There are a total of 38 accredited (approved) higher education institutions in Norway (January 2017). There are 8 universities, 8 specialised university institutions (1 of which are art academy) and 22 university colleges. In addition, there are 17 non-accredited university colleges offering approved first degree programmes. Overall responsibility for accreditation rests with the Ministry of Education and Research, and it is regulated in the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges and in NOKUT's regulations, among others.
The universities and most university colleges are run by the Norwegian state, and studying at these institutions is free of charge. Students at private institutions pay tuition fees, but many of the institutions also receive financial support from the state. The Ministry of Education and Research has overall responsibility for higher education in Norway. See a list of accredited higher education institutions.
The Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS) administers admission to first degree level programmes (bachelor's, university college graduate or one-year programmes) at universities and university colleges. The Higher Education Entrance Qualification or a corresponding qualification is a requirement for admission to higher education, but the programmes can have different additional admission criteria. Some programmes require certain grades or certain combinations of subjects from upper secondary education. If a programme has many applicants, admission will normally be based on points calculated on the basis of the applicants' grades from upper secondary school and any relevant work experience.
Some programmes admit applicants without the Higher Education Entrance Qualification. This is called the vocational pathway ('y-veien'). Admission to these programmes is based on a relevant craft or journeyman's certificate or upper secondary vocational qualifications. It is up to the institutions to choose whether to admit students via the vocational pathway, and they must apply to the Ministry of Education and Research for exemption from the ordinary admission procedure (Higher Education Entrance Qualification).
Some private educational institutions have their own admission procedures, and applications to such institutions must be sent directly to the institution.
Credits, grades and degrees
Completed courses are measured in credits that comply with the European standard. A full-time study programme corresponds to 60 credits per academic year. Examination grades are awarded on a scale from A (best) to F (fail), where E is the lowest pass grade. Some examinations are only assessed as Pass/Fail.
Since 2003, higher education has been structured as three-year bachelor's programmes, two-year master's programmes and three-year PhD programmes, with some exceptions.
A bachelor's degree programme is a three-year course of study (180 ECTS credits). After completing your bachelor's degree, you can continue to a master's degree and a doctorate in accordance with certain rules.
Some bachelor's programmes have a fixed structure, while others allow you to choose between different courses after completing the first part of the programme. In study programmes where you have more freedom of choice, the combination of courses must comply with the guidelines of the educational institution in order to confer a bachelor's degree.
University college graduate programmes
There are some two-year bachelor-level programmes at university colleges that confer the title university college graduate.
One-year programmes/supplementary programmes/short programmes
There are also many one-year programmes, supplementary programmes and short programmes. 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.
Master's degree programmes
A master's degree programme is usually a two-year course of studies (120 ECTS credits). The programme builds on academic specialisation in the bachelor's degree and includes independent work.
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).
Doctoral degree (PhD)
This degree is based on a master's degree or equivalent qualification and is the highest academic degree in Norway. The study programme must be based on independent research conducted in cooperation with academic supervisors and other researchers, and it can be carried out within the framework of a researcher training programme.
Programmes of professional study
Programmes of professional study are characterised by fixed course plans over several years in a subject area.
Three-year programmes of professional study lead up to a bachelor's degree. Examples include nursing training and social work programmes.
Many university colleges offer four-year teacher training programmes. Candidates can be awarded the bachelor's degree after three years if the programme meets the requirements for a bachelor's degree set out in the regulations for the university college. Teaching qualifications for primary and lower secondary school can only be achieved after four years.
Five-year programmes of professional study (integrated master's degrees) are most common at universities and in the following subject areas: pharmacy, fisheries science, informatics, engineering, law, odontology, teacher training and economics.
Six-year programmes of professional study lead up to special degrees. Programmes in medicine, veterinary medicine, psychology and theology result in the degrees of cand.med., cand.med.vet., cand.psychol. and cand.theol.