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The Norwegian higher education system

1. Diagram of the Norwegian higher education system

Ordinary higher education:

Diagram Norwegian Higher Education

2. Types of higher educational institutions

National name English name Accreditation EQF Types of qualifications offered
Universitet University NOKUT 6-8 University college degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, ph.d., dr.philos.
Vitenskapelige høyskoler Specialized University Colleges NOKUT 6-8 University college degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, ph.d., dr.philos.
Høyskoler University Colleges NOKUT 6-8 University college degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, ph.d.
Høyskoler med akkrediterte studietilbud University Colleges with accredited study programmes NOKUT 6-7 Bachelor's degree, master's degree

A list of publicly recognised higher education institutions can be found here:

3. Types of higher education

Qualification Qualification in English Level EQF/Cycle Length or ECTS Access requirement Access to further study
Høyskolekandidat-
grad
University college degree 6 / Short cycle 120 ECTS The Higher Education Entrance Qualification or corresponding qualification Access / transfer to bachelor’s degree
Bachelorgrad Bachelor’s degree 6 / 1st Cycle 180-240 ECTS The Higher Education Entrance Qualification or corresponding qualification Master’s degree
Mastergrad Master’s degree 7 / 2nd Cycle 120 / 300 ECTS *
A bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification. Additional requirements may apply. PhD degree
Doktorgrad (ph.d.) Ph.D. degree 8 / 3rd Cycle 180 ECTS A master’s degree or equivalent qualification. Additional requirements may apply. n/a

* In the subject areas of medicine, veterinary medicine, psychology and theology, six-year one-tier programmes of professional study (360 ECTS) lead up to special second cycle degrees. The programmes confer the following titles: Candidata/candidatus medicinae (cand.med.), Candidata/candidatus medicinae veterinariae (cand.med.vet.), Candidata/candidatus psychologiae (cand.psychol.), Candidata/candidatus theologiae (cand.theol.). See: Master's degree - long cycle

One-year programmes/supplementary programmes/short programmes

Universities and university colleges offer many one-year programmes, supplementary programmes and short programmes (årsstudier/påbygningsstudier/kortere studier). Many of them can form part of bachelor's degrees, and some can also form the basis for programmes of professional study in the subject, for example in psychology.

Lifelong learning

Adult education in Norway aims to enable adults to acquire necessary basic skills and allow them to formalise and develop their qualifications. The municipalities and county authorities are responsible for providing primary and secondary education for adults.

Continuing and further education programmes allow people to update their competence and improve their ability to adapt. Such programmes are intended to ensure that enterprises and organisations have employees with the necessary knowledge and skills.

  • Further education programmes lead to new formal qualifications at university and university college level (programmes for which ECTS credits are awarded). Some master's degree programmes are based on relevant work experience in addition to academic specialisation in the bachelor's degree. Such programmes are called experience-based programmes, and their scope can be either two years (120 ECTS credits) or one and a half years (90 ECTS credits). The admission requirements are a relevant educational qualification and minimum 2 years of relevant work experience. The experience-based master’s degree programmes do not qualify alone for admission to PhD.
  • Continuing education updates existing qualifications, and no ECTS credits are awarded.

4. Qualifications framework

The Norwegian Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (NQF) provides a description of the formal Norwegian education and training system. The Norwegian qualifications framework (NQF) consists of seven levels. A report referencing the levels of the NQF to the levels of the European Qualifications Framework of Lifelong learning (EQF) was presented by the Ministry of Education and Research in June 2014. In addition, the report presents the self-certification (assessment of compatibility) of the qualifications framework against the Bologna framework (QF-EHEA).

Levels 2-8 in the NQF are referenced to levels 2-8 in the EQF, while levels 6-8 of the NQF also correspond with the first, second and third cycle of the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA). Norway has no qualifications at level 1.

NQF levels are formulated in terms of learning outcomes, which are expressed in the categories of knowledge, skills and competence. The NQF also gives an overview of included degrees, diplomas, certificates, craft or journeyman’s certificates and documents of skill.

With time, qualification certificates, diplomas and other relevant documents will contain a clear reference to the appropriate EQF level, and the NQF will be adopted into Norwegian law as a regulation.

5. Quality assurance and accreditation

NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education) is the controlling authority for educational activity at all Norwegian universities, special field universities, university colleges and institutions with single accredited higher education programmes.

Through an evaluation procedure NOKUT decides on the recognition of the institutions’ internal quality assurance systems and carries out checks to see if their educational provision meets national quality standards.

6. Upper secondary qualifications giving access to higher education

The Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS, in Norwegian: Samordna opptak), coordinates the admission to ordinary undergraduate study programmes at all universities, university colleges, and some private university colleges in Norway.

There are several ways of fulfilling the requirements of the Higher Education Entrance Qualification:

Name Details/Specialisation Further study
Completed upper secondary education Fulfils all higher education entrance requirements. All first cycle programmes
Completed upper secondary education Fulfils higher education entrance requirements together with supplementary studies qualifying for higher education (6 additional subjects). All first cycle programmes
”23/5” path Fulfils higher education entrance requirements as long as the following criteria are met: Must be 23 or older during the year of application; Must have at least 5 years of work experience or education; Must document completion of supplementary studies qualifying for higher education (6 additional subjects: Norwegian, English, History, Social Science, Mathematics and Natural Science). All first cycle programmes
Steiner Waldorf School Students who receive a certificate with grades fulfil all higher education entrance requirements. Students who receive a certificate without grades receive an individual evaluation upon application to higher education. All first cycle programmes
Completed two-year programme in tertiary vocational training Fulfils higher education entrance requirements as long as the programme is approved by NOKUT. Norwegian language requirements apply. All first cycle programmes
Completed one year programme (60 credits) of higher education Applicants who have been admitted to higher education on the basis of assessment of real competence or similar exemptions, and have completed a one year programme, may fulfil higher education entrance requirements after an individual evaluation. All first cycle programmes
Foreign secondary education Must fulfill requirements as outlined for each country according to the GSU List. Academic and Norwegian language requirements apply. All first cycle programmes

For applicants with foreign education, the requirements are specified in the GSU list:

7. Useful links