Norway has six universities, six specialised university colleges, 25 state university colleges, two state university colleges of art, and 29 private university colleges. In the autumn of 2005, more than 211 000 students were registered at Norwegian universities and university colleges. Women comprised 62 per cent of students in the university college sector and 56 per cent of students in the university sector.
The system includes all education programmes at universities and university colleges, and entry normally requires successful prior completion of the three-year upper secondary school programme. With the exception of some private university colleges, all higher education institutions are state-run. As a rule, there are no tuition fees for higher education in Norway, but fees may be charged for certain professional education programmes and special programmes, and by some of the private institutions.
In addition to teaching, all higher education institutions, and especially universities, have a particular responsibility to conduct pure research and researcher training, by means of graduate-level studies and doctoral degree programmes.
Higher education institutions
Norway’s six universities are: the University of Oslo (which is the oldest and largest), the University of Bergen, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, the University of Tromsø, the University of Stavanger and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) at Ås. The six specialised university colleges are the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen, and the Norwegian Academy of Music, the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, the Norwegian School of Theology (MF) and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, which are all located in Oslo. The two university colleges of art are located in Oslo and Bergen.
The state university college system was expanded as part of decentralisation efforts, and with the intention of easing access to higher education. The 25 university colleges offer many vocational education programmes not provided by the universities. These programmes normally have a duration of two to four years. Many university colleges also offer courses at Master and PhD level. It is not unusual for students to combine courses from both universities and university colleges.
Norway is one of the first countries in Europe to follow up on the targets of the Bologna process on European higher education. In addition, Norway carried out a three-year higher education quality reform programme, completed in 2003, which was aimed, among other things, at improving student mobility and international cooperation in education. With the introduction of the new degree system (see Fig. 1), it has become easier for students who complete all or part of their education in Norway to obtain recognition of their qualifications in other countries.
Credits and grading scale
Courses at universities and university colleges are assessed on a scale of study credits, in accordance with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) standard. A full-time academic year equals 60 ECTS credits. Both undergraduate and graduate students are given grades on a scale ranging from A (best) to F (fail), where E is the lowest passing grade. Some exams, however, are simply marked Pass or Fail.