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Tuition fees For Members

Norway's plan to charge international students fees faces growing opposition

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Norway's plan to charge international students fees faces growing opposition
The Norwegian government's proposal to introduce tuition for some international students has received a lot of criticism. Photo by Timur Shakerzianov / Unsplash

The Norwegian government's proposal to introduce tuition for international students in Norway has attracted criticism from its politicians, students, and academia.

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The plan to introduce tuition fees for some international students studying in Norway – announced recently  as part of the Norwegian government's 2023 state budget proposal – has launched a row on the very principles that make up the country's education system.

A broad range of critics has emerged in the days following the announcement, ranging from the government's preferred budget partner (the Socialist Left Part) and students (the Norwegian Student Organizations) to, as the latest development, universities.

The Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Stavanger (UiS), Veslemøy Hagen, told The Local on Tuesday that the university hopes the proposal will be scrapped.

READ ALSO: Why international students in Norway may have to pay fees from next year

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"At this time, we do not know whether the fees will be mandated by the authorities or left to be determined by the universities themselves. What we do know is that the proposed budget takes away 15 M NOK annually, which we have to replace with tuition fees from students outside the EU/EEA. As a university with a highly international profile, we sincerely hope this proposal is not adopted," Hagen said.

Other universities that The Local has contacted, such as the University in Oslo and the University in Bergen, stated that it was still too early to say anything regarding potential tuition levels for international students.

Criticism from the Socialist Left Party

Given the Norwegian government doesn't have a majority in the parliament (Storting), it need will need support from other parliamentary parties to pass its budget.

But the Socialist Left Party (SV), the government's preferred partner to pass the budget - meaning it will have influence in the upcoming budget negotiation process – has already called the proposal "unwise."

On Monday, a press officer for the SV told The Local that Freddy André Øvstegård, the party's Education Policy Spokesperson, voiced notable concerns about the tuition fees proposal.

"We need more international exchange in higher education, not less. In the situation we are in now, it would be very wrong to close ourselves off from the world… If this is the way the government wants to face the crisis, it is an unwise way to do it. In times of crisis, we must stand together in the world," Øvstegård is quoted as saying.

"If the government decides to follow through on this, they will breach their own government platform. They have 100 percent of the responsibility for not breaking their own promises, so they have to make this right themselves," Øvstegård stated.

Student Organisation makes a clear stand against the proposal

Not surprisingly, the Norwegian Student Organisation (NSO) was the first to openly attack the tuition proposal.

NSO leader Maika Marie Godal Dam told The Local that the government's idea goes against the fundamental principle to free education in Norway and the government's own political platform, the so-called Hurdal Platform.

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"We've made it very clear that we don't support this proposal because, for us, it's a fundamental right to free education. The government's proposal to introduce a tuition fee for some students goes against the principle," Godal Dam said.

"We're worried that this will lead to the government introducing tuition fees to more of the education offered in Norway and that this is only the first step.

"It is shocking to see that the government is willing to abandon the Hurdal Platform one year after it was put forward. If the governing parties present a proposal that they both (declaratively) oppose – then it will be difficult for us voters to trust politicians," Godal Dam pointed out.

What we know about the proposal so far

Although details on the price of the proposed tuition have not been revealed yet, several other aspects of the proposal – including who it applies to, the timing, and expected savings – are known.

Should the new budget be adopted in the parliament, students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland will have to start paying fees from and including the Autumn semester of 2023. Students from countries in the EEA will be exempt.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about Norway's plan to charge international students fees

The fee would apply to international students who complete their education in Norway and not to exchange students who only spend part of their education at Norwegian institutions.

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As for the tuition fee, each educational institution will have the discretion of setting the tuition price, which – according to the Ministry of Higher Education – will have to cover at least all the expenses that a public university usually has in relation to an international student that is studying in Norway.

The fees will also only apply to new enrolments, so those international students already studying on courses in Norway won't have to pay fees from Autumn 2023.

According to the government, the sum of the budget savings and educational capacity that would be freed up through this proposal is estimated at around 1.2 billion kroner.

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