Norway’s flourishing economy, top-of-the-charts standard of living, and designer fjords are constantly making headlines. Want to study in Norway as an international?
You don’t need to be obsessed with Vikings and the Northern Lights to want to study in Norway as an international. The country welcomes nearly 14,000 students from abroad every year, adding to their relatively small national population of 5.2 million.
Why Study in Norway
Unless you’ve been living forcibly or voluntarily under a rock, you have probably heard about Norway being a country with a standard of living that is matched by few. Of course everybody has differing living standards, but if gender equality, free education and healthcare, a minuscule crime rate, and a better-than-good median income sound like qualifying factors, than Norway should be at the top of your list.
What they say about higher education in Norway being free to all, no matter where you are from, is TRUE. However, living expenses are very high, and may even surmount the tuition you may be paying elsewhere. But Norway is a country that is committed to a higher education to better its society and the world, and this is a truly comforting and humbling fact.
Let’s get right to it. If you are an international student, you probably want to be a part of a society that is always on the brink of social, technological, and political innovations. This paves the way for a more pragmatic education, unbound by social scruples, so you can study and research away and express yourself openly.
Norway’s immaculate social system and standard of living are merely reflections of the populace. Since well before even the days of the Vikings, the Scandinavians have sought the unknown; ‘if the answer is out there, we will find it’.
The population in Norway is scarce, while land is abundant. The population of Oslo, Norway’s largest city, is 634,000 – 28,000 of whom are students attending higher education institutes. This is a 4% student population, compared to a 7% student population in Melbourne, constantly ranked as one of the largest ‘student cities’ in the world.
The nation is home to over 70 higher education institutes that offer courses for international students. Among the most highly ranked are:
University of Oslo
Norway’s largest university, located in the capital city of Oslo.
Times Higher Education (THE) – 121
Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) – 62
Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) – 135
Best Global Universities (BGU) – 98
University of Bergen
A public research university, citingacademic diversity and high quality teaching as being ‘fundamental’ to the teaching curriculum.
THE – 197
SJTU – 201
QS – 171
BGU – 171
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Public research university with campuses in the cities of Trondheim, Gjøvik, and Ålesund.
THE – 351
QS – 363
BGU – 270
Other honorable mentions:
- UIT the Arctic University of Norway
- Norwegian University of Life Sciences
- University of Nordland
- BI Norwegian Business School
- Bergen Academy of Art & Design, Norway
Being part of the EU, all of Norway’s higher education institutes comply with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). This makes your credits and prerequisites from other countries easily transferable, taking more of the headache out of studying abroad. Comparability of the quality of education is regulated too, as Norway strictly adheres to the Bologna Process.
That being said, the structure of Norway’s higher education system is similar to that of most European, American, Australian, Canadian, and British universities, being broken down into Bachelor’s (undergraduate), Master’s (graduate), and PhD (doctorate) programs.
Obtaining your Bachelor’s degree in Norway will give you the same accreditation as thousands of other schools in the world. The difference, of course, lies in the quality of time spent studying. Free tuition and gender equality aside, people choose to study in Norway because they vibe well with the country, and hence can study with greater efficiency and quality.
However, there are currently only about fifteen Bachelor’s courses that are taught completely in English. Here are a few of them:
- Acting – Østfold University College
- 3D Art, Animation, and VFX – Nord University
- Development Studies – University of Agder
- Biology – Nord University
- Business Administration – BI Norwegian Business School
For all other Bachelor’s courses, you are required to speak Norwegian. Some universities offer Norwegian courses for future international students. But do be warned: one year is a relatively short amount of time to learn Norwegian well enough to keep up with your peers in courses that are taught 100% in Norwegian. Some can do it, others find it near impossible.
Have you already achieved your undergrad and are looking to take it to the next level? Or are you just looking ahead, you eager beaver?
As opposed to the limited amount of Bachelor’s courses taught in English, Master’s courses are offered in the hundreds.
Obtaining your Master’s in Norway is a similar procedure to most other countries. Courses involve a series of lectures, active workshops, seminars, and hands-on research.
At the close of your studies, you will need to present your dissertation to the university. This will be independently researched and could be a topic of your choice, or one relevant to your studies decided by your university.
Some universities also offer a Long Cycle Master’s programs, which commences during the Bachelor’s program and in all is a combination of 5-6 years of studies and credits.
Norway is always on the look-out for qualified international PhD candidates. Do you think you have what it takes?
There are over 50 courses taught in English. The programs offered are meticulously structured, and generally last for a duration of 3-4 years. Both independent and cooperative research make up the bulk of the programs.
