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Norway: more students through partnerships

Norway wants to increase international recruitment at tertiary level by establishing more joint degrees with foreign universities. The move could also encourage immigration of highly qualified people to the country. The country is pointing to its low fees and high standard of living as among the incentives.

International numbers are 8% of the student population

“The way we can open up for more foreign students to come is to make the recognition system as efficient as possible, so that foreigners can have their competence matching the work openings where they are qualified,” Dr Kyrre Lekve, junior minister for higher education and research, told University World News.

“Among several incentives, we have this year allocated NOK4.5 million (US$71million) as seed money for establishing joint degrees with partner institutions abroad. Also, the ministry has allocated a strategic fund for the sector for extended cooperation between institutions, where internationalisation issues might be included,” he said.

“We have this year allocated NOK4.5 million (US$71million) as seed money for establishing joint degrees with partner institutions abroad”

Norway has seen slow but sure growth in international numbers at universities, which climbed to 17,800 this academic year – 8% of the student population and a 1% rise on the previous year. It is currently improving the quality of higher education and building more student accommodation to attract more.

Lekve said Norway’s selling points included many courses taught in English (including more than 200 master’s programmes); “student-centred learning methods”; and the fact it did not charge tuition fees to those from overseas unlike most other European states.

“Another reason why foreign students are choosing to come could be that Norway is scoring high on international surveys as a country where there is a high quality of living and safe living conditions,” he said.

Norway’s now former minister for higher education and research, Tora Aasland, highlighted the southern states of Europe as a possible source of future collaboration with universities.

Norway’s selling points include the fact it does not charge tuition fees to those from overseas

This would also tie with Norway’s commitment to support economic development in Europe. The country has pledged NOK3.8 billion (US$660 million) to support economic development across the continent, funds for which Spain, Portugal and Greece are eligible.

“In Spain, there is a 50% unemployment rate among young people,” Aasland said. “It is a tragedy that their competence will not be used in the further building up of European society, now that the economic crisis makes this more urgent than ever.”

Recruiting more talented graduates could also help Norway tackle an emerging skills shortage. Knut Aarbakke, leader of the Federation of Norwegian Professional Associations that represents 160,000 professionals, said Norway was short of 70,000 “highly qualified people”, with one in ten private companies surveyed stating they would hire someone from abroad during 2012.

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