Tuition free University in Europe
Foreign students from outside the European Union and Economic Area look likely, along with all others, to continue to be able to study at Norwegian universities without having to pay tuition. A proposal to start charging the tuition or school fees that apply in most all other countries around the world, especially for non-citizens, hasn’t won support from a majority in Parliament.
Norway’s new Conservatives-led government will still propose charging tuition to students coming from outside Europe, since they can’t legally charge European students under terms of Norway’s economic agreement with the EU. The government argues that tuition could increase the overall quality of higher education in Norway, in several ways. On Wednesday night, however, one of the government’s two small support parties in parliament, the Christian Democrats, voted against the tuition proposal.
The Christian Democrats’ parliamentary group decided they don’t want to start charging any foreign students at Norwegian universities and colleges, and the government’s other support party, the Liberals, had already reached the same conclusion. That probably means the government’s tuition proposal won’t win parliamentary approval.
“It’s undoubtedly positive that we have a ‘free education’ principle in Norway, ” Emil André Erstad of the party’s youth organization told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “What applies for Norwegian citizens should also apply for those who come here to study.”
Others have argued that Norwegian taxpayers should have no obligation to educate foreign students who haven’t contributed to the tax base in addition to Norwegian students coming from families who have. They also argue that offering a tuition-free education by no means ensures Norway will attract the best or most qualified university applicants.
“We are evaluating study fees (tuition) because we are unsure whether the system we have today contributes to internationalization in a positive manner, ” Bjørn Haugstad, state secretary in the education ministry, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) earlier this month. Norwegian universities and colleges, the government has argued, should compete for good students in terms of quality, not price.
Both Sweden and Denmark have begun imposing tuition on students from outside Europe, and the government coalition now made up of the Conservatives and the Progress Party thinks it’s “natural” that Norway does the same. In Sweden, however, the number of foreign students fell by 80 percent when tuition fees were first charged, and many university deans in Norway fear the same will happen at their schools if foreign students start having to pay university fees in a country already known for having the highest prices in the world.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea (to start charging tuition), ” said Anne Husebekk, dean of the University of Tromsø. She noted that her school attracts many students from Russia, “and for many of them, it wouldn’t be possible to study here if we imposed fees.”