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Norway mulls tuition fees for non-EU students

The Norwegian government is considering introducing tuition fees for international students from outside the EU and EEA alongside proposed cuts of 80.5m NOK (US$12m) in next year’s budget, despite an overall parliamentary opposition.

A protest by Norway's International Students' Union (ISU) took place this week outside the University of Oslo. Photo: ISU Norway

“This is not about money, but about values"

Critics are concerned that if passed, the policy will damage Norway’s draw as a study destination and could be the first step toward tuition fees for all students.

“It’s not a good thing for universities that develop and thrive on diversity”

Demonstrations against the proposal organised by the International Students Union (ISU) were held this week outside the University of Oslo.

“This is not a good move,” Professor Ole Petter Ottersen, President of the University of Oslo told The PIE News adding that he fears Norwegian campuses will become “Europeanised”.

“This is not about money, but about values,” he said. “Norway prides itself on taking an international perspective that comprises the world at large and that emphasises the need for solidarity across geographical borders.”

Last year, 10,500 non-EEA students studied at Norwegian universities.

Ottersen is concerned that if the policy is passed, the country could go the way of Sweden which saw international student enrolments fall by a third between 2010 and 2011, from 22,000 to 14,7000 after fees were introduced.

“We know from Sweden that imposing tuition fees will cause a tremendous drop in applications from non-EEA students. It’s not a good thing for universities that develop and thrive on diversity.”

Norway’s Ministry of Education and Research confirmed that the proposed tuition fees would affect the majority of non-EEA students but some international students on certain scholarships and programmes such as aid programmes from third world countries would remain exempt from paying tuition.

In the most recent budget negotiations parliament voted against the proposal to introduce tuition fees, led by the Venstre (Liberal Party) and KrF (Christian Democratic Party).

The Ministry said a final decision for the 2015 budget will be made by the end of next month, with negotiations commencing from November 3rd.

Ottersen regards the government’s stance as contradictory: “The government places education as one of the most important focus areas in a global context.”

“It’s therefore a contradiction in terms that the very same government imposes an economic burden on non-EEA students, a burden that will be difficult to tolerate given the high living costs in this country,” he added.

“The principle of free education is one of the cornerstones of Norwegian education”

In an official statement Head of the ISU Abbas Sharif weighed in saying: “We cannot believe that the government will move away from the principle of free education, one of the cornerstones of Norwegian education.”

“The government has deliberately gone against parliament. ISU is proud that a united parliament voted against making education a commodity and hopes that the government’s proposal meets the same opposition this year,” added Sharif.

Campaigns against the legislation have continued online with the hashtag #stoppskolepenger (stop tuition fees) trending across the country.

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