We denounce the end of free education in Norway
Norway will no longer be one of the few countries in Europe with free education for all. On the 6th June the majority of the Standing Committee on Education and Research sent a proposal to the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) to change the law in order to allow the charging of tuition fees for students from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
Matteo Vespa, President of the European Students’ Union: “This is a tragic day for equal rights to education. The continuing trend of abolishing free access to education in Europe is deeply concerning. ESU reiterates that education is a fundamental human right irrespective of one’s origin. It furthermore creates great uncertainty for the international students that have already applied for this academic year, adding even another layer of irresponsibility to what is already a bad political choice”.
The leader of the Norwegian students’ union NSO, Maika Marie Godal Dam continues: “This is a betrayal in many ways! The government and the majority in the Storting have refused to listen to what consequences this will have for students and for higher education in Norway. We had expected far more from our top elected officials.”
In the national budget of 2023, the Norwegian Parliament decided to introduce tuition fees for international students from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland. This implies that the higher education institutions are forced to demand a cost-covering fee, from the fall of 2023. This budget proposal will also be followed by a change in the law, by introducing a new group of students in Norwegian higher education, third-country students. The vote on the change of the law will take place on Friday 9th June in the Storting. The introduction of tuition fees will break one of the most important principles of the Norwegian education system – the principle of free education. Moreover, it is also in conflict with the ruling government (consisting of the Labour party and the Centre party) political platform, which states that: “Higher education in Norway will be free of cost, also for international students”. With the introduction of fees, the government is violating their own platform and their own political programmes. Amidst massive opposition from the entire higher education sector SV, the Labour party and the Centre party could have reversed the decision: instead they are burying the principle of free education.
Other countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland have already had this in place for a few years and have seen a massive reduction in the number of students from these countries. Moreover, the case of Baden-Württemberg in Germany serves as a compelling example of the ineffectiveness of imposing tuition fees on international students. In 2017, the federal state introduced tuition fees for third-country nationals under the pretext of financial considerations. However, the same state government is now considering reversing this decision acknowledging the fees as a “genuine locational disadvantage” due to the decline in the number of international students enrolled in Baden-Württemberg since 2017. This decline not only hampers the internationalisation efforts of Baden-Württemberg as an academic hub but also adversely impacts tax revenues and exacerbates the shortage of skilled labour in the job market. As a result of the negative consequences, other German federal states refrained from their own plans to introduce such fees.
At its most recent Board Meeting in May 2023, the Board of the European Students’ Union adopted a resolution calling to stop the introduction of tuition fees in Norway. In the resolution, ESU underlines that higher education is not a commodity, and that the principle of equal right to education should be the keystone in Norwegian higher education policy, as affluent countries need to contribute more to higher education globally. The introduction of tuition fees will not improve the quality of education: on the contrary, it will threaten smaller professions and disciplines and will hinder student mobility, in a moment when increased internationalisation is necessary to answer the global questions of tomorrow.
You will find the press release of the Norwegian national union of students (NSO) here: https://student.no/aktuelt/pressemeldinger/gratisprinsippet-gravlegges-av-norske-politikere