Education System in Norway

Norway has an outstanding educational system. Adult literacy exceeds 99 percent, and the school expectancy for a five-year-old in Norway was 17.7 years in 1998, making it one of the highest rates in the world. In this article the education system in Norway is briefly discussed.

Right to Education in Norway

Every Norwegian child and adolescent has the right and the obligation to finish primary and lower secondary school. Adults have the right to primary and lower secondary education as well.

The Norwegian school system is divided into three sections:

  1. Elementary school (for children aged 6 to 13)
  2. Lower secondary school (for children aged 13 to 16)
  3. Upper secondary school (for children aged 16 to 19).

Elementary and lower secondary students follow a single curriculum. Upper secondary education provides more freedom of choice, allowing students to specialize in general studies or study vocational subjects. This will serve as the foundation for your professional life.

Elementary and Lower Secondary School in Norway

Primary and lower secondary education are compulsory in Norway. Parents must actively enroll their children in school.

In Norway, all state-run primary and lower secondary education is free of charge and is funded by municipalities. There are also several private primary and secondary schools. For more information on the schools in the municipality where you live or plan to relocate, contact the municipality. Private home tuition is an alternative to primary and lower secondary education.

Primary and lower secondary education lasts ten years, and students typically begin school in the year of their sixth birthday. This stage of education is divided into two parts. The first seven years (Years 1-7) are known as the primary level (barnetrinnet), and the three years after that (Years 8-10) are known as the lower secondary level (ungdomstrinnet). The school, for example, must provide all necessary teaching materials and equipment. Students pack their own lunches.

National Flag of Norway
National Flag of Norway

Elementary or Primary Education in Norway

In Norway, compulsory education begins in primary school aka elementary school. When a child turns six, he or she is required to enroll. All students have the right to attend.

Students spend the majority of their time in primary school playing educational games and learning social structures, the alphabet, basic addition and subtraction, and basic English skills. Math, English, science, religion (focusing not only on Christianity but also on all other religions, their purpose, and their history), aesthetics, and music are introduced in grades 2-7, with geography, history, and social studies added in the fifth grade. At this level, there are no official grades. On tests, however, the teacher frequently writes a comment, analysis, and, in some cases, an unofficial grade. The tests must be brought home and shown to the parents. The tests will be taken home and shown to the parents. There is also an introductory test to determine whether the student is above average or needs extra help at school.

Lower Secondary Education in Norway

Lower secondary school is frequently taught in the same building as primary school. It is also mandatory and a right.

When students enter lower secondary school, usually at the age of 12 or 13, they begin receiving grades for their work. Their grades, as well as their location in the country, will determine whether or not they are accepted to their preferred upper secondary school. Students can choose one elective (valgfag) and one language beginning in eighth grade. German, French, and Spanish are commonly offered languages, with additional English and Norwegian studies available. Prior to the August 2006 educational reform, students could choose a practical elective instead of languages.

A typical primary or lower secondary school schedule includes the following school subjects:

Christina knowledge; religions and ethical education; art and crafts; Norwegian; mathematics; social science; science of nature; English (compulsory foreign language starting in grade one); foreign language / in-depth language; study food and health; music; physical education; and student council work.

Upper Secondary Education in Norway

Following the completion of lower secondary school, students can enroll in three years of upper secondary school (known as high school in many countries), where they will prepare to enter university. This level of education is optional. Upper secondary education consists of either a general studies program or a vocational program that prepares students for further studies. The education is designed to prepare students for work or further education. The county governments fund upper secondary education and have a great deal of flexibility in how it is organized. Upper secondary education is available to anyone who has completed primary and lower secondary education or an equivalent education. Adults over the age of 25 are eligible for upper secondary education for adults if they apply.

Upper secondary education is divided into twelve programs:

  • four general studies; and
  • eight vocational programs.

General studies programs are three-year programs that emphasize theoretical subjects and lead to the Higher Education Entrance Qualification. Vocational programs typically result in a trade or journeyman’s certificate after two years of school and a two-year apprenticeship period. Vocational programs for vocations that are not recognized trades will be entirely school-based. 

Students can obtain the Higher Education Entrance Qualification by taking the Upper Secondary Level 3 programme Supplementary programme for general university admissions certification.

General studies

  1. Art, design and architecture
  2. Media and communication

  3. Music, dance and drama

    Specialisation in general studies
  4. Sports and physical education

Vocational programmes

  1. Electrical engineering and computer technology
  2. Crafts, design and product development

  3. Healthcare, child and youth development

  4. Building and construction

  5. Agriculture, fishing and forestry

  6. Restaurant and food processing

  7. Sales, service and tourism

  8. Technological and industrial production

  9. Hairdressing, floral, interior and retail design focuses

  10. Information technology and media production


Pupils have the right to free school transportation if their route to school is over a certain distance, dangerous, or the pupil has a disability or injury.

