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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tuition looms for foreign students

Norwegian universities have been hit by a wave of applications from foreign students lately, and some politicians suspect it’s because they’re still tuition-free for foreign citizens as well as Norwegians. That may change, if a growing bloc of politicians get their way.

The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF), The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) and the youth organization of the Conservative Party (Unge Høyre) have all launched proposals to start charging tuition fees to foreign students. Now the Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp), which is one of the three parties making up the current government coalition, thinks it’s “natural” for Norway to charge tuition to those coming from outside Norway.

Denmark started charging students coming from countries outside the European Union and European Free Trade Association in 2006. Sweden did the same last year and Finland may follow. Trygve Slagsvold Vedum of Sp, a party not known for going along with EU initiatives or mandates, told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday that he now thinks Norwegian politicians must discuss whether they should at least charge a portion of what it costs to offer a university education.

“It’s natural that we follow our neighbouring countries in this area,” Vedum told Aftenposten. If Norway continues to allow all students to study free of tuition fees, “there will be even greater pressure on Norwegian educational institutions in the years ahead,” Vedum said.

The Conservative Party (Høyre) itself, though, has no plans to support tuition fees for Norwegian or foreign students, despite its youth group’s wishes. “We think it’s positive that folks from outside the country want to study in Norway,” said Bent Høie of Høyre. “It helps boost the status of higher education in Norway.”

The head of the Norwegian students’ union also opposes any imposition of tuition fees. “Education must not become a commodity,” Øyvind Verdal told Aftenposten. “In Sweden, the number of international students has fallen by 79 percent and they’re losing a lot of diversity within research and education.”

In Norway, the number of foreign student applicants has risen by 50 percent in the past two years, at the same time students and officials alike complain of a lack of student housing and cramped facilities on campus.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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