Norway Abolishes Free University Education For People Outside Of EU/EEA

Norway has had a long tradition of offering free university education to people from all over the world, no matter which country you came from. They did not discriminate between foreigners, Norwegian citizens or EU-citizens, but this is all changing next year.

Starting in 2023, all universities must collect student tuition for all students outside of EU or EEA countries. The universities decide the prices based on actual costs, but the government expect the average price to be around 130,000 NOK ($13,000 USD) per year.

The most expensive courses can cost as much as 150,000 per semester. This means that getting a 3 year bachelor degree at a Norwegian university could end up costing as much as 900,000 NOK ($90,000), which is obviously a lot of money for most of us.

It seems likely that most courses will be considerably cheaper than this sum and closer to the average, but it will depend on the actual cost of running the courses. Courses with few students will be more expensive than large classes with hundreds of students with a single professor.

The main building of NTNU
The main building of NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) in Trondheim. Photo by Eirik Refsdal / CC BY 2.0.

Exceptions to the requirement to pay the tuition fee

The new rules for paying tuition at Norwegian universities are targeted towards foreigners without a familial relation to Norway or EU, and includes all of the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Africa.

However, there are some groups that will not be required to pay tuition at Norwegian universities in the future.

Some of the groups that will still get free tuition at Norwegian universities are:

  • Norwegian citizens.
  • Citizens from EU or EEA countries.
  • Students that participate in a foreign exchange student program.

So it will mainly require tuition for foreigners who have no connected to Norway, and are looking for a place to get a free university degree.

The main entrance to University of South-Eastern Norway at campus Bø. Bø is one of the cheapest cities for international students in Norway.
The main entrance to University of South-Eastern Norway at campus Bø. Photo by Nicklas Iversen / The Norway

Minister of Higher Education Ola Borten Moe threatens universities to not put the tuition fee artificially low

Ola Borten Moe clearly threatens that universities that put the student tuition artificially low or even free that they will also assume this cost to be the actual cost for Norwegian students, meaning that they will lose the public funding for that particular course in the coming years.

His logic is that if it’s so cheap or free for international students, then it should be free or cheap for Norwegian or EU/EEA-citizens as well, which are essentially getting paid by the government.

The universities could obviously not run without public funding, and are currently getting the equivalent of a student tuition paid by the government for each student.

The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences campus in Førde
The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences campus in Førde. Photo by: Evolelov / CC BY-SA 4.0.

Will this be a permanent change?

The newly added foreign student tuition was announced on October 6 as the government released their proposed yearly national budget for 2023.

It’s still not set in stone, and it’s still open for debate and negotiation until December 15, but it seems unlikely that this will change before the final national budget is announced.

Update: The national budget for 2023 has been finalized, and it’s now an official change.

No one can really know what the coming years are like, but keep in mind that this change was made by the Norwegian Labor party (Arbeiderpartiet), so it’s highly unlikely that other parties will revert the change in the coming years.

This is because the Labor Party is a party on the left side of the political spectrum, and most on the center and right side support this change.

So the only parties that probably opposes this change is those further to the left, such as the Red party (Rødt) or Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti). The Socialist Left Party agreed to the national budget that made this change, so this only leaves the Red party as a potential party to fight against it (and this is a pretty small party in Norway).

The main building at NTNU in Gjøvik
The main building at NTNU in Gjøvik. Photo by Premeditated / CC BY-SA 4.0.

We will get more info about the change in the future

There are many unanswered questions about this new policy right now, and many international students that are currently working on their degree are concerned.

We do currently not know if students who have already begun their education in Norway will be affected by the change or not.

There are rumors that foreign students already accepted at the university will get to finish their degree without paying, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Right now we just have to wait and see how this all plays out. We will surely get more information in the coming months, especially close to the summer of 2023 when it’s time to apply to the universities.

We will make sure to publish new information as soon as it’s available, so bookmark our website or follow us on Facebook to make sure that you get the latest updates!

5 thoughts on “Norway Abolishes Free University Education For People Outside Of EU/EEA”

  1. The decision of the Norwegian government is truly disappointing. I completed my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering last summer, and my sister is in her final year of medical school. We want to integrate our disciplines to build a medical technology startup, and we were planning to study in Norway for our master’s this year. We had the whole plan set years ago, but this decision changed everything for us. We cannot gather 130,000NOK for each of us yearly, it is an impossible amount. We are going to Germany now, which is the only country where we can turn our dreams into reality.

    • I agree! And if the point of this change is to only attract those who care for the quality of Norwegian universities, then making these same universities less accessible to those outside of the EU is illogical. Furthermore, countries outside the EU are typically poorer, which makes this decision detrimental to those with lesser means who desire to go to cheap/free college, reducing diversity in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomic background. Also, the fact that university in Norway was free was an additional attracting factor for those inside the EU who are now more likely to go to a closer, good college that has the bonus of being free.

  2. Considering high standard of the living in Norway, only rich people can afford such tuition fee and living costs together, this means only rich students (not necessarily skilled or good for Norway except their money) can study in Norwegian universities and most of the people in this class are not motivated enough to grow or shine like others, who know how precious this opportunity is!

    It’s really disappointing because me and my girl friend were studying hard and we also learned some Norwegian so we can move to Norway to continue our masters degree and live there!, now this amount of tuition fee is impossible for us and we need to either say goodbye to our dreams or maybe find elsewhere…

  3. This change, especially at the masters level is truly stupid. I’m from Canada and applied to study for a masters in Norway because Oslo has a program that suits my interests and I wanted to spend a couple years in Norway to see what life is like there. The masters programs are built around a year of course work and a year of thesis work.

    In Canada, research based masters programs are Paid, not pay for. Free tuition and unfunded research was at least justifiable but paying 13k USD a year to do a research masters? seriously? Norwegian schools are good quality, but we’re not talking about Cambridge/Oxford/Imperial/ETH here, people all over the world are not lining up to hire Norwegian grads with crazy salaries.


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