Universities see sharp rise in applicants from abroad

Eight out of 10 Norwegian universities are experiencing strong growth in the number of applicants from abroad, with demand at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) rising as much as 184% for international programmes.

While OsloMet had 1,454 applicants last year for studies in international social welfare and health policy, international education and development, and applied computer and information technology, this year’s figure is 4,134, a growth of 184%, according to figures revealed by Khrono.

Other universities are also experiencing a noticeably increased interest from abroad.

“We have received a startlingly large increase in international applicants for masters studies,” Pro-Rector for Education at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Marit Reitan noted.

A total of 9,326 foreign applicants have applied for admission to NTNU this autumn, an increase of as much as 38% since last year.

At the University of South-Eastern Norway, the number of international applicants increased by 60%, from 2,159 to 3,468.

Also, the University of Stavanger has 4,115 international applicants for 301 study places, an increase from last year of 7.6%.

English taught masters degrees

International students applying to come to the University of Stavanger are mostly interested in the masters taught in English in data science with 422 applicants for 10 study places, followed by the masters in risk analysis and government (275 applicants for 26 places), masters in business administration and business innovation (225 applicants for 10 study places), masters in industrial asset management (223 applicants for 10 study places) and masters in energy, environment and society (222 applicants for 10 study places).

The University of Agder has received more than 2,000 international applications to ordinary bachelor and masters degrees that are taught in English. That is more than double the number from last year and 373 have qualified for those courses. The question is how many will accept and how many will eventually come, as there have to be fewer this year due to coronavirus restrictions, the University of Agder said.

Amine Fquihi, leader of the International Students’ Union of Norway, is not surprised by the increase. “Much of the reason can be attributed to the quality of the education provided in this country,” he says, pointing out that many Norwegian universities are ranked at the top of global rankings.

New tuition fee discussions

However, political parties in Norway are divided over whether to continue to allow international students to study without paying tuition fees and many oppose the current practice of making them a priority for student housing.

On 8-9 May the opposition Progress Party (PP), at their annual meeting, was set to propose that international students in Norway should pay tuition fees and that they should not be prioritised for student housing. Roy Steffensen from the PP has an influential role as chair of the education and research committee in parliament.

Also, the Conservative Party, which is currently leading the coalition government, wants to introduce tuition fees and remove the prioritisation for housing for all international students except those from the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

PP writes in their party programme that international students should not have any special advantages in Norway.

“Today we spend NOK3.3 billion [US$400 million] on free education for international students. And all the other parties are working for a significant increase in the number of exchange students. We think that it is wrong to prioritise to use so much [of our] resources on this,” Steffenson said, adding that the regulations for tuition fees also ought to be changed.