Most popular studies in 2021 include customs control

When the application numbers for Norwegian higher education institutions were published in July, the most popular programme in Norway was a newly established bachelor degree course in customs and border control at the University of Stavanger (UiS).

The course, established in collaboration with the Customs directorate under the Ministry of Finance, received 2,064 first-priority applications and 5,066 in all, for 35 study places, which means 59 first-priority applicants per study place.

The second most popular study is the bachelor for social work education, part-time at VID Specialised University, the third-largest private higher education institution in Norway, with 687 applicants for 30 study places or 23 applicants per study place.

Third was studies in architecture at AHO – The School of Architecture and Design in Oslo – with 1,253 applicants for 60 study places.

The next studies on this ranking list are the bachelor degree in law at the University of Bergen (1,973 applicants for 390 study places) and University of Oslo (1,928 applicants for 234 study places).

First in the Nordic region

Susanna King, who is market coordinator at the University of Stavanger, told University World News that the new study programme in customs and border control is a bachelor degree with work practice, and also allows for “continuing and further education”. Norway is the first country in the Nordic region to organise customs education in this way.

The programme is interdisciplinary and includes courses such as law, commerce and movement of goods, intelligence, health and safety, psychology, culture and social sciences, conflict management and logistics.

Until now, the study programme has been organised as internal training in the Customs Service. But the Customs Service wanted to formalise the study programme in order to meet an increasingly complex social task, and to be able to give the customs service’s employees better opportunities for competence and career development.

After assessing 16 educational institutions, the Customs Service chose to collaborate with the University of Stavanger on the new study programme because of the unique competence in social security and risk management within research and education.

“The new study programme is interdisciplinary and prepared in close collaboration with the Customs Service. It’s an education that fits well into the UiS profile area and contains subjects within social security and risk management, as well as trade and law,” said King.

“The bachelor study programme in customs, goods movement and border control is a perfect example of innovation in higher education, developing the important experience and skills from the previous study programme at Customs Service and moving it on to a modern and formalised education model with UiS.”

She said bachelor degree candidates will also be given opportunities to take future jobs in other public enterprises, or in private industry.

“Those who want more academic extension also have the necessary basis to proceed to masters and doctoral degree.”

The Norwegian Ministry of Finance said that it was impressed by the high numbers of applicants to study customs and border control.

“These numbers demonstrate that many young people want to work in the Customs Directorate. And I understand this very well. The customs sector has an important role in society that more people might have learned to know through the television series Customs.

“The sector has demonstrated an impressive change over the past year and this new higher education model is one of several development actions in a forward- looking organisation,” Minister of Finance Jan Tore Sanner stated.

Record admissions nationally

According to the Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Services (Samordna opptak) which coordinates admission to 27 higher education institutions, there was a 2.2% increase in applications this year, with 3,304 more than in 2020 and a record total number of 152,730 applications. In addition, almost 13,000 have applied for a study place in vocational training.

Some 110,119 have been offered a study place, 2% more than last year, of whom 61,673 will be funded. Some 16,504 of those offered a study place are 30 years or older and 60% are women.

Some 17.2% of those offered a study place are in health-related fields of study, 16.5% in economics or administrative studies, 11.2% in the social sciences, 10.4% in teacher training and 9.2% in technological fields.

There are two measures on popularity of the studies. One measure is number of study places divided by number of applicants and the second measure is the threshold needed to get access, which is dependent on the competitive points the applicants have.

For the study in customs and border control, for instance, with 5,066 applicants, the threshold for being accepted is 58.6 competitive points, while the study in medicine at the University of Oslo has a threshold of 69.5 competitive points.

The most competitive study programme in 2021 is the honours programme in science at the University of Oslo.

Among the 10 most-competitive study programmes, five are in medicine at the three universities Oslo, NTNU-Trondheim and Bergen. The other most competitive study programmes are all found at NTNU-Trondheim: in industrial economy and technology management, cybernetics and robot technology and medical and biological chemistry.

The head of the National Union of Students in Norway (NSO), Tuva Todnem Lund, said that the high number of students accepted means more investment is needed in new students to ensure they get a good start to their studies.

Increased capacity needed

Nina Sandberg, the spokesperson in the parliament for higher education for the opposition Labour Party, who will become the secretary general of the Norwegian University Council from 1 October, told University World News there is a stable trend of Norwegian higher education seeing increasing numbers of applicants, but the pandemic has also strengthened demand as adults seek higher education when the jobs market is insecure.

“Unfortunately, the government has not followed up with sufficient capacity. This will mean that, in the fall, many qualified applicants once more will be left without a study place,” she said.

She said many will see the situation as unjust, because the government has cancelled the examinations due to the pandemic without ensuring that the students from secondary school with and without exams are competing on equal terms.

She said the Labour party has called for actions to strengthen the professional degree programmes, such as improving the throughput in teacher training, “but the government has not yet taken a grip”.

International students exempted

The government decided that students from abroad would be exempt from the travel restrictions to Norway from 1 August 2021. That means that international students with a study place in Norway can now come to Norway as planned.

“I welcome students from abroad in August. It was important for us for settle this issue now so that students can start planning their arrival. They still will have to follow the regulations for quarantine and testing,” Minister for Research and Higher Education Henrik Asheim said on 2 July.