Again, tuition is free for PhD studies, and most actually come with a relatively handsome salary. On average, a PhD student will make €45,000-50,000/year. Bear in mind, of course, that over 30% of any Norwegian salary is taken out as taxes. However, the evidence of functionality for this socialized system lies on all the smiling faces of Norwegians.
Five years of higher education is a requirement for most PhD programs in Norway. If you happened to take part in a 1-year Master’s program, some universities do make exceptions.
There is a plethora of postdoctoral fellowships offered to PhD graduates, and the salaries are 5-10% higher than those of PhD students.
Naturally, a PhD degree is required to apply for all fellowships. Favorable qualities sought after by institutes are hands-on experience in the relative field, near-native level English speaking, top-notch skills at writing scientific manuscripts, and ability to efficaciously operate independently and with a team.
Want to experience Norway just for a bit?
ASSE is a very popular platform for international student exchange, though your current school may already have existing partnerships with Norwegian universities. Either way, your school (and your prospective school) will need to approve the exchange.
Be sure to have your budget sorted out. There are many ways to cut expenses when in Norway for a short period of time, such as buying a second-hand bicycle, staying out of the bars, and buying seasonal foods. (Salmon is always cheap in Norway!)
The rumors are true… Course fees in Norway are nil. Zero. Obsolete. Whatever you want to call it. However, tuition is not the only expense one must tackle when studying in higher education. Most universities charge an annual administration fee of about €80-100. Books and other academic materials typically amount to around €500/semester. As far as course fees go, that’s about it.
NOW. Living costs are a different story. With a country so perfectly set up as Norway, expect to be paying much, much more than in your home country. For monthly rent you will be looking at no lower than €800-1,000.
Some student accommodation is available, but it’s generally pretty limited.
Students from Nordic countries need not change anything about their health insurance. You are covered.
EU/EEA students holding a European Health Insurance Card can receive emergency and essential healthcare.
Students from outside the EU/EEA that will be attending school in Norway for more than a year are automatically covered. Students studying less than a year must apply with the Norwegian Health Insurance Scheme or purchase private insurance in their home country.
Funding to Study in Norway
There are only so many ways to go about paying for your living costs while studying in Norway. You will either need to have a very big chunk of change in your bank account to cover your monthly expenses, or will need to find scholarships to help pay your way.
Here is a helpful list of some available positions.
A student visa automatically makes you eligible to work in Norway, though it will probably be very difficult to land a part-time job if you don’t speak decent Norwegian. But as they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
How to Apply to Study in Norway
For brevity’s sake, let’s assume you’ve already chosen your field of study and your university. Documents required depend on the level of the program you are applying for, but will require proof of completion of prerequisite credits and a language proficiency certificate.
School years typically run from August to June, though some institutes have varying schedules. Deadlines vary also, but you should be looking to get your application(s) in sooner rather than later. The window for MOST universities is December 1 – March 15 for studies beginning in August.
After you have been accepted, you will be on your way to getting your student visa!
Students coming from a Scandinavian country do not need to apply for any special permits.
EU/EEA students do not need any special permit to enter Norway, but will need to register your residence within 3 months of landing.
Students from outside Scandinavia/EU/EEA will need to apply for a residence permit. To do so, you will need to show that you have enough funds to pay your way for the first year. This sum amounts to about €13,500, though you will likely need much more than this stashed away to cover any additional costs, like winter clothing and emergency Nordic excursions. Funds are generally preferred to have been transferred to bank account.
Any rules and regulations for study permits are ALWAYS subject to change, so be sure to read up on current information.
If you are reading this article, it is likely that you will be applying for classes that are taught in English, which Norway is in no way experiencing a shortage of.
Regardless of your nationality, you will need to provide an English speaking certificate. IELTS, TOEFL, C1 Advanced, or Pearson PTE are popular, and are generally accepted everywhere.
As stated earlier, most Bachelor’s courses are taught in Norwegian, and it is possible to undergo a yearlong Norwegian language course to prepare you for these studies.
Norway Education Vs UK/US
Every country has its strengths and weaknesses. The school that you choose will be the result of many factors. Norway’s standard of education is very high, but doesn’t have as many top ranked universities as the UK or the US. The UK and US have a higher educational structure much larger than that of Norway, and instead of being part of the ECTS, employ an outcome driven system (though credits from European universities are of course taken into account).
Another main difference is that Norway generally doesn’t accept applicants into their PhD programs that hold a 1 year Master’s degree, such as one from the UK.
Overall, if you find a course that works for you, and a university that you are happy in, you are sure to learn as much or more than any university out there.