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Short-cycle higher education


7.2. First-cycle programmes

7.2.2Short-cycle higher education

Last update: 27 March 2024

1 Branches of study

There are  vocational colleges within both health and welfare, creative industries, transport, technology, and economy and administration. In the period 2018–2022, the percentage of students in technology and economy and administration has increased.

2 Admission requirements

Tertiary vocational education is based on completed upper secondary education and/or training and thus, admission requirements are successful completion of upper secondary education. Many programs require successful completion of a specific vocational secondary education. For art programmes, an entrance test or audition is normally required. Application to tertiary vocational education is regulated through the Vocational Education Act. Formally, the vocational colleges themselves are responsible for admission. From 2020, all private and public vocational colleges are offered through a centralised admission organised by the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS). Approximately ten percent of the students are admitted to higher vocational education without completion from upper secondary education, based on a recognition of prior learning. The applicant must be 23 years of age or more. Within arts, particularly talented applicants of 19 years may get admission. Students' choice of vocational college is determined by the choice of programmes on offer, as some programmes are found in several counties, whereas others are unique. The choice is made by the student (applicant), as all students at this level are adults (18 or older). 

3 Curriculum

There is no core curriculum within any field at the higher vocational education level. In order for programmes to be recognised (accredited), however, the vocational colleges must document that they meet the requirements regarding quality assurance systems, quality of programmes, teaching staff, governance, etc., laid down in the Act relating to tertiary vocational education and regulations, in particular the regulation on monitoring and control of vocational college education, (fagskoleforskriften, in Norwegian only). 

4 Teaching methods

There are no national regulations regarding teaching methods and materials in tertiary vocational education. Vocational college teachers are expected to choose suitable material and methodology for their courses. However, as mentioned in the previous sections, programme design, including choice of methodology, is assessed as part of the programme accreditation procedure. Also, as all programmes are vocational, cooperation with relevant organisations, institutions and/or businesses in the relevant field is required. This is laid down in the regulation on the monitoring and control of vocational college education.  

5 Progression of students

There are no central regulations or criteria regarding progress through programmes. As vocational college programmes are of short duration, the need to regulate progress is limited. However, particularly in the two-year programmes, the colleges often require that students must pass certain or all first-year courses in order to progress to year two. 

6 Employability

A graduate survey made by the research institute NIFU shows that tertiary vocational education results in a high extent of employability. 88 percent of the graduates from 2019 and 2020 were employed in the fall of 2021. 

7 Student assessment

In tertiary vocational education, the appropriateness of the choice of methodology to ensure that the students obtain the prescribed learning outcomes is assessed as part of the recognition (accreditation) procedure for each programme. This is a requirement in the regulation on the monitoring and control of vocational college education (fagskoletilsynsforskriften). The choice of methodology varies with the type of programme (technical, artistic, health care, etc.) and type of provision (full-time school-based vs. flexible). The use of credits – 60 credits per year of full-time study – and the grading system – A to F, with A as top grade and F denoting failure, or else pass/fail – are compulsory, however. This is based on a legal amendment in December 2010, followed up by a regulation on vocational college education (in Norwegian only) in August 2013, amended in 2017. 

8 Certification

According to the Act relating to tertiary vocational education,  each college is responsible for issuing diplomas ("vitnemål") for its own programmes. Students who have completed courses, modules or units that are parts of programmes, are entitled to receive a transcript of records on demand. NOKUT, the quality assurance agency, has set the following requirements regarding the contents of the diploma. The diploma should document: the overall learning outcome of the programme units or modules taken, plus practice periods if relevant level in the Norwegian Qualifications Framework (5.1 or 5.2, called fagskole 1 and fagskole 2, respectively)  the grading system used (A–F or pass (bestått)/fail (ikke bestått) the number of credits obtained  final assessment previous page ‹ Assessment in vocational upper secondary education Up Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Upper Secondary Education ›

9 Organisational variation

In 2022, there were 58 vocational colleges and almost 28 000 students in tertiary vocational education. About half of the vocational colleges are private. Apart from three state-owned institutions, the public colleges belong to the counties. 

The school year is normally from mid-August to mid/late June and is divided in two semesters, August till December, and January till June. Some programmes start in January, however, and some of the web-based programmes have flexible entry times, meaning that students can start whenever it suits them. The planning, organisation, and design of programmes are assessed as part of the recognition (accreditation) procedure for each study programme. 

There are no regulations regarding the organisation of the school day and week.  Planning, organisation, and design of programmes are assessed as part of the recognition (accreditation) procedure for each study programme. The organisation of programmes varies according to both field of study and type of provision (full-time – part-time, school-based – web-based, distance or decentralised, etc.). 

There are vocational colleges in all counties, but the offer varies greatly between counties. The highest numbers of colleges are found in and around the big cities.  All vocational college students are adults (18+), and a lot of the provision is flexible (distance, web-based, decentralised, part-time). 

At the vocational colleges (NQF level 5), students are a minimum of 18 years old upon entry, mostly older. In 2022, 70 per cent of the students studied 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. The age distribution of students is quite wide but vocational college students are getting older. While the average age in 2018 was 31 years, it has increased to 33 years in 2022. Over half of the students (55 percent) were 30 years or older in 2022.