Norwegian parliament in favour of tuition fees for foreign students law

A majority of MPs in Norway will change current laws to allow universities to charge some foreign students tuition to study in Norway.

Pictured is a birds eye view of a university lecture hall.
Norway's parliament has moved to allow universities to introduce tuition fees. Pictured is a birds eye view of a university lecture hall. Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

Norway’s parliament will adopt a new law that will make it possible to collect tuition fees from international students in Norway.

The government had previously passed a proposal as part of its national budget for 2023 that will see students from outside the EEA, and Switzerland charged for studying in Norway.

All parliamentary parties except the Red Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Party are in favour of the amendment to the Education Act.

The Ministry of Education says that the new act will free up to 2,600 study places in Norway and that universities and colleges will collect around 300 million in tuition fees annually. The ministry also predicts that 70 percent of international students in Norway today would not have studied in the country if there were fees.

The Socialist Left Party has said it will table amendments to the proposed law but says they are unlikely to get a majority. One would allow study places to decide whether they wish to implement fees, and the other would allow a larger group of foreign students to be exempt from tuition fees.

When it formed, the current government pledged not to introduce tuition fees for foreign students, and the party the government typically negotiates with to secure a majority in parliament for its budgets, the Socialist Left Party, also said numerous times it was opposed to the proposal. Despite this, the measure was put forward by the three parties as part of the national budget.

“The free principle is hereby buried; it is a day of mourning for students and for equal opportunities! When it really mattered, neither the Socialist Left Party, the Labor Party, nor the Center Party was willing to stand up for free higher education,” Maika Marie Godal Dam, head of the Norwegian Student Organisation, told Norwegian newswire NTB.

The previous Solberg government tried to implement a similar proposal in 2014 but had to withdraw the proposed legislation.

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Calls for scholarships for non-EU students in Norway after applicant drop-off

The number of applicants from outside the EU/EEA has dropped by roughly 80 percent since the introduction of tuition fees. The university sector has called for the government to introduce a scholarship scheme.

Calls for scholarships for non-EU students in Norway after applicant drop-off

Since the introduction of tuition fees, the number of students from outside the EEA/EU scheduled to start a degree in Norway has dropped from 1,533 last year to just 332 this year, according to figures obtained by higher education publication Khrono.

The government introduced tuition fees for these students at public universities this year as a cutback on spending.

When it introduced the tuition fees, which don’t apply to exchange students or those from within the EEA, the government didn’t introduce or announce a scholarship scheme for students who, under the new rules, have to pay tuition.

Professor Siri Lange teaches at the University of Bergen and has called on the government to introduce a scholarship scheme. She told Khrono that the scholarship scheme should be similar to the previous quota scheme, which was scrapped in 2016.

This scheme supported students from developing countries who came to Norway to take a degree.

“The biggest disadvantage of tuition fees is that far fewer students from the global south get the opportunity to come here and that the Norwegian students do not get to learn from students who have grown up in different circumstances than themselves. We have used it actively in teaching and have had many interesting discussions as a result of it, including about the role of civil society,” Lange said.

Oddmund Løkensgard Hoel, State Secretary for Research and Higher Education, told Khrono that Norway was the only European country that had offered free education to those from outside the EEA and Switzerland. He said that there was no reason as to why Norway should be the exception.

“There is no reason why it should be any different here,” he said.

Hoel has previously said that the government would consider the possibility of a scholarship scheme.

“We wanted to make this change now in the 2023 budget because it was necessary to get the budget together. We also wanted to gain some experience before starting to create scholarship schemes. We need some time to find out how the scholarship schemes will be organised. But there will be scholarship schemes that will be targeted at the countries and students who need it most,” he told public broadcaster NRK.

In a comment to Khrono, Hoel said that any potential scholarships for students from the global south should be discussed in terms of aid policy.