An announcement was made in the country’s state budget that public universities would see a real-terms cut in funding – something the government said it expects institutions to “earn back through tuition fees” starting Autumn 2023.
However, according to the University of Stavanger’s international office chief, no real communications have been made. While most universities vehemently opposed the proposal, it was approved by Norwegian parliament before Christmas.
“This is very problematic – we cannot charge tuition fees until a change in the law has actually been made,” Bjarte Hoem told The PIE News.
The budget cut, he explained, does not mean an actual change in law yet – existing law, in fact, prevents institutions from charging such fees – meaning most are left extremely confused about the next steps.
Minister of Research and Higher Education Ola Borten Moe said in a conference with higher education institutions on January 10 that a decision “has been taken”, which organisations will have to accept.
“The government, the Conservative Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Progressive Party are in favour of this, so this will be worked through. It is not fruitful to take up this debate again,” Moe warned, referring to the debate in parliament that took place in December.
“In the vast majority of cases, Norwegian students have to pay tuition fees to study abroad. There is no reason why it should be any different here. Norway will still be open to students from all countries, but we think it is right and reasonable that they also pay for themselves,” Moe also said previously.
“Neither… a change to the law has been adopted, nor have we received any information about when this will happen”
Submitted for consultation, the law will most likely be implemented at the end of January.
As most universities’ application deadlines for the next intake were at the end of 2022, students who have already applied for Autumn 2023 will be given an ultimatum – pay the tuition or withdraw your application.
Those who choose to pay will then need to pay by the end of May 2023.
The cuts have also led Stavanger to warn its employees of potential downsizing, costing the university 7.5 million Norwegian kroner for just one semester, and an estimated NOK 30m from 2025.
“We react strongly to [Moe’s comments], that a decision has been made, when that decision came in the form of a state budget.
“Neither a regulation nor a change to the law has been adopted, nor have we received any information about when this will happen. Meanwhile the admission process for the next academic year is in full swing, and applicants are probably wondering what is happening,” Hoem insisted.
Stavanger has made headlines in recent days as it has publicly released its projected tuition fee costs – something it is extremely reluctant and opposed to doing.
Master’s degrees in technology, natural sciences and performing arts will cost around NOK 150,000 (£12,250), while business school, humanities and health masters will cost around £10,200. Bachelor’s will be cheaper at around £6,500 per year.
However, Hoem pointed out that this will be only a “marginal cost” – the actual will be much more – and may have to be increased further to be in line with other Norwegian institutions, as the figures are “only indicative”.
“We expect to lose most of our non-EU students if they have to pay to study”
“We chose to set the fees at marginal cost, that is the extra cost of including one more student in a study program which is already up and running and has available space. It does not include the actual cost of academics and infrastructure,” he explained.
Hoem is worried about the optical damage this will do to Norway’s study destination clout, and to the region Stavanger lies in.
“We expect to lose most of our non-EU students if they have to pay to study, as happened in neighbouring countries when they did the same.
“The Stavanger region is a very international one, with a demand for highly skilled professionals, and many of our non-European candidates have ended up living and working here,” he added.
The country’s University and College Council has told Norwegian news publication Khrono that it is drawing up plans to tackle the problems that come with introducing tuition fees.
Khrono also said that a team of universities – including the Universities of Bergen, Tromsø, Oslo and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology – has already agreed to form a committee attempting to figure out how tuition fees should be calculated. A proposal will be drawn up in the coming weeks.