Norway is known for its fjords, Viking history and the Northern Lights, but did you also know that you can study in this Scandinavian country for free? Find out more about its universities and degree programmes

With a population of just over five million, Norway is known for providing quality higher education.

What's more, education is free at all levels, meaning that international undergraduate and postgraduate students don't have to worry about tuition fees.

There's also no need to worry about getting to grips with Norwegian, a tricky language to master, as an increasing number of degree programmes are taught in English.

Often ranked as one of the best countries to live in, Norway has one of the lowest crime rates in the world - making it a safe place to live. During your stay you'll be able to experience the midnight sun in the summer and the famous Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in the winter. Nature lovers will be able to explore mountains and fjords, while metropolitan cities provide arts and culture.

Norwegian universities

Norway has three types of state-owned higher education institution. These include universities, university colleges and specialist colleges.

There are eight universities and these include:

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • University of Agder
  • University of Bergen
  • University of Nordland
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Stavanger
  • University of Tromsø.

Eight university colleges include:

  • Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
  • Saami University College
  • Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
  • Oslo National Academy of the Arts
  • Østfold University College
  • University College of Southeast Norway
  • Volda University College
  • Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

Five specialist university colleges include:

  • Bergen Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration
  • Molde University College
  • Norwegian School of Sports Sciences
  • Oslo Norwegian State Academy of Music
  • The Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

The country also has a number of private higher education institutions.

The University of Oslo, University of Bergen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and University of Tromsø all feature in the QS World University Rankings 2018, and rank 142nd, 164th, 259th and 367th respectively.

The Norwegian academic year runs from August to June, split into two terms: autumn (August to December) and spring (January to June). Broadly speaking, the structure of the higher education system in Norway is very similar to the UK.

For some idea of where to study, Bergen, Kristiansand, Oslo, Tromsø and Trondheim are popular student destinations.

Student exchanges

Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.

Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative, for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.

This information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the European Union and will be updated if changes happen.

Several institutions, such as the University of Oslo and the Norwegian University of Science of Technology, also offer their own exchange programmes.

Degree courses in Norway

Higher education institutions in Norway follow the Bologna Process, so the type and structure of programmes are similar to those in the UK.

Bachelors courses usually take three years to complete and are available in a variety of subjects.

Teaching methods include lectures, seminars and project work. Laboratory work, excursions and field trips are also mandatory in certain subjects. Students are typically assessed through end-of-course exams - either written, oral or both - using the A-F grading scale.

For entry onto an undergraduate programme you'll need a secondary school leaving certificate as a minimum requirement.

You can search for Bachelors degrees in Norway at Study in Norway - What can I study.

Masters degrees

Thanks to the country's welcoming attitude and the fact that an increasing number of postgraduate courses are now taught in English, Masters study in Norway is a popular option with international students.

Programmes are available in a range of subjects and typically take two years to complete. Like Bachelors degrees, Masters courses are taught through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops. Overall, Masters generally consist of 120 credits, with each module being assessed individually. To complete your degree you'll be required to submit an independently researched dissertation.

To apply for a postgraduate course in Norway you'll need to have completed a Bachelors degree. Some institutions may require you to have studied a subject relevant to your chosen Masters programme at undergraduate level.

Search for Masters degrees in Norway at Study in Norway - What can I study.

PhDs

Doctoral degrees last for three years and include a mandatory thesis component. However, many PhD students follow a structured doctoral programme for four years, with the additional year used for professional development activities such as lecturing and teaching.

Students are allocated at least one supervisor for their thesis, which is evaluated by at least three senior academics. One of these must be from another university, with another ideally from outside of Norway. The student delivers at least one public lecture, defending their thesis before the reviewing committee.

Applicants require a Masters degree or a professional degree, and PhD candidates are legally considered to be employees of the university rather than students.

Course fees

Most higher education institutions in Norway are funded by the Ministry of Education and Research, and therefore don't charge any tuition fees. This means that undergraduate and postgraduate students, both local and international, study for free.

However, if you choose to study at a private institution you will be required to cover tuition costs, although these are usually cheaper than their UK and European counterparts. Foreign students pay the same fees as Norwegians.

While tuition is free, students are required to pay a small semester student union fee, granting them access to exams, cheap travel, and health, sports and counselling facilities. Expect to pay in the region of 300-600 Norwegian Krone (NOK) per semester (approximately £28-£56).

Funding to study in Norway

While tuition fees are non-existent, living costs in Norway are high - especially in popular tourist and student cities such as Oslo and Bergen.

However, to help with maintenance costs, The Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund allocates grants and loans according to an official cost of living estimate, with support potentially exceeding NOK 108,999 (approximately £10,081) in 2018.

This initial loan (40% of the loan can become a grant) covers accommodation, food and course costs, and all students are eligible providing they meet certain criteria - for example, that they pass their exams and earn less than NOK177,257 (approximately £16,394) per year.

Find available scholarships and grants at study in Norway.

How to apply

Applications for Bachelors courses are centralised through the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS).

For Masters degrees, applications are made directly to the chosen institution, which will examine your documentation, check your eligibility, inform you if you need to pass an entrance examination, and issue your letter of acceptance.

Each institution and course has its own additional admission requirements and application processes, so check with your university before applying.

Regardless of your level of study, you'll be required to submit a completed application form and academic certificates. For some programmes, you'll also need to pass an aptitude test and/or submit a personal statement.

Application deadlines for international students usually fall between December and March (for courses beginning in the next academic year), but you should check with your institution.

Language requirements

The primary teaching language is Norwegian, but English is widely spoken as a second language both in and outside the classroom, so you don't necessarily have to learn Norwegian to get by.

However, having a grasp of Norwegian will help you to settle into your new surroundings and will allow you to communicate with other foreign students from Denmark and Sweden, so don't turn down an opportunity to learn another language. Skills of this nature impress employers when applying for jobs.

Bear in mind that some programmes require proficiency in the Norwegian language. Those that do are usually preceded by an intense one-year language course for international students.

Student visas

While Norway isn't a member of the European Union (EU), it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). This means that EEA citizens can study in Norway for three months before having to register with the police.

All students who plan to stay in Norway for longer than three months will need a student visa/residence permit - non-EEA nationals must contact their Norwegian embassy for this before travelling.

There are no processing fees for EU or EEA students, but other applicants will have to pay. You should begin the visa application process as soon as your admission is confirmed.

You'll find everything that you need to know about visa requirements by contacting the embassy or high commission in your home country. For more information, see Study in Norway - Student residence permit or the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).

This visa information is still valid following the UK's decision to leave the European Union and will be updated if changes happen.

Comparison to UK qualifications

To find out whether your qualifications are recognised by Norwegian institutions, check the GSU-list.

Thanks to the Bologna Process, UK employers will recognise any Norwegian Bachelors, Masters or PhD that you gain.

Find out more