Folk Schools in Norway

Folk high schools are non-academic boarding schools and a supplement to and an alternative to the formal education system in Norway. The Norwegian folk high schools are managed by the Directorate for Education and Training. 

In Norway, there are no tuition fees for folk academic purposes, but students must pay to live in the residence halls, as well as for their board, course materials, and study trips.

In Norway, Folk high schools have existed since the late 1800s and are based on the educational philosophy developed by the Danish educationalist and theologian Grundtvig. Each school is free to develop its own set of values and characteristics. There are independent, liberal folk high schools as well as Christian folk high schools that are owned by or closely affiliated with churches and Christian organizations.

The folk schools in Norway provide a variety of program subjects that are typically taught over a school year (33 weeks), but some also provide shorter courses. Most schools have an age limit of 18 years old, and many students choose to spend a year at a folk high school after finishing upper secondary school.

Higher Education in Norway

Higher education is becoming more common in Norway. One of the reasons is that obtaining a degree is affordable. To ensure equal access to education, the educational system is generally supported by the state. This means that most institutions have no tuition fees. With such favorable conditions, you are almost expected to obtain a degree and enjoy a carefree student life.

The high quality of Norwegian universities and university colleges has resulted in an increasing number of international students choosing to study in Norway. The expectation that students should be responsible for their own learning can be difficult for international students, especially given all of the opportunities on and off campus.

Norwegian university and university college students are dedicated both on and off campus. Extracurricular activities can help international students integrate successfully.

Today, nearly every third Norwegian has a higher education. In Norway, women have a higher proportion of higher education than men; women aged 30-39 are the most likely to pursue higher education. The largest and oldest universities in Norway are naturally founded in the major cities. However, the government actively promotes growth in outlying districts by providing grants and other funding schemes to smaller towns. In accordance with this policy, university colleges have been established both in the countryside and in the cities.

The academic year normally runs from mid-August to mid-June.

Universities and Higher Education Institutions in Norway

Norway has a total of 33 accredited (approved) higher education institutions. There are ten universities, nine specialized university institutions, one art academy, and fourteen university colleges.

There are also 18 non-accredited university colleges that offer approved first degree programs. The Ministry of Education and Research is ultimately responsible for accreditation, which is governed by the Universities and University Colleges Act and NOKUT regulations, among other things.

The Norwegian state runs the universities and the majority of university colleges, and attendance is free. Students at private institutions pay tuition, but many of the institutions also receive state funding. Higher education in Norway is overseen by the Ministry of Education and Research.

Universities have the right to establish programmes at all levels.

Accredited Higher Education Institutions in Norway

In Norway, institutional accreditation is divided into three categories: universities, specialized universities, and university colleges/universities of applied sciences. University College refers to any institution that offers accredited study programs.

List of Accredited Universities in Norway

Universities have the right to establish programmes at all levels.

  1. Nord University
  2. Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
  3. OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University (formerly known as Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA)

  4. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

  5. The University of Agder

  6. The University of Bergen

  7. The University of Oslo

  8. The University of South-Eastern Norway

  9. The University of Stavanger

  10. UiT The Arctic University of Norway

List of Speecialised Universities in Norway

Specialized universities in Norway can accredit bachelor’s degree study programs in all subject areas. They may also accredit study programs at all levels in subjects in which they have been granted the authority to confer doctorates.

  1. BI – Norwegian Business School
  2. MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society

  3. Molde University College – Specialized University in Logistics

  4. NHH Norwegian School of Economics

  5. Norwegian Academy of Music

  6. Oslo National Academy of the Arts

  7. The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences

  8. The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

  9. VID Specialized University

List of Universities and Institutions for Applied Science

University Colleges/Universities of Applied Sciences have the right to establish study programmes at all levels within their majors.

  1. Ansgar University College
  2. Fjellhaug Internasjonale Høgskole

  3. Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
  4. Kristiania University College

  5. Lovisenberg Diaconal University College

  6. NLA University College

  7. The Norwegian Defence University College (NDUC)

  8. Norwegian Police University College

  9. Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education (QMUC)

  10. Sámi University College

  11. Volda University College

  12. Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

  13. Østfold University College

List of University Colleges with Accredited Study Programmes

There are also some  accredited university colleges with study programmes that play an important role in the sector of higher education in Norway. The University Colleges that are not accredited must apply to NOKUT for accreditation of all levels of study programs. Following university colleges are accredited with study programmes—

