Norway's secondary education system is divided into three stages: primary, lower secondary and upper secondary (high) school. Norwegians study for 13 years.
Children enter school at the age of 6 and until they reach 16 they must finish the first 10 grades of school – primary and lower secondary stages, before entering high school.
High school (11-13 grade) is not compulsory, but finding a job without graduating from high school can be challenging, so about 70 percent of Norwegians choose to undergo this stage. In general, the school system in Norway is of high quality, and the country ranks third in the world in terms of expenses per student among OECD countries.
Stage of study
Name in Norwegian
Lower secondary school
High (upper secondary) school
More about each stage:
Primary school. A unified schedule in elementary school is compulsory. It includes various subjects: from languages and mathematics to gymnastics and physical education. An important subject is labor training. At this point, the children’s performance is not graded;
Lower secondary school. In secondary school first elective subjects are introduced – the second foreign language or advanced Norwegian/English. To enter high school, students must maintain a good grade point average;
Upper secondary school. High school studies are usually conducted in a separate building. Joining it is meant to be a new stage in life. Some subjects are compulsory (for example, computer science), and some are optional. Such disciplines are aimed at preparing for a university or future profession. Approximately every fifth Norwegian prefers to focus on vocational training at the high school stage – in this case, studies can last up to five years: 2 years of study and 2-3 years of industrial practice.
Almost all schools in Norway are state-owned and free for citizens. Foreigners also have the opportunity to study at a public school at any stage, but they will have to fully pay for their studies and learn one of the varieties of the Norwegian language. In English, you can study in private international schools on IB programs, A-Level, or SAT preparation courses. Cost of education ranges from 3,567 USD to 22,418 USD per year, depending on the type of school and program.
Education in Norway is traditionally distinguished by high-quality standards of student preparation, accessibility and openness of universities, top of the line equipment of campuses, developed educational infrastructure, and, of course, career prospects. Nevertheless, many foreign students are scared away by the extremely high cost of living and strict visa requirements.
High level of training and work ethic. The educational process is aimed at the practical application of knowledge: for almost a year out of three, a bachelor’s student is engaged in practical work in both humanities and technical specialties. Universities are well equipped and not overcrowded: often the teacher works with a group of 15 people. In Norway, the training of engineers (especially oil and construction workers), architects, entrepreneurs, and IT specialists is especially strong. In 2017, Norway ranked 2nd in the world in terms of labor productivity (GDP produced by one worker per hour).
Psychological comfort. Norway took first place in the ranking ofInternational Student Satisfaction according to StudyPortals. Students note an informal approach in the classroom, the convenience of the educational process, and the lack of prejudice against foreigners. In addition, according to the EF EPI rating, Norwegians are third in the world in terms of English proficiency, following the Netherlands and Sweden, which positively affects the adaptation of foreigners in this Scandinavian country.
The opportunity to study for free. The Norwegian government fully pays for students in public universities, despite the fact that more than 30% of students do not complete their studies within 8 years. Apart from small fees (from 31 USD to 61 USD), education for foreigners here is free in both Norwegian and English.
Simple admission process. You do not need to take internal exams. You will require a language certificate of the language of instruction (English or Norwegian), the official educational documents with apostille and translation, plus a package of accompanying documents, which may include a resume, motivation letter, academic essay, research plan, and so on.
Norwegian quality of life. The UN Human Development Report regularly notes that Norway is one of the best countries to live in. In 2019, the country took 1st place in the Human Development Index. Here are some of the highest salaries (9th place in the world), and life expectancy is longer than 82 years. Although the country is the main supplier of oil to Europe, Norway itself hardly uses any non-renewable energy sources (95% is hydropower). Lastly, many are delighted by Norwegian nature:
Norwegian visa. To study at school or university non-EU students will have to apply for a student residence permit. To do this, you must first obtain a national visa and confirm the presence of at least 12,352 USD on the student’s bank accountfor a year. Moreover, a student will have to go through the procedure of updating a residence permit each academic year.
The cost of living. In the world, there is one original way to determine the living costs of the country – the Big Mac index. It sorts countries by the price of the same-name burger. In 2018, Norway took 2nd place on this list, losing only to Switzerland. The minimum cost of living is about 1,507 USD per month, and the cost of renting a one-room apartment in Oslo starts from 904 USD. Largely due to the high cost of living in the country, the share of foreign students and graduate students is only 3.2% of the total — about 8.5 thousand people.
Few bachelor’s programs conducted in English. There are just over ten of them in state universities in the whole country: biology, Northern studies, games and entertainment technology, global environmental and development problems, and some other specialties (full list).
