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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Types of higher education institutions


7.Higher Education

7.1Types of higher education institutions

Last update: 27 November 2023

Types of Higher Education Institutions

The differences between types of higher education institutions are mainly related to their self-accreditation rights. Universities can without applying for external accreditation establish study programmes at all levels. University colleges may establish new programmes at the bachelor's level without applying for accreditation. The state-owned colleges that have the right to award the degree PhD may establish master's programmes within the subject area of their PhD. Private higher education institutions accredited in one of the categories mentioned in the Specific Legislative Framework have the same freedom of establishment of programmes 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 programmes.

The different categories of higher education institutions in Norway are as follows:

  • Universities (so far public institutions only)
  • Specialised university institutions (both public and private)
  • University colleges (both public and private) including two public University colleges of arts 
  • Other university colleges (public, but not under the auspices Ministry of Education and Research, i.e military colleges and the Norwegian Police University College)
  • Higher education institutions that provide accredited study programmes (private).

In 2016 and 2017 several mergers took place in Norway and the Higher Education landscape has gone through major changes. Transfers between the institutions are encouraged and simplified by the degree system.

The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (UHR) was established in 2000 by merging the former associations of the university sector and of the university colleges. Its mission is to coordinate the activities of the member institutions, and to contribute to a national policy on higher education. Private university colleges had their own separate association, The Norwegian Network for Private Higher Education Institutions until 2017 when it was closed down. The accredited private higher education institutions have become members of UHR since 2018.

Other Public University Colleges

The Norwegian Police University College and five military university colleges are not under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Research, but the Act of 11 June 2021 nr 81 on Universities and University Colleges partly applies to these institutions as well.

Private Higher Education

See Chapter 2 for details on Private Higher Education.