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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of private education


2.Organisation and governance

2.4Organisation of private education

Last update: 28 February 2023

Private primary and secondary education is regulated by theIndependent Schools Act. The Act has undergone both minor and major revisions over the years (last time in 2015). One significant outcome of these revisions is that some of the earlier requirements regarding conditions for approval have been more or less reinstated, such as the requirement that the school must constitute a pedagogical or religious alternative (e.g. Steiner and Montessori schools, religious faith schools). Most private education institutions and training activities are subsidised by central government. Regulations on private education can also be found in the Education Act of 1998.

Private sector provision in early childhood education and care

The Kindergarten Act regulates both public and private kindergartens. Private kindergarten institutions are approved and supervised by the local authority. Municipalities are responsible for the development and supervision of both private and municipal institutions and for ensuring that institutions are run according to goals set by the government. Around half of all kindergartens are run by private organisations under municipal supervision. All approved institutions receive municipal grants to cover part of the running costs. In addition parents pay a monthly fee. Private non-profit organisations, commercial providers and groups of parents have established kindergarten institutions. Some firms have established kindergarten institutions for the children of their employees. Private sector provision constitutes almost half of the pre-primary education sector.

Private primary and lower secondary education

Norway has a very small private education sector compared to most countries. The majority of pupils attend municipal schools. Only a small minority of independent (private) schools are entirely financed by parents’ fees or non-governmental organisations. Independent schools approved under the Independent School Act are grant-aided. They usually receive 85 per cent of their total expenses as public grants – provided they are approved by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. According to theIndependent Schools Act.  The main rule is that a private primary or lower secondary school must constitute either a religious alternative, a pedagogical alternative that is generally recognised, or follow an internationally certified curriculum in order to be approved. In addition to this, primary or lower secondary schools that accommodate pupils with special needs regarding adapted education may be approved, as may Norwegian primary or lower secondary schools abroad. Furthermore, the approving authority now has an exclusive right to decide whether an applying school is to be approved or not. Fulfilling the formal requirements does not automatically entitle the school to be approved. As a result there is no longer a substantial increase in the number of approved private primary or lower secondary schools. With regard to foreign and international primary and lower secondary schools in Norway, the Ministry may grant exemptions from the requirements laid down in the Education Act.

Private upper secondary education

Norway has a very small private upper secondary education sector compared to most countries. Independent (private) schools that are approved by the Directorate are grant-aided; they usually receive 85% of their total expenses as public grants. According to the Independent School Act, the main rule is that a private upper secondary school must constitute either a religious alternative, a pedagogical alternative that is generally recognised, follow internationally certified curricula, or offer specialisation in elite sports in order to be approved. In addition to this, upper secondary schools that accommodate pupils with special needs regarding adapted education may be approved. The Ministry may approve a private upper secondary school if there is an international agreement to this effect. In connection with such approval the Ministry can deviate from the requirements of the Education Act and from regulations pursuant to the Act.

Private education in special education needs provision

For deaf and hearing impaired pupils on upper secondary level, there are 2 private special schools. On primary and lower secondary level, there is 1 private and 5 state schools.

The Association for Heart- and Lung-diseased Patients (LHL) owns a vocational upper secondary boarding school.

Private higher education

One act is common to all higher education institutions, both public (state) and private institutions. This is the Act of 1 April 2005 No 15 on Universities and University Colleges. Chapter Eight in the Act is on private institutions.

Earlier, private higher education in Norway was regulated by the Act of 11 June 1986 No 53 on the Recognition of Study Programmes at Private Colleges and the State Funding of these.

Three private institutions have been accredited by the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) as specialised university institutions while six institutions have been accredited as university colleges.

Private higher education institutions may only receive state funding for recognised study programmes, but they are not automatically entitled to such support. In 2019, there are 26 private higher education institutions with recognised study programmes, out of which 17 institutions receive state funding for (part of) their activities. All of these have to send budget proposals, and yearly accounts and reports on examination procedures, numbers of registered students, graduates, etc. to the Ministry.

The private higher education institutions cover a wide spectre of study programmes: ballet, music, theology and religious studies, teacher education, nursing and social work, computer technology, business administration and marketing etc.

Most of the private institutions offer programmes at bachelor level, some have programmes at master level. The Norwegian School of Theology, VID Specialised University and the Norwegian School of Management BI can confer doctoral degrees.

Although there are many private higher education institutions in Norway, these are on the whole relatively small. In 2021 eight out of fifteen institutions receiving state support had less than 1000 students. The Norwegian School of Management BI, however, is a major actor within the field of business studies. It had about 21 500 students in 2021.