Norwegian. This Germanic language is spoken by 5.2 million people. Almost all of the speakers live in Norway. This is a mountainous country, therefore different regions of the country have strong dialects (two variants of the Norwegian language are even officially recognized in the country). However, if you want to expand the list of available specialties and universities for admission, you will have to learn Norwegian to a minimum of B2 level. This language is worth studying if you plan to stay in the country after studying.
Guidance in the admission process
Our staff will walk you through the entire admission process: from choosing a university and preparing documents to enrollment and obtaining a visa. We are always in touch and ready to answer any questions. UniPage experts will always objectively assess your situation and suggest the most suitable university options.
In public universities, higher education in Norway is almost free, not counting the formal service fees for campus maintenance, library, etc. Therefore, when choosing a university, it is worth evaluating its location, the availability of rental housing, and transportation costs. Studying in private universities will be expensive, for example, a master's degree at BI Norwegian Business School will cost 9,000 USD per year.
One of the bonuses of admission to Norway is the online submission of documents to universities. In the first stages, you don’t even have to send any official papers by mail, and you can come to the university 2-3 weeks before the start of training in order to go through the official student registration procedure.
An approximate list of additional costs could be as follows:
Apostille for 1 documentif required
Translation of 1 page of a document into Norwegian / Englishif required
Registration fee for the submission of documents
Insurance for a year (compulsory)
Student residence permit fee
Service fee for applying for a student residence permit
Education options in Norway
Not all foreign secondary qualifications are recognized in Norway. You may check the country-specific requirements using the GSU-list.
In general, if your country has an 11-year secondary education system, it is no use to submit documents to a Norwegian university, since this level of school education is considered insufficient for Norway. Unfortunately, in Norway, there are no English-language Foundation programs at state universities, nor preparatory language courses at universities (they are available only for accepted students). To date, applicants have several options for admission to bachelor’s studies in Norway:
After graduating from grade 11 it is best to study at a public university in your country in the closest specialty for 1-2 years and then apply to a Norwegian university. This may be the most affordable option depending on the cost of study in your home country;
After finishing the 9th or 10th grade, switch to the IB or A-Level program – certificates of completion of these programs allow you to immediately apply for bachelor’s studies. IB schools are located in all countries of the world, including all major cities of Norway;
Learn Norwegian and continue studying at a public school in Norway. However, due to the complexity and rarity of the Norwegian language, this option is not suitable for all students;
The cost of training in such a school starts from 9,171 USD per year, not including the application fee (about 102 USD), the cost of accommodation, food, insurance, guardianship, transportation and other related expenses. Other requirements are easy to meet: you need to provide an extract with grades from your school for the past 2 years, write a motivation letter by hand in the language of instruction and a letter of recommendation from the teacher. In addition, the student must be over 17 to enter the 12th grade for the IB high school program.
Today in Norway there is only one one-year preparatory Pathway Program for continuing education in English. It was developed jointly by the Norwegian Business School and the private Swedish University of Jonkoping. For admission, IELTS must be passed with a score of at least 5.0 and a verified copy of the school certificate with grades must be sent to the university. After the end of the program, you can begin training in the 1st year of the Norwegian Business School, but you can not enter the state universityor any other university in Norway after completing this program.
Due to the difficulties described above, many students prefer to complete their undergraduate studies in their own country and apply for a master's program in Norway, to which you can apply with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
Requirements for admission to universities in Norway
In Norway you don’t have to pass any specific internal examinations and go through the process of verifying previous education, but there are very strict language proficiency, GPA and application documents format requirements for foreign applicants.
It is important to have your language certificate on hand at the time of submitting your application. To confirm your Norwegian language proficiency you need to pass all parts of Bergentest at the level of B2 or higher or pass a language exam at the university with a grade that is no less than C+. In both cases, you will have to travel to Norway. To prove English proficiency you could pass an IELTS Academic or TOEFL ibt test.
When choosing a bachelor's degree in Norway foreign students should remember that most of the programs are taught in Norwegian and only about 15 programs are available in English.
Bachelor’s studies usually take three years to complete, but at the end of the studies, students receive a diploma equal to 180 ECTS. With so many educational hours, graduates can safely enter foreign universities where the Bologna system is in place. This educational scheme extends to the majority of natural, humanitarian, and social sciences. However, for a number of specialties, the duration of the study may be different:
Creative field programs can last for up to 4 years;
Education programs are 4 years (only in Norwegian).
In addition to fundamental knowledge, students acquire three types of skills during bachelor’s programs at Norwegian universities: analytical, theoretical, and practical. The first year of training usually has a fixed program with a large number of compulsory modules, and in the next two years, the student has the opportunity to choose the electives to refine their specialization.
