulates the work in each municipality as regards determining the needs for adult primary and secondary education and making plans for its provision in the individual municipality. Primary and lower secondary education are offered as special courses for adults, who are not supposed to attend ordinary classes for children at these levels. Primary and lower secondary education for adults is often taught at municipal adult education centres. Primary and lower secondary education courses can also be arranged by distance education institutions or study associations cooperating with the municipalities. Courses at lower secondary level leading to examinations in different subjects cover mainly the 9th and 10th grades. Additional subjects are taken, depending on participants' skills and knowledge. In the academic year 2018/2019, 10,240 adults attended ordinary lower secondary training.

From August 2008, adults from the age of 25 and without completed secondary education have had a legal right to upper secondary education. The contents of education or study subjects may be reduced based on the individual’s formal, non-formal, and informal qualifications, and should be adapted to the individual’s needs. Adult education at the upper secondary level is given at upper secondary schools and county-based adult education centres. Also, some study associations, distance education institutions and labour market authorities offer courses that qualify as parts of a full secondary education programme. Adults wishing to follow vocational courses have additional requirements regarding age (over 21) and qualifications. Distance study methods are also used. Adults with all-around work experience within a specific field may present themselves as external candidates for a craft examination consisting of both a practical and a theoretical part. More than 27,900 adults participated at the upper secondary level in the academic year 2018/2019.

Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education represents an alternative to higher education. It differs from higher education in these respects:

  • It has a duration of between half a year and two years and is oriented towards a specific vocation. It is supposed to provide competence that can be directly applied in the labour market.
  • It does not have to be research-based.

As of 2010, the counties are responsible for the administration of this level of education, which covers a wide range of provision and providers (fagskoler). The majority of the provision at the post-secondary non-tertiary level (ISCED 4) is private. The provision is based on completed upper secondary education or training, or similar qualifications. The students attending schools and/or programmes approved by NOKUT  are entitled to receive loans and grants from the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund.  Some courses on offer at this level are found in several counties, whereas others are unique. Many courses are offered as part-time studies designed to be combined with work. In the autumn term in 2016, there were about 9,060 students aged 25 or older in post-secondary non-tertiary education in Norway. 

Universities and colleges provide continuing education for adults, both short updating non-credit courses and longer credit-giving modular programmes. Most participants are in employment. Many courses are adapted or tailor-made for an employer. For flexible learning, a combination of physical meetings and ICT is often used. Fees are paid by participants or employers. There are, however, also credit-giving programmes within continuing education where students do not pay fees. In 2017, 77,746 students aged 30 years or older were registered at the higher education level in Norway.

Inmates in Norwegian prisons have the same rights to education and training as other Norwegian citizens. Since 2008, educational activities have been offered at all prisons covered by the obligation to provide education. There are also follow-up classes for prisoners after release so that they can continue the education they started in prison. In 2018, the average number of participants in education in prison was 293 (full-time) and 1,175 (part-time). A total of 11,141 individuals participated in full-time and 7,784 part-time in educational activities in prison. The largest group of participants attended lessons at the upper secondary level.

Provision targeting the transition to the labour market

Education for adults in Norwegian as a second language was extended in 1998 and regulated by The Introduction Act as shown above. Foreign nationals between 16 and 67 years of age who have a residence permit that forms the basis for a permanent residence permit in Norway, will have the right and obligation to participate in Norwegian language training and social studies. They are given lessons sufficient to reach a minimum level of competence. The courses are maximum of 2,400 hours, depending on the person's goals and time needed according to his or her individually adapted plan. In 2018, 32,115 participants attended this training.

Labour market authorities are responsible for establishing courses for different trades/occupations that are relevant for the unemployed and in demand by employers.

Registered job seekers who need certification can be offered courses in training for the labour market. The aim is to qualify participants for vacant positions in the labour market. The training usually takes the shape of shorter, vocational courses. Labour market authorities administrate the courses and a wide range of institutions and organisations provide the courses based on tenders. Job seekers undergoing rehabilitation can receive regular education for a period of up to three years. Participation in the courses is organised by the local offices of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV). The courses take place in upper secondary schools, in course centres attached to the schools or in business and industry. Quite a large part of the courses corresponds to modules from the curriculum for upper secondary education. In 2017, 78,515 adults participated in labour market courses

Provision of liberal (popular) adult education

There are 78 folk high schools located in the countryside in various regions. They are all boarding schools. Most schools are private, run by religious organisations or independent foundations. Only ten schools are run by the counties. The Council of Folk High Schools (Folkehøgskolerådet) coordinates activities and provides a link to the authorities. The folk high schools provide education for young people and adults, but these educational courses do not result in formal qualifications. Two schools have senior citizens and pensioners as their main audience. Most schools offer one-year courses (33 weeks), covering the school year from August to June or half-a-year courses (16.5 weeks). The schools also offer many shorter courses. A variety of subjects is offered, but most schools specialise in a certain field. The boarding costs are paid by the pupils and by state grants. In 2018, 2,525 persons at the age of 20 years or more attended the one-year courses, and almost all of these were in their twenties.

Fifteen non-governmental study associations, with over 450 member organisations, run courses and study groups for adults. Courses are offered in most municipalities. There is an “umbrella” association, Norwegian Association for Adult Learning  (NAAL; Voksenopplæringsforbundet (VOFO)), that coordinates activities and provides a link to the authorities. The non-governmental organisations are responsible for the content of the courses; most of the courses are not bound by national curricula and examination systems. The courses cover a large number of activities, from purely leisure activities to vocational courses and academic subjects. There are courses at different levels. Some associations offer courses qualifying for lower and upper secondary education and higher education. Higher education institutions arrange the examinations for courses at this level. Fees can be charged for the courses. The study associations also receive public financial support, according to earlier numbers of participants and course hours. In 2018, 478,548 participants were registered at study association courses. Five per cent of the participants took a public exam, test or certification as part of the course. The average number of hours per course is 31.

The municipality where the refugee/immigrant settles down has the obligation to provide language and social studies tuition within three months after settlement. The tuition is carried out by municipal adult centres or other parties the municipality has agreed with, such as education associations or private providers. The Directorate for Higher Education and Skills has the responsibility for the accreditation of private providers of the tuition of Norwegian language and/or social studies under the Introduction Act. The accreditation is given for a maximum of three years at a time. The directorate also has the responsibility for overseeing the private accredited providers.

Some of today’s providers of online, flexible education have existed since the first half of the 20th century (Gjelsvik, Flexible education 2013). They started with correspondence courses, but took up newer media (TV, video, ICT) quite early and now offer several multimedia programmes. The courses cover fields ranging from leisure activities to university and college-level subjects, but most of the courses are at the upper secondary and university level. Higher education institutions arrange the examinations. An increasing number of courses are related to in-service vocational training. Fees are charged. In the academic year 2017/2018, 19 428 adult participants were registered at these courses.

12 private distance education institutions currently receive financial support. There is an “umbrella” association for these and other private/public providers, Flexible Education Norway (FuN), which coordinates activities and provides a link to the authorities.