Foreign students stream into Norway

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The number of foreign students at Norwegian colleges and universities has tripled in recent years, while record numbers of Norwegians are applying for spots as well.  All of them are taking advantage of the lack of tuition fees at the country’s state-funded institutions of higher education and prospects for a good job in Norway upon graduation.

The number of Swedish students has risen from 526 in 2008 to 1,631 last year, according to fresh figures from the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU). Russian students increased from 692 to to 1,500, Germans from 967 to 1,397 and Chinese from 583 to 1,036.

19,000 nationwide
“English-language programs and free higher education make Norway an attractive land for students,” NIFU reported on its website. Foreign students now total more than 19,000 nationwide, with Swedes making up the largest single group. The Swedish influx is “a relatively new phenomenon,” according to NIFU.

The next largest groups of foreign students come from France (684), Denmark (632), Spain (566) and Iran (537). The number of Danish students has more than doubled since 2008, according to NIFU, which gathered its numbers from the state database for statistics on higher education (DBH).

“I wanted to experience the world and thought Norway was exciting,” one of the Russian students, Tatiana Yuryeva, told newspaper Aftenposten. “I’m from a small town in Siberia, so Norway was fine for me.”

Students surveyed cited the English-language programs available at Norwegian colleges and universities and the lack of tuition fees as the top reasons for their decision to study in Norway. Most European countries have imposed tuition fees, including Sweden and Denmark, which helps explain the large increases from those countries.

More Norwegians, too
The foreign students also said they viewed Norway as a modern and safe country, with beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities. Fifth in line were the institutions’ educational and professional reputations for quality.

NIFU also reported a record-high number of Norwegian applicants to state colleges and universities. After a dip in applications during the late 1990s, they’ve increased steadily since 2000 and hit nearly 120,000 for admission in 2013. That’s 50 percent higher than in 2000, according to NIFU.

The biggest growth is in the areas of science and technology programs, along with students planning to major in economics and business administration.

NIFU linked the growth to a general increase in the tendency for high school graduates to continue with higher education, along with a general increase in the Norwegian population. Educational reforms and expansion of study programs are also attracting more students, along with an increase in the number of employers requiring at least a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s or PhD.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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