In some special cases, there is no division into bachelor’s and master’s programs – this is the Norwegian analog of the Long cycle degree. Such programs generally have a strict structure – this is due to the great responsibility the universities have for their graduates:
6 years to study medicine, psychology, and theology (360 ECTS);
5.5 years for architects at the University of Oslo (330 ECTS);
5 years for lawyers and engineers at some universities (300 ECTS).
The Bachelor’s degree can be obtained at a university, specialized university, or a University College (Høgskole).
Colleges in Norway relate to higher education, after graduation the student is awarded a bachelor's degree. The training lasts 3 years. 97% of the programs are in Norwegian. Colleges have a number of peculiarities:
Lecturers without the status of professors can teach here. They have a PhD degree and work experience, but less research experience. Therefore, a college education is considered less prestigious but is more applied in nature.
Some of the professions are unavailable in colleges. To obtain some of these professions, you need to go to university. For example, elementary school teachers are trained in colleges, but subject teachers of secondary and high schools need to study at the university for 4 years. In colleges, you cannot study medicine, law, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, but some of the professions, however, are only available in colleges, for example, a police officer or a nurse.
There are few master's programs in colleges. However, some colleges have agreements with universities on the automatic admission of graduates to master's programs.
Admission to colleges that are attached to universities is similar to admission to any university: you must pass the language exams (min. B2), present your GPA (min C+), and provide evidence of funds. The only difference is that the grade point average requirements are often lower than at universities.
Masters in Norway
Master’s in Norway is a popular option for international students for several reasons: a wide selection of specialties in English, and the availability of Norwegian language courses for university students.
The master's program usually lasts for 2 years. Some MBA programs take between 18 and 24 months. Norwegian universities require in-depth knowledge of the discipline that the student intends to study in the master's program. Therefore, it is necessary to complete the bachelor's program in the same or related specialty: about 80 ECTS obtained during the bachelor's program should be for the disciplines associated with the master's program. If, after graduation, the student wants to drastically change specialization, it is better to consider studying in English-speaking countries or in the Netherlands as Norway has no Pre-Masters retraining programs. On the other hand, a number of business and entrepreneurship programs are oriented towards bachelors with a non-economic education.
Almost all universities require advanced knowledge of English (IELTS 6.5+, TOEFL 85), much less often – level B2 in Norwegian or English. Most of the programs are in English.
Doctoral studies in Norway
Doctoral studies usually last for 3, in some cases 4 years. Doctoral students study for free and can receive a salary of about 48,811 USD before taxes, if they were also able to get a job at the department (application is submitted separately). The amount may vary depending on your experience, age, and university.
All PhD programs at Norwegian universities are conducted in English, as many foreign researchers participate in them. There are a few exceptions for those wishing to study Norwegian linguistics and literature, but English will still be needed at the level C1. In addition, you must complete master’s studies (120 ECTS in the subjects related to the topic of doctoral studies), as well as have an impressive resume with publications and participation at conferences. In some universities, you can be accepted with a five-year specialist diploma.
In Norway, you can get a PhD without entering a doctoral program. For instance, for achievements in a certain field (writing a valuable monograph or collection of articles).
It is extremely difficult to obtain a full-time professorship at a university because in Norway there is a multi-stage academic hierarchy and high competition:
Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor (Førsteamanuensis);
The average age of a PhD candidate is 38 years old, and a senior lecturer/associate professor is 42 years old. Usually these 4 years the candidate holds temporary positions at the university or teaches at a university college. Only after that, if there are free places in universities, can he take the position of professor.
In addition to the main work, the teacher should spend about half of his time researching.
Salaries increase according to the status of a teacher, but even at the lowest level (holder of a PhD degree), the average salary is about 3,013 USD. In addition, all teachers have the status of civil servants and a number of special social benefits.
Norway has exactly the same requirements for foreign candidates, so the teaching environment in Norway cannot be considered closed. Also, female teachers are unlikely to experience gender-based discrimination at work, as they make up almost half of the total staff.
You can learn more about academic career in Norway here.
Bachelor’s and master’s university students of Scandinavian Studies or the Norwegian Language programs
3-12 months for studies
Depends on the country
Students of partner countries
Depending on your country you will have different scholarship programs available to you. The full list can be found on the official Diku website. If your country is not on the list on the website or the conditions do not suit you, then you can try to find university grants that partially cover the cost of living in Norway. Programs can be tracked on the website, as well as on the official websites of Norwegian universities.
Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that grants are issued only to exceptional students who not simply meet the minimum requirements, but stand out and outperform other applicants.
Student visa to Norway
Norwegian visa requirements vary greatly by country the student comes from. Citizens of Iceland, Denmark, Sweden of Finland do not need visas or residence for studies shorter than 6 months. For periods of studies exceeding 6 months they are required to report to a tax office in Norway for an ID check and inform them on their move to Norway.
