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Higher Education in Norway

There are a total of 53 accredited (approved) higher education institutions in Norway (spring 2015). There are 8 universities, 8 specialised university institutions and 37 university colleges, 2 of which are art academies. In addition, there are 22 non-accredited university colleges offering approved first degree programmes. Overall responsibility for accreditation rests with the Ministry of Education and Research, and it is regulated in the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges and in NOKUT's regulations, among others.


The universities and most university colleges are run by the Norwegian state, and studying at these institutions is free of charge. Students at private institutions pay tuition fees, but many of the institutions also receive financial support from the state. The Ministry of Education and Research has overall responsibility for higher education in Norway.

The University College of Southeast Norway is an accredited higher education institution. The controlling authority for higher education institutions in Norway is NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education).  

List of accredited higher education institutions.

Credits, grades and degrees

Completed courses are measured in credits that comply with the European standard. A full-time study programme corresponds to 60 credits per academic year. Examination grades are awarded on a scale from A (best) to F (fail), where E is the lowest pass grade. Some examinations are only assessed as Pass/Fail.

Since 2003, higher education has been structured as three-year bachelor's programmes, two-year master's programmes and three-year PhD programmes, with some exceptions.

Bachelor's programmes

A bachelor's degree programme is a three-year course of study (180 ECTS credits). After completing your bachelor's degree, you can continue to a master's degree and a doctorate in accordance with certain rules.

Some bachelor's programmes have a fixed structure, while others allow you to choose between different courses after completing the first part of the programme. In study programmes where you have more freedom of choice, the combination of courses must comply with the guidelines of the educational institution in order to confer a bachelor's degree.

University college graduate programmes
There are some two-year bachelor-level programmes at university colleges that confer the title university college graduate.

One-year programmes/supplementary programmes/short programmes
There are also many one-year programmes, supplementary programmes and short programmes. Many of them can form part of bachelor's degrees, and some can also form the basis for programmes of professional study in the subject, for example in psychology.

Master's degree programmes

A master's degree programme is usually a two-year course of studies (120 ECTS credits). The programme builds on academic specialisation in the bachelor's degree and includes independent work.

Some master's degree programmes are based on relevant work experience in addition to academic specialisation in the bachelor's degree. Such programmes are called experience-based programmes, and their scope can be either two years (120 ECTS credits) or one and a half years (90 ECTS credits).

Doctoral degree (PhD)

This degree is based on a master's degree or equivalent qualification and is the highest academic degree in Norway. The study programme must be based on independent research conducted in cooperation with academic supervisors and other researchers, and it can be carried out within the framework of a researcher training programme.

Programmes of professional study

Programmes of professional study are characterised by fixed course plans over several years in a subject area.

Three-year programmes of professional study lead up to a bachelor's degree. Examples include nursing training and social work programmes.

Many university colleges offer four-year teacher training programmes. Candidates can be awarded the bachelor's degree after three years if the programme meets the requirements for a bachelor's degree set out in the regulations for the university college. Teaching qualifications for primary and lower secondary school can only be achieved after four years.

Five-year programmes of professional study (integrated master's degrees) are most common at universities and in the following subject areas: pharmacy, fisheries science, informatics, engineering, law, odontology, teacher training and economics.

Six-year programmes of professional study lead up to special degrees. Programmes in medicine, veterinary medicine, psychology and theology result in the degrees of cand.med., cand.med.vet., cand.psychol. and cand.theol.