Traditionally educational support for study abroad has been restricted to courses with equivalency to Norwegian higher education, meaning three years of study only. However, in 2011 the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA) warned that reluctance to cover four years of studies had seen many choose not to study in developing countries such as China, despite their economic importance to Norway.
In response, the government extended grants and loans worth more than US$40,000 a year in 2012-13 for those choosing highly ranked universities in BRICS countries and the USA, where most degrees last four years. The support covers tuition, language courses and living costs for all four years of study.
“Countries important to Norway and countries that Norway cooperates with, have been a priority”
In 2013-14 it will go a step further – extending the support to studies in all non-Western countries, an offer unheard of in most countries.
“Educational support for a four-year Bachelor’s program in non-western countries is launched as a means to increase the number of Norwegian students in emerging economies,” said a spokesman for the Norwegian Ministry of Education. “Countries important to Norway and countries that Norway cooperates with, have been a priority, such as the BRIC countries mentioned above.”
A record 23,400 Norwegians studied abroad in 2011 – an increase of seven per cent on the previous year. This constitutes around seven per cent of all students, however ANSA says the proportion actually remained stable, suggesting growth is more down to the growing numbers entering higher education.
It added that while the vast majority studying overseas chose the UK and US, numbers to China, Russia and Brazil had begun to stagnate or decline because of blind spot in government aid.
The extended support goes a considerable way to reversing this. It includes include NOK 116,100 ($21,000) a year for tuition, 30-50% of which is a loan, the remainder a grant (with further grants available if tuition exceeds this amount). A loan of NOK 92,500 ($16,700) additionally covers study and living costs, 40% of which may be converted to a grant upon graduation.
Support of US$40,000 a year will be available for study in non-Western countries
On top of this the government gives a NOK 17,040 ($3,000) grant for language study a and covers two return trips to the study destination (70 per cent given as a grant, 30 per cent as a loan).
“All the forms of support mentioned will be available for the full duration of study except for the language course which lasts for a limited time,” said the spokesperson, adding that this could be extended to up to eight years if needed.
Government aid has helped drive mobility in other countries. One in three Germans have spent at least some time studying abroad (around double the rate a decade ago), thanks in part to grants and loans from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)—some 25,264 accessed the support in 2010.
In the UK, however, where grants and student loans are not available for overseas students, only 1.7% study abroad and they self fund or obtain support from the EU’s Erasmus scheme.