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Quality assurance in higher education


11.Quality assurance

11.2Quality assurance in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Responsible bodies

Norwegian HEI are responsible for ensuring that the study programmes they offer are of high quality. The quality assurance shall be carried out through internal systems for quality assurance of the education.

NOKUT (the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education) is an independent expert body under the Ministry of Education and Research. NOKUT supervises the institutions’ quality assurance practices. NOKUT is responsible for periodic supervision of the institutions’ systematic work on assuring and enhancing the quality of the education they offer. NOKUT also advises the institutions on how to further develop their quality assurance practices.

NOKUT is a member of The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and is registered in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

Approaches and methods for quality assurance

Internal evaluation of institutions

The responsibility for quality assurance and enhancement of studies lies with the higher education institutions themselves. However, with the establishment of NOKUT in 2003 and the requirement that all Norwegian higher education institutions should have their own system of quality assurance, the HEIs must also meet a set of national requirements related to internal quality assurance. Recent changes (2017) in the regulations involved a shift towards supervising systematic quality assurance practices instead of formal approval of a quality assurance system.  

All HEIs are required by law to have a quality assurance system, and the quality assurance practises must undergo periodic supervision and approval by NOKUT. NOKUT uses experts to assess whether an institution's systematic quality assurance practises meet the requirements of applicable laws and regulations. The detailed requirements that the HEI have to meet, are available in § 4-1 Regulations 2017-02-07 nr 136: Regulations concerning Supervision of the Educational Quality in Higher Education (Academic Supervision Regulations): The regulations states that:

§4-1 Requirements for the institutions' systematic quality assurance practices

Section 4-1 (1) The institution’s quality assurance practices must be integrated with a strategy and cover all areas of importance for the quality of the students’ learning outcomes.

Section 4-1 (2) The quality assurance practices must be endorsed by the institution’s board and all levels of management. Through their quality assurance practices, institutions shall promote a quality culture among staff and students.

Section 4-1 (3) Institutions must have systems in place for systematically ensuring that all study programs offered to meet the requirements of the Regulations concerning the Quality Assurance and Quality Development of Higher Education and Tertiary Vocational Education Sections 3-1 to 3-4 and Chapter 2 of these Regulations, and any additional requirements that apply.

Section 4-1 (4) The institution must systematically obtain information from relevant sources to be able to evaluate the quality of all study programs offered.

Section 4-1 (5) Knowledge derived from the quality assurance practices must be used to enhance the quality of the study programs and identify any deficiencies in quality. Quality deficiencies shall be rectified within a reasonable time.

Section 4-1 (6) Results derived from quality assurance practices shall form part of the knowledge base used in the evaluation and strategic development of the institution’s portfolio of study programs.

External evaluation of institutions

The Norwegian Agency for Quality in Education (NOKUT) was established in 2003 and has amongst its tasks to carry out evaluations. The Ministry has commissioned evaluations of three fields of study, including general teacher education (2004 -2006), engineering (2006-2008), and pre-primary teacher education (2008-2010). NOKUT is also responsible for an evaluation (2020-2022) of the teacher education program (class 8-13). In addition NOKUT reaccredited all the nursing programs in Norway in 2006.

Other national evaluations of the education system are also conducted by several other organisations.

External evaluation of the education system

The primary responsibility for quality assurance rests with the higher education institutions themselves. The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, NOKUT is an independent government body, established by law with the aim of supervising and developing the quality of higher education in Norway through evaluation, accreditation, and supervision of quality assurance practices. 

NOKUT is, amongst other tasks, responsible for accrediting study programs. Institutional accreditation empowers the institution to provide programs at certain levels, depending on the institutional category, without applying for external accreditation from NOKUT. Programs at a level that is not covered by the institutional accreditation must have program accreditation. All accreditations are carried out by NOKUT.

University colleges may establish new programs at the bachelor level without applying for accreditation. The state-owned colleges that have the right to award the degree Ph.D. may establish master's programs within the subject area of their Ph.D. Private higher education institutions accredited in one of the three categories have the same freedom of establishment of programs as the state-owned institutions belonging to the same category, while the private higher education institutions without institutional accreditation still have to apply to NOKUT for all new programs.

NOKUT is also responsible for the accreditation of Higher Education Institutions according to the existing institutional categories in Norway.

With a few exceptions, NOKUT’s control mechanisms always involve the use of expert panels.