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Norway's non-EU students to stay fee free

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Norway's non-EU students to stay fee free
Torbjörn Roe Isaksen (R) visits a school with the prime minister. File: PMO/Flickr
12:45 CET+01:00
Norway's new government has caused ripples among academics by floating the idea of non-EU students paying tuition fees - but parliament seems likely to oppose the reform drive.
Despite the backlash Education Minister Torbjörn Roe Isaksen retained a sense of self-deprecatory humour as he visited the National Students Union (Nationell studentorganisasjon (NSO) earlier this week. He was met by applause.
"Don't clap so much that you end up regretting it," the education minister quipped. 
He may be young and fresh-faced, but the education minister has already proved his battle-worthiness by launching the idea of tuition fees for students from outside the EU. The proposal has sparked debate in Norway, with representatives among university staff and students alike adding their concerned voices to the fray.
"The government's wish to introduce tuition fees for international students stands in sharp relief to the principle of equal right and access to education in Norway," Ola Magnussen Rydje, chairman of Norway's National Student Union (Norsk studentorganisasjon - NSO), told public service broadcaster NRK earlier this week. 
Tromsö University principal Anne Husebacke joined the choir of critics. 
"I don't think this is a good idea, as I think we have a responsibility to offer education to international students," Husebacke told NRK. "Many of them come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. In particular, we have many Russian students who would not be able to come here if tuition fees are introduced." 
Similar tuition-fee reforms have already been enacted in neighouring Denmark and Sweden. The net effect for Swedish colleges and universites has been an 80-percent reduction in non-EU students, which the Norwegian education minister interpreted as a cull on less proficient students. 
His critics may well have the last laugh, however, as it emerged on Thursday that a majority of Norwegian parliamentarians oppose his suggestion. 
The conservative-led government even faced flack from one of its coalition parties, as local media reported that the Christian Democrats this week decided it would vote against the tuition-fee reform. 
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