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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice


6.Upper secondary education and post-secondary tertiary education


Last update: 27 March 2024

Schools and upper secondary education and training shall be of high quality and provide the pupils/students/apprentices with necessary prerequisites for future welfare, value creation and sustainable development. All pupils are to have basic skills and feel they both master school and are challenged at school. 

Higher vocational education in Norway is practice-oriented and aims to meet the demand for qualified labour in society. 

Types of institutions

Upper secondary education

A large majority of upper secondary schools in Norway are combined schools, i.e. they offer both general and vocational education. Institutions offering both general and vocational education sometimes have teaching facilities in separate buildings.

The schools specialise and offer full qualifications in different programs. All the county authorities have to offer most of the educational programs of the curriculum.

Public or private enterprises and organisations approved by the county authorities to take on apprentices are responsible for apprenticeship training. Thus, in Norway, both schools, enterprises, and organisations may be VET providers.

There are 419 upper secondary schools in Norway (2023-24). 317 are public schools and 102 are privately owned.

The Act relating to Primary and Secondary Education (the Education Act) regulates general upper secondary education and vocational training. The county authorities are responsible for the schools and the vocational training. A large majority of the schools are public.

The Independent Schools Act regulates private upper secondary education. The Act sets out criteria that private schools must meet to be considered of equal standing to public schools and thus be eligible for public funding.

Enterprise based apprenticeship training

Most upper secondary VET programmes follow the main 2+2 model. The model entails two years of education in an upper secondary school followed by two years of apprenticeship training and productive work in a training enterprise or public institution. The final exam is a trade or journeyman's test leading to an EQF level 4 qualification. The upper secondary schools are responsible for the first two years of education and training, while the enterprises are responsible for the final two years.

Geographical accessibility 

Upper secondary education

Upper secondary education and training is available all over the country to ensure equal education for all. The equity principle for all primary and secondary education requires equality of access. Within each county, upper secondary courses are also provided in remote areas. The vast majority of 16 to 19-year-olds live at home.

The Education Act Section 7-2 on transport and accommodation in upper secondary education states that the pupils in upper secondary education who reside more than six kilometers from the school have the right to free transport or full reimbursement of travel expenses. Where necessary, pupils have the right to free boat transport regardless of distance.

The county authority shall assist in procuring accommodation for upper secondary pupils who, because their homes are so situated or their journey is too long, cannot make use of the daily transport services to the school. If necessary, the county authority shall build boarding facilities.

Admission requirements and choice of school

Upper secondary education

When pupils turn 15, they choose their own further educational path through upper secondary education. Young persons who have completed primary and lower secondary school or equivalent have a statutory right to three years of upper secondary education and training, called Young person’s right. This right is valid until the academic year they turn 24 years of age.

The main rules for admission to upper secondary education and training are outlined in the Regulations to The Education Act § 6-2. Also, the county authorities prescribe their own sets of rules of admission and rules for school placements. These may vary from county to county.

Chapter 4A in the Education Act regulates education and training for adults. Adults who have completed primary and lower secondary education or equivalent have the right to enroll in upper secondary education and training from the year they reach the age of 25.

The same section of the Act also states that adults above compulsory school age (normally 16 years of age) who require primary and lower secondary education have the right to such education unless they have the right to upper secondary education and training.

The right to upper secondary education is contingent upon the student having completed primary and lower secondary education, but not upon having passed all subjects or exams. Pupils with a right to special needs education are entitled to an additional two years of upper secondary education.

A pupil has the right to a place on one of three alternative education programs that he or she has applied for, chosen from the programs presently available. Admission to specific education programs can be affected by factors such as the applicant's grades and the programs offered by the county. However, more than 90% are admitted to the program and school of their first choice. Pupils with a disability who need special education have the right to be accepted to a specific education program at upper secondary level 1 at the request of the pupil, their parents, and teacher.

If the number of applications exceeds the number of places in the county, pupils will be assigned an educational program depending on the pupil's grades from lower secondary school. In some counties, this rule also applies to the assignment of pupils to specific schools. The achievement points are based on grades from compulsory subjects in lower secondary education. Pupils applying for an upper secondary level 1 program (first year) have to fulfill one of the following requirements:

  • Completed compulsory education (primary and lower secondary education). It is not necessary to pass all subjects but to have participated in the compulsory education.
  • Completed education equivalent to Norwegian compulsory education.
  • Completed all but one year of compulsory education and left lower secondary school due to specific circumstances such as a disability preventing the pupil from taking further part in education at that level.
  • Completed 7 years of compulsory education following the requirements of curricula before 2006.

