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What a change of university minister could mean for students in Norway

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
What a change of university minister could mean for students in Norway
Norway will soon appoint a new higher education minister. Pictured is a lecture hall. Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

Norway will soon announce a new Minister for Higher Education and Research, which could have big knock-ons for international students in Norway.

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Norway's previous university minister, Ola Borten Moe, resigned on July 21st over a conflict of interest scandal.

The minister did little to endear himself to students and was declared a persona non grata by student organisations in Oslo and Bergen.

His most standout policy while higher education minister was the introduction of tuition fees for students from outside the EU and EEA. This move was criticised by both students, higher learning institutions, and opposition parties.

A new minister could be appointed as early as August 11th – before the new academic year begins at universities.

The Norwegian Student Organisation wants a minister willing to listen to and collaborate with students when formulating policy.

"We want a minister who invites collaboration and plays as a team," Oline Sæther, head of the organisation, told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Meanwhile, Kaja Ingdal Hovdenak from the student council at the University of Bergen said that a minister with a genuine interest in the education sector should be appointed.

"We have several expectations for the new minister. In a time when it is tough to be a student, we need a minister who has a genuine interest in the sector and wants to speak up for the students," She said.

Hovdenak believes that Moe didn't take students seriously enough.

"We want a minister who, unlike Borten Moe, listens to us and takes the students' situation seriously," she said.

While Moe can be considered an unpopular and controversial figure in the higher education sector, he has been credited with strengthening education in rural areas and saving the Nensa campus in north Norway.

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Who could take over?

Norwegian publication Khrono, which covers the higher education sector, has said that there are three frontrunners for the job.

Marit Arnstad, Marit Knutsdatter Strand and Oddmund Løkensgard Hoel are all MPs for the Centre Party. Hoel has served as the secretary of state for higher education under Borten Moe.

The publication reports that it is also possible that an MP from the Labour Party will take over the role.

Marit Knutsdatter Strand is a qualified lecturer and represents Oppland in eastern Norway. She is currently serving her second term on the education and research committee in parliament.

Marit Arnstad is the parliamentary leader of the Centre Party's MPs. Bjørgulv Braanen, the political editor of the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen, told Khrono that she is one of Norway's most skilled and experienced politicians.

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She also has experience in the education sector, having previously sat on the board at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and has previously served in parliament's higher education committee.

Hoel also has experience in the field and is a professor at the Norwegian University of Applied Sciences. However, Khrono writes that Hoel might not have a big enough profile to receive to do the job.

What will be on the new education minister's in-tray?

A new higher education minister will not mean a reversal of the introduction of tuition fees for non-EEA/EU students. One policy the government could formulate is the introduction of scholarship schemes to replace free tuition.

However, Hoel has previously said that scholarships for students from developing countries would likely fall under the minister of foreign affairs remit and come out of the aid budget.

Rising inflation and a tough rental market have led to calls for more government help for students from student organisations.

Another issue voiced by students in recent weeks has been a lack of student accommodation places, bottlenecking more students into the private rental market.

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