Higher Education System in Norway

Acceptance to higher education requires either fulfilled three years of upper secondary school with general university admissions certification. This is awarded non-vocational students or vocational students who choose to not take their apprenticeship. Conversely study competence can be achieved by the so-called 23/5 rule where applicants must be 23 years of age and have a total of five years of upper secondary education and work experience as well as have passed courses in Norwegian, English, mathematics, science and social studies. To be accepted as certain lines (for instance engineering) advanced courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry must be passed.

Admission to bachelor level programs is coordinated through the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service based on a point scale, with the highest ranking students offered a place. Points are awarded based on average grades from upper secondary school, but additional points are awarded students with secondary two-year course specialization, science specialization, age and fulfilled one year of higher education, military service or folk high school. Secondary school grades can be improved to increase points, but 40% of the places are only offered based on original transcripts without age or study points.

In 2003 a national reform, called the Quality reform, was implemented throughout the entire national higher education system. Norway was one of the first countries in Europe to implement the Bologna convention, thus creating a 3+2+3 year system in accordance with the Bologna Process.

A further step was taken in 2005 when the Act Relating to Universities and University Colleges and the Private Higher Education Institutions Act were merged into one common Act, the Act relating to universities and university colleges.The common act ensures greater equality between the public and private higher education institutions, thus focusing more on the quality in higher education than ownership. The evaluation of Quality Assurance Systems at and accreditation of both public and private institutions are handled by a national agency for quality assurance, NOKUT.

First Cycle
Most students that fulfill the requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway are accepted to three-year Bachelor programs.

Second Cycle
Entrance to the two-year master programs are based upon the academic qualifications (grades) from the bachelor level.

Some programs (including architecture, business management at NHH, engineering at NTNU), Master of Dentistry and Master of Laws are five-year programs (one-tier degrees).

Three types of master's degrees are offered: Master of Science (science and business), Master of Philosophy (humanities and social studies) and Master of Technology (engineering).

Professional Degrees
Some professional oriented programs have been granted an exemption from the Bologna system. Physicians (cand.med.), veterinarians (cand.med.vet.), psychologist (cand.psychol.) and theologians (cand.theol.) are therefore still awarded degrees for six years of study.

Third Cycle
Doctor Philosophae degrees are awarded after three years of research-oriented education. Most programs also include one year of compulsory teaching as part of the education, making the total length of the program four years.

System of Grading
According to the ECTS-system the grading are given according to scale of six grades, ranging from an A to F, with A being the best and E the worst passing grade. F is a fail.

A normal study progression awards 60 credits (stp) per year (30 per semester), most institutions either use a 7.5 or a 10 credit block system.

Examinations are usually held every semester, in December and June, although exceptions occur.

Old system
Prior to 2002 the higher education in Norway had a significantly different system of education with roots back to the start of higher education in the country. It was based on a 3.5 or 4 year cand.mag. degree supplemented with a Masters or hovedfag lasting 1.5 or 2 years. Total study time was five years within sciences while it was six years within social studies and humanities. Master's degrees were named based on the line of study, for instance cand.scient. within science, cand.polit. in political studies or cand.oecon. within economics. Certain professional studies, such as medicine, law, and some engineering and business administration courses had professional studies that offered full-length degrees (without issuing cand.mag. titles). The titles awarded were cand.jur. (law, 6 years), cand.med. (medical doctor, 6 years), cand.psychol. (doctor of psychology, 6 years), siviløkonom (business administration, 4 years) or sivilingeniør (engineering, 4.5 years). NHH had a monopoly educating siviløkonoms while NTH had a monopoly educating sivilingeniørs. Doctorate studies were offered on top of the masters.

Grading was performed on a 1.0 to 4.0 system, with 1.0 as the best grade and 4.0 the worst passing grade. A total of 41 different grades could be awarded with the system. Credits (then called vekttall) were issued based on a nominal study of 20 credits per year (or 10 per semester).