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Tertiary vocational education


6.Upper secondary education and post-secondary tertiary Education

6.7Tertiary vocational education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Types of Institutions

In 2021, there were 60 vocational colleges and 25 000 students in all. The vocational colleges differ from the rest of the education institutions in Norway in that a majority (75 per cent) were private. Apart from three state-owned institutions, the public colleges belong to the counties.

Geographical Accessibility

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).

Admission Requirements and Choice of School

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).

Age Levels and Grouping of Pupils/Students

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.

The organisation of the School Year

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.

The organisation of the School Day and Week

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.).

Teaching and Learning

Curriculum, Subjects, Number of Hours

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).

Teaching Methods and Materials

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. 


Pupil/Students 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.

Progression of Pupils/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.


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