Tag: Norway

New study on how Norwegian students make decisions about outward mobility

A new report from NIFU has examined in more detail why Norwegian students choose to go abroad and how they find information about countries and  institutions they would want to study in.

According to most recent OECD Data (Education at a Glance 2016), about 6% of the students in OECD countries are international students, and the ratio of incoming and outgoing students can vary substantially between countries. While studies have examined the motivation of students to go abroad in other contexts (see for example this study for UK), there are few comprehensive studies in the Norwegian context, the last study of this kind being conducted about 15 years ago.  One could argue that Norway is an interesting case for studying outgoing students in a European context. It has traditionally had a large number of outgoing students and a student loan/support system that is favourable for studies abroad, as it also opens for support for tuition fees (up to a limit).

The NIFU study is based on a survey that was the largest of its kind in Norway, covering 5464 students who had obtained support from the State Loan fund to study abroad for a full degree. The survey shows that students are in general rather happy with their choice to study abroad.




Guest blogger: Higher Education Learning Outcomes – do they matter?

Kvilhaugsvik_Hanne

Hanne Kvilhaugsvik (University of Bergen)

Hanne Kvilhaugsvik is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen. Her research interests are organizational change in universities, governmental steering of higher education, and university governance. Her PhD project explores how learning outcomes and criteria of relevance for the labor market are used to evaluate and steer higher education in Norway and Denmark. This blog post is based on material from her master’s thesis in Administration and Organization Theory from 2015.

By the end of 2012, Norwegian higher education institutions were required to introduce written descriptions of the intended learning outcomes for each and every course unit and study program, in every discipline. Learning outcomes are connected with qualifications frameworks, the Bologna process, and the OECD, and have therefore been introduced throughout Europe during the last couple of years. So, what happens to higher education institutions when learning outcomes are introduced? Do they improve the quality of education and provide transparency, or are they simply formal requirements?

What are learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes can be defined as: “[…] written statement[s] of what the successful student/learner is expected to be able to do at the end of the module/course unit, or qualification.” (Adam, 2004: 5). In pedagogy, learning outcomes have been connected to a paradigm-shift “from teaching to learning” or “from input to output”. The recommendation is to use expected learning outcomes as a starting point for planning course units and study programs (Biggs and Tang, 2011). This is described in contrast to planning based on traditional input factors, such as reading list and content descriptions.

Learning outcomes can be understood as administrative tools or formalities. However, they have increasingly been described and promoted as instruments for reform and change (Lassnigg, 2012; Bjørnåvold and Coles, 2007). There is no shortage of goals for using learning outcomes: To improve the quality of education, provide transparency, ensure relevant qualifications for the labor market, and provide better opportunities to steer education. Learning outcomes can therefore be understood in connection with New Public Management ideas, and especially with ideas of reforming higher education towards more ‘complete organizations’ (Brunsson and Sahlin-Anderson, 2000). While learning outcomes have been studied much within pedagogy, there has been less research on learning outcomes as political instruments or policy tools (Souto-Otero, 2012). It is therefore interesting to study how learning outcomes are introduced and defined as instruments in higher education.

A case study on learning outcomes in higher education 




Norway: expert group suggesting the introduction of contracts

norwayflagIn April 2014, the Norwegian ministry of education set up a new expert group to examine the funding system in Norwegian higher education. At the time, we also interviewed professor Bjørn Stensaker who is a member of this expert group, and he highlighted that “one of the main aims of the Commission is to look into how quality within the sector can be fostered through the funding system.

The mandate of the expert group was to:

  • stimulate devlopment of quality in education and research
  • contribute to a diversified sector (division of labour and profiles)
  • contribute to cooperation with society and industry
  • provide strategic room to maneuver for the institutions while making them accountable for results
  •  contribute to cost-effective resource use
  • provide stability and predictability for the institutions
  • create incentives for competition in European arenas and strenghten international coperation

On January 7th, the commission delivered the report to the ministry, with a set of recommendations rgarding the funding system. The report gave an evaluation of the current funding system, as well as a set of recommendations for the future.

The report highlights that in principle, the system is of appropriate size, as there is low unemployment rates amongst the graduates, and the match between graduate profiles and labour market needs is in general rather good, with some exceptions. One problem where there has not been significant improvements in the last ten years is system efficiency, and the report highlights persistent dropout rates as an indication of this. Regarding research, there has been considerable increases in output – both in terms of publications and in terms of completed PhD degrees. The sector has become more international, both in terms of education and research. A key concern highlighted in the report is the fragmentation of the system with many small environments, while institutions have become more alike, and the report argues that this can be linked to the framework conditions and funding system that creates similar incentives for all institutions. 




