Proposal extends support to all Norwegian students worldwide

While most European countries face budget cuts and severe limitations on public spending, Norway has swum against the tide and proposed finalising the long political process of providing students abroad with access to state funding worldwide. A new budget proposal would extend support to first-year Norwegian students in the United States.

But this latest stage in an increase of support for Norwegians studying in foreign institutions may fall prey to politics. “Don’t celebrate too early,” warned new Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Conservative Party leader Solberg’s new populist government will have to approve the proposal made on 14 October in the 2014 budget by the outgoing government of Jens Stoltenberg, which subsequently resigned.

The changing of governments in Norway can involve interesting political manoeuvres: often new activities, such as extending support for study abroad, are included in budget proposals that will limit the action space of a new government.

Over the past few years, Norway has gradually increased funding support for Norwegians studying in foreign institutions.

In 2011, the government opened up funding for four-year degrees from BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. In 2012 this was expanded to include remaining non-Western countries.

At that point, Norwegian students were entitled to state funding for full university degrees in all countries except one – the United States.

If the new proposal is approved for the 2014 budget, Norwegian students will be able to study, at any academic level, anywhere in the world with access to support in the form of loans and scholarships from the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund.

But in reality the new proposal is a reinstatement of access to funding that was removed in 1985, because the first year of a degree at an American university was considered to be at the same academic level as the final year of school in Norway.

Since then the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad, or ANSA, has lobbied hard for its reinstatement.

Earlier this year ANSA launched a social media campaign in which student members at universities around the world posed with pictures and buttons with the humorous message ‘#yeswecandy’, in support of first-year student funding in America.

The campaign garnered attention in the media and several Norwegian politicians openly supported the campaign, posting pictures of themselves with the buttons.

The president of ANSA Vibeke Munthe-Kaas was excited by the news in the outgoing government budget, and was proud that the ‘#yeswecandy’ campaign had borne fruit.

She told University World News that the availability of funding for first-year Norwegian students in America was an important investment for Norway and that she was delighted the government had finally accepted this – even if it was an outgoing government.

She said former students who had studied in the United States were found across Norwegian society, were hard-working and with their contacts in America constituted an important link to one of the world’s most dynamic countries.

“This is an insight that the pro-US coalition government shall have great difficulties not accepting,” said Munthe-Kaas.