Are University Degrees Free In Norway? (Updated With New 2023 Information!)

Getting a university degree can be very costly in certain parts of the world, with tuition that can cost several thousand dollars per year. You might have heard of the rumor about the free university in Norway, but are really university degrees free in Norway?

University degrees in Norway were almost completely free until 2023, but now has tuition for all students outside of EU/EEA countries. This tuition cost around 130,000 NOK ($13,000 USD) per year, but is free for Norwegian, EU or EEA citizens.

The only fee you need to pay to study at a university in Norway if you’re a Norwegian, EU or EEA citizen is a semester fee (semesteravgift). This is between 500 and 900 NOK ($55 – $100) every semester, and will be the only fee you need to pay to study.

Let’s take a closer look at the cost of getting a university or college university degree in Norway, for both international and Norwegian students.

PS. this article has been updated with new information since there was a big change to the way foreign students pay tuition at Norwegian universities beginning in 2023.

Domus media
Domus media is part of Universitetet i Oslo. Photo by Ryan Hodnett / CC BY-SA 4.0.

In addition, you will also need to pay for books, and in certain cases also equipment that you need to be able to complete the courses.

The exact cost for the semester fee will vary on where you study, and is decided by the university and the main student organization at the university.

The cost of going to university in Norway for foreign students

Beginning in 2023, all foreign students from outside Norway, EU or EEA countries have to pay a regular tuition fee to attend university.

This tuition fee varies between universities and courses, but is generally around 130,000 NOK ($13,000 USD) per year. You will need to pay this fee by either cash or loan to be able to study in Norway.

This tuition fee is in addition to all other costs you will have, such as buying books, having a place to stay, and costs to eat and live your life.

UDI requires all international students to have at least 128,887 NOK per year available to spend on living costs, so the total costs per year is around 260,000 NOK ($26,000 USD) to study in Norway for a single year.

So a 3 year bachelor’s degree could easily cost you 780,000 NKO ($78,000 USD), making it a costly affair.

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.

How can the Norwegian universities be free for Norwegian and EU/EEA citizens?

Many people are confused by how the universities in Norway can be free when both teachers, researchers and everyone who works in the school administration need to be paid a wage. The reason why universities are free in Norway is because they are founded by the government.

In other words, part of the tax every Norwegian pays is used to run the universities in Norway. Pretty much all of the universities in Norway are public, which means that they are both owned and funded by the government. They get all their money from the government, and will not have to rely on either tuition or donations.

The university itself will get money proportionally to how many students they have, so they will want to have as many students as possible to get as much money as possible from the government.

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.

Private universities in Norway

There are a few private universities such as BI or NLA, and these have a tuition for everyone. We don’t have all that many private universities in Norway, and most of the private universities are specialized in niche education like theology.

The government pays these universities as well, but part of the operational cost is from co-payments in form of tuition. These universities are free to choose their own tuition fee, but expect around 70 – 100 000 NOK per semester.

In other words, these are exactly the same for Norwegian, EU, EEA and other foreign students, since the government will not pay tuition fee for anyone at these universities.

Norway usually offers a loan for students to cover their tuition, but this is not available to foreign students. This makes it possible for pretty much anyone in Norway to study at these private universities, but the students will have to pay the tuition fee back in monthly payments after graduating.

PS. the best rated universities in Norway are publicly owned, and these private universities are generally not considered to be any better than the public counterpart.

BI's campus
BI’s campus in Nydalen in Oslo. Handelshøyskolen BI is probably the most well-known private university in Norway. Photo by Bjoertvedt / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Getting a free education in Norway can still be expensive because of other costs

There are many young students from EU or EEA countries that dream of coming to Norway to get a free university degree, and that’s great!

But even though the school tuition is next to none, it won’t be very cheap to study here for 3 – 5 years to get a degree. You will still need a place to stay, food to eat, money to buy books, and some money to life a normal life outside of the university.

These things are not very cheap in Norway. Housing in the major cities where the most well-known universities are tend to be insanely overpriced, and you might actually have to pay 10,000 NOK or more for a single room in Oslo! It’s more reasonable in the smaller cities with universities, but the living cost in Norway is still very high.

Apartment building in Oslo2
Apartment building in Oslo. Photo published with permission.

This means that it’s unfortunately not possible for most people to come to Norway to get a university degree. You will be allowed to have a part-time job while studying, but this might not be enough to cover all your bills and expenses while living in Norway.

Norwegian students will get a type of combined scholarship and student loan where they get paid around 9,000 Norwegian kroner per month for studying, but this is not available to foreign students, so you will need another method of financing the living cost if you aren’t Norwegian.

Norwegian bank notes
Norwegian bank notes. Photo by Nils S. Aasheim/Norges Bank / CC BY-ND 2.0.

How to go to university for free in Norway

In order to get a free university degree in Norway, you need to fit into one of three categories:

  1. You are a Norwegian citizen.
  2. You are a citizen from a EU country.
  3. You are a citizen from a EEA country (like Iceland or Liechtenstein)

Anyone from any of these criteria can freely apply for university spots at any Norwegian university without any restrictions or having to pay a tuition fee.

In addition, you can study for free in Norway if you are part of an international student exchange program. This generally means that you study in Norway for either 1 or 2 semesters, as part of your degree from another university in your home country.

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

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