Student blogger: Tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students in Norway – who will bear the brunt of it?

Hedda master student Ammar Bahadur Singh

Hedda master student
Ammar Bahadur Singh

These days, Norwegian government is discussing the new national budget where a number of changes have been proposed. One of the proposed changes has been the introduction of tuition fees to non-EU/EEA students. While we are waiting for the decision, one of Hedda master students, Ammar Bahadur Singh has examined some of the implications of such fees for students from developing countries. 

Following the footsteps of its closest neighbors, Norwegian government in its state budget of 2015 proposed to introduce tuition fees for international students outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland. If implemented, it would directly affect the students mainly from developing countries, rather the students from other countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, etc.  Denmark introduced tuition fees in 2006, Sweden in 2011, Finland in 2010 on a trial basis and the trial period is coming to an end this year, Norwegian conservative government is struggling harder to impose tuition despite strong opposition from student communities, and Iceland has not taken any initiatives in this regard, though all students must pay and annual administration fee of approximately £350.

Nordic countries are known as the front-runners in advocating, promoting and protecting the principles of equity and equality in the world, but the provision of tuition fees only for students outside EU/EEA and Switzerland goes against their own principle of equity and equality of opportunities. Why has Norway proposed to impose discriminatory provision of tuition fees?  What is the rationale behind it? If it is a business, why does the same principle not apply to all students (domestic and international) as it is in the US, the UK, Canada, etc.?

The Norwegian government led by conservative party proposed the tuition fees soon after it came into power in 2013. The parliament strongly rejected it. This year the same government has also put forward the same proposal for imposing tuition fees for international students outside EU/EEA and Switzerland. Students’ parliaments, many universities professors, international students’ union (ISU), etc. have strongly opposed the proposal saying that it would jeopardize the principle of free education, which is the cornerstone of the development of welfare state. The proposal is the blatant violation of this principle. They argue that the introduction of tuition fees is the first step of introducing tuition fees for all as the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK has done and that finally, no one will get free education.

However, the conservative circles of politicians and student wings supporting them have put forward some arguments in support of their proposal for imposing tuition fees for international students. They argue that their closest neighbors have already introduced tuition fees and they don’t want international students out EU/EEA coming to Norway simply because of cost-free education, but for quality education. Second, the provision of free education can lead to a degradation of quality and introduction of tuition fees will ensure quality in higher education. Third, why should Norwegian taxpayers subsidize international students who pay tuition fees back home and in other countries for higher education?  Fourth, they are attempting to limit the meaning of the long standing political consensus for free higher education only to Norwegian students, not for others.




News: Low unemployment amongst Norwegian Master graduates

logo_en_graa-300x120New data from a NIFU report suggests that nine out of ten of Norwegian Masters degree graduates are at work six months after graduation. The data was compiled based on a nation wide survey of Masters degree candidates six months after graduation where main focus was put on the transfer from education to work. The main findings from the report are summarised in the following key points:

In general, there are few changes in the employability and unemployment amongst graduates is 6,8%. While there are generally minor differences in the general unemployment rates of new graduates, the group where unemployment had risen more than others,  was those in economic-administrative disciplines. Furthermore, despite for continuous calls for more education in natural sciences that has been prominent in Norwegian public debate in recent years, the report indicated that those with a background in natural sciences have a rather high unemployment level (9,6%), while unemployment is on below average level for those with engineering degrees (6%).

There has been a substantial growth in the number of masters degrees in Norway between 2003 and 2013, and there has been a debate on what has been termed “Masters Disease” (Mastersyke) in Norwegian media, where a core argument has been that Norwegian higher education educates too many with Masters degrees and that this kind of over-education has adverse effects on the labour market. However, the NIFU report does not suggest that there has been an increase in the mismatch between labour market needs and graduate educational levels, and this is in fact relevant for all disciplinary fields. There is indeed a certain number of Masters degree candidates working on positions where a bachelors degree would sufficient. At the same time, what is notable is that the share of these graduates has not increased despite a substantial increase of Masters degree candidates in recent years. As such, the report does not confirm the anecdotal stories of candidates with masters degrees working in low-skilled work where no higher education is not required, suggesting that the labour market and educational structure in Norway is  different than what one can find in countries such as the US.