County authorities can decide to award half of the places in the first year in Music, Dance, and Drama to pupils based on a test or documentation of their specific skills rather than pupils achieved grades.

Admission requirements and choice of apprenticeship training

Pupils on vocational courses normally start an apprenticeship in their third year. During the two years at upper secondary school, the VET student is given a general introduction to the vocational field and an opportunity to specialise in a chosen craft or trade. The teaching focuses common core subjects (Norwegian, English, mathematics, physical education, natural sciences and social sciences), and common programme subjects which cover trade-specific theory and practice. During the first year (vg1-upper secondary level 1) these subjects offer a general introduction to the vocational field. During the second year (vg2-upper secondary level 2) these subjects become more specific as VET students decide which trade they want to pursue. The apprenticeship period gives the apprentice an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge in a vocational field and prepare for the trade or journeyman’s test.

The two-year apprenticeship is formalised through a signed contract between the apprentice and the training enterprise. The county authorities have an overarching responsibility for all aspects of public upper secondary education and training, including apprenticeship training. Thus, the apprenticeship contract must be approved by the county authorities.

Vocational training in schools is offered to pupils who have not succeed getting an apprenticeship. These pupils receive vocational training in school instead of in a company, and finish by sitting an apprentice test, normally after one year.

Age levels and grouping of pupils/students/apprentices

General upper secondary education consists of three years. Pupils are normally in the age group 16–19, but they may be older.

Classes are organised by subjects. The level of ability is not a determining factor. There is no streaming or grouping by ability. Thus, streaming is not accepted in Norwegian schools; pupils in upper secondary education and training attend mixed-ability classes. However, attaining fundamental skills at one level is necessary for admission to the next level. There are no regulations prescribing class sizes in upper secondary schools.

Teachers are assigned to classes depending on their specialisation. Pupils have different teachers in most subjects. Pupils choosing the same subject at year 2 and year 3 can often have the same teacher in the subject for the duration of the two years.

As in general upper secondary education, pupils are 15-16 years or older when they enter vocational education and training. In the standard model for vocational education and training, the first two years are spent in school (year 1 and year 2), followed by a two-year apprenticeship, though some programmes require up to three years of company-based training. The apprenticeship normally consists of one year of full-time instruction combined with one year of productive work in an enterprise in the public or private sector. The training is sometimes combined with some teaching at school. County authorities assist pupils in finding apprenticeship enterprises. If there is a shortage of available apprenticeship places, or if a pupil is not placed in an enterprise, the county authorities are obliged to provide a specialisation option in year 3 in school, leading to a trade or journeyman's certificate. In such cases there is no productive work in an enterprise i.e. the trade or journeyman’s test is taken directly after the school year. Thus, this structure requires a close cooperation between schools and employers.

At the vocational colleges (NQF level 5), students are a minimum of 18 years old upon entry, mostly older. 

More than 60% of the students in 2018 study part-time. This is particularly noticeable in the field of health and social studies, where nearly all the programmes are part-time. In addition, many courses are web-based. Hence, the age distribution of students is quite wide, with the age groups 21–29 and 30–39 as the two largest, with 50% and 25% of all students, respectively.

There are no regulations on the grouping of students. 

Organisation of the school year

Upper secondary education

The organisation of the school year is the responsibility of the county authorities. The national regulations prescribing the distribution of lessons per subject is not per week; only per year.

The school year consists of 190 days or 38 weeks. This is the same as in primary and lower secondary education. Teachers normally work six additional days, according to a negotiated agreement on teachers' working time.

The school year starts in mid/late August and ends in mid-/late June and is divided into two semesters or three terms. There are usually four holidays during the academic year, one week in late September or early October, two weeks at Christmas, one week in February, and one and a half weeks at Easter. The summer holidays last around eight weeks.

Pupils in vocational upper secondary programmes follow the same regulations as pupils in general programmes. Apprentices follow the working day and week of the training enterprise, regulated in the Work Environment Act.

Organisation of the school day and week

Upper secondary education

There are no national regulations concerning the organisation of the school day or week in the upper secondary schools. The distribution of hours is decided by the local authorities or the school.