Nationals of EEA/EFTA countries are allowed to stay and study in Norway for up to 90 days without a residence permit. Otherwise, they need to register with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration online and then with the nearest police station in person. The documents required are:
Passport / ID document;
Letter of acceptance from an accredited institution;
Proof of sufficient funds.
Citizens of the rest of the countries will need to apply either for a student visa (for short-term studies) or for a student residence permit / study permit (for long-term studies — longer than 3 months). The registration process for the latter takes up to 2 months, therefore, after receiving confirmation of enrollment from the university, it is necessary to begin collecting the documents for the study permit processing as soon as possible.
In order to successfully pass the review process of your application be sure to remember the following:
Minimum 12,352 USD for each year of study or proof of grant award. If the program is paid, then the amount of the cost of tuition should be added to this amount;
A contract with a landlord or accommodation in a dormitory/hotel;
Fee payment of 499 USD.
Make sure to check the exact fee and list of documents specifically for your country and the type of educational institution on the official website of the Norwegian Department of Migration.
Can a foreign student work in Norway?
All international students regardless of citizenship have the right to work up to 20 hours a week during the term and 35-40 hours during breaks and holidays. These hours are shortened if paid university internships are included in the study process.
The salary of an 18-year-old novice worker at McDonald's in Oslo is 16 USD per hour. If you properly plan your studies and work, you can earn more than 1,000 USD per month before taxes, which will cover part of the cost of living. However, it is worth considering that a foreign student must pass all exams on time in order to be able to extend a residence permit for the next year.
It is important to remember that when submitting documents for the extension of a residence permit, the account must have at least 12,330 USD.
Opportunity to stay and immigration to Norway
EU/EEA students can stay in Norway after graduation without any limitations except for the need to register.
Non-EU graduates under a student visa or residence permit have the right to legally remain in Norway for one year after receiving a diploma in order to find work. The main difficulty is that in order to obtain a residence permit for the purpose of work, you need to have at least 246246 NOK in your bank account. In addition, you will need to provide a bank statement for 6 months, a copy of the diploma or a confirmation of readiness to complete the program on time, proof of accommodations and a number of other formal documents. Thus, it is possible to apply for permission before receiving a diploma.
There are several ways to stay in Norway for a long time:
Find a job in the specialty and renew your work permit (residence permit) annually;
Continue education at a higher level;
Win a research grant at a university, study in doctoral studies and begin an academic career.
To apply for Norwegian citizenship, you must continuously live in the country for 7 years from the last 10, have a residence permit in Norway and don’t violate the laws of the country. From January 1, 2020, Norway allows dual-citizenship if the laws of the immigrant’s home country allow it. Consideration of an application for citizenship takes up to 1 year.
Accelerating the process of obtaining citizenship by marrying a Norwegian citizen is very difficult – in this case, the total period of necessary residence in the country is reduced to 3 years, but the duration of the marriage should be at least 7 years.
Employment prospects in Norway
Where a Norwegian diploma is recognized
It is important to remember that Norway is not a member of the European Union, however, in the framework of cooperation between the countries of Northern Europe, diplomas of Norwegian universities are recognized in Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark (except for diplomas in medicine and a number of special sciences). Diplomas of these countries and also Poland and Lithuania are recognized in Norway without any additional requirements. For most other countries a recognition procedure is a must.
The recognition of foreign diplomas in Norway is handled by NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Qualitative Assessment in Education). In general, the countries of Northern Europe and the Baltic have an active policy of rapprochement in the field of education and simplification of the process of mutual recognition of degrees and diplomas.
Chances for employment after graduating in Norway
In Norway, graduates of local universities have good chances of finding a job. Immigrants with higher education are employed almost as actively as locals. This conclusion can be drawn from OECD study conducted in 2018:
Labor involvement 1any work hours (%)
Labor involvement 2full time (%)
Several other factors for finding employment in Norway should be highlighted:
There are almost no issues with unemployment. Before the crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19, unemployment in Norway was 3.5% (February 2020). It was one of the best indicators in the world;
The largest number of vacancies in Norway are in the fields of healthcare, education, construction, engineering, tourism and IT;
Despite the fact that Norwegian universities do not occupy the top positions in the world rankings, the decisive factors for student employment are diligence, internships during studies, an active social life, real skills, knowledge of the local language, and personal qualities.
Test: does education in Norway suit me?
Only you can answer this question. But to help you understand it a little better, you could take this lighthearted test:
We tried to make the most comprehensive guide to education in Norway, but it is difficult to fit all of the information in one article. For that reason we have put the links to the major sources, where you can get more detailed information and find answers to your remaining questions.