  1. Atlantis Medisinske Høgskole

  2. Barratt Due Institute of Music
  3. Bergen School of Architecture

  4. University College of Norwegian Correctional Service

  5. Fjellhaug International University College

  6. Høyskolen for yrkesfag

  7. Lillehammer Institute of Music Production and Industries (LIMPI)

  8. Nordland kunst- og filmhøyskole

  9. Noroff

  10. Norsk Gestaltinstitutt Høgskole

  11. NSKI Høyskole

  12. Oslo New University College

  13. Rudolf Steiner University College

  14. Skrivekunstakademiet

  15. The Norwegian Institute of Children’s Books

  16. The Norwegian School of Theology

  17. The Norwegian University College for Agriculture and Rural Development

  18. University College of Dance Art

Students of the University of Oslo at Qasid Arabic Institute, Norway
Students of the University of Oslo at Qasid Arabic Institute, Norway

Structure of Higher Education in Norway

Higher education system in Norway has been following the Bologna process objectives in European higher education since 2003. The implementation of a 3 + 2 + 3 degree system with Bachelor’s, Masters, and PhD. structures in accordance with European standards has been central. With the introduction of the new degree system, international students who complete all or part of their education in Norway have found it easier to obtain recognition for their qualifications in other countries.

Exceptions include the old university college two-year degree (college candidate), five-year consecutive master’s degrees, six-year professional programs, master’s degrees lasting one to one and a half years, four-year bachelor’s degrees in performing music and performing arts, and four-year teacher education programs.

In addition to teaching, all higher learning institutions, particularly universities, are responsible for basic research as well as researcher training, primarily through graduate-level studies and doctoral degree programs. The main distinctions between higher education institutions are related to their self-accreditation rights. Universities can offer study programs without seeking external accreditation, whereas university colleges must seek external accreditation for their study programs.

Most study programs, including all Master degrees, require direct application to the university or university college. This means you may have to consider different application deadlines as well as different deadlines for accepting or rejecting offers.

Despite the fact that our institutions are few and small in comparison to universities in many other countries around the world, they maintain high standards and provide quality education. In some fields, Norwegian institutions or academic communities are regarded as being in the absolute top tier.

Receiving international students, whether as part of an exchange agreement or as students pursuing a full degree, is regarded as both an asset for the institution and a tool for improving the quality of Norwegian institutions and education. A wide range of courses and study programs are taught in English.

Map of Norway | Flag colors
Map of Norway

Tuition Fees for Higher Education in Norway

In Norway, most public universities don’t charge tuition fees (mentioned earlier in this article). This is valid for undergraduate degree courses, Master’s programmes and PhDs, and for students from all countries, regardless if they are members of the EU/EEA or not.

There is only a student union fee that has to be paid in full, which is between 30 – 60 EUR/semester.

Private universities charge tuition fees, and they vary between:

  • 7,000 – 9,000 EUR/year for Bachelor’s programmes

  • 9,000 – 19,000 EUR/year for Master’s programmes

Student Life in Norway

Student life is a rich, social, and active period in the lives of the majority of Norwegians. Along with their studies, many students work part-time jobs to supplement their student loans and gain work experience. As an international student, you can also work part-time for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Many Norwegian students are also involved in student organizations, such as student sports teams and student councils, as well as cultural and societal organizations in general.

Activities on and off campus provide an important social context for student life; cultivating shared interests is enjoyable and can lead to lifelong friendships. This type of involvement is essential for international students seeking to integrate with Norwegian students.

The living standard is generally high – even for students – making studying in Norway a comfortable experience. Most Norwegians want to own an apartment or a house, but renting is more common for students. The majority of people own a car, but students primarily use public transportation, which is relatively well developed in major cities.

As a result of environmental concerns, Norwegians have recently shifted to owning only one car per household. In cities, an increasing number of people prefer to use car-sharing services rather than own a car. Taxis are pricey.

Scholarships and Grants in Norway

In Norway, there are very few scholarships available for international students, but public universities and university colleges have no tuition fees. However, there are some scholarships available for specific student groups. In terms of exchange, Norwegian institutions have a number of bilateral agreements with foreign institutions of higher learning. These agreements are typically intended to facilitate the exchange of students, researchers, and teachers.

However, some national programs provide scholarships and other forms of funding for international students to study in Norway. All of these programs have restrictions and prerequisites. Furthermore, private and non-profit organizations offer a variety of scholarships. The following list is not exhaustive.

Sources of Information

  1. Hicks, D. A Guide to Education & Internations. Schools in Norway. Internations.
  2. NOKUT. General information about education in Norway.

  3. NOKUT. Accredited institutions.

  4. Study In Norway. Higher education system.

  5. The Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Primary and lower secondary school in Norway. Nordic Co-operation.

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