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Norway: improving post-secondary vocational colleges and student status

The white paper Skilled workers for the future (Fagfolk for fremtiden) presented by the Norwegian Government in December 2016 contains close to 50 measures. Its purpose is to make post-secondary vocational education more attractive as a fully equivalent profession-oriented alternative to university and university college education. It will make it easier for students at post-secondary vocational colleges (ISCED level 4) to continue their education at a university college or university.

Skilled workers will play an important role in the performance of the Norwegian economy. Figures from the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) show that four out of ten enterprises lack employees with vocational education and report having lost business because of it. Statistics Norway (SSB) estimate that Norway will have a shortage of almost 100 000 skilled workers in 2035.

Earmarked development fund

The government’s measures include establishing a new development fund of NOK 35 million. It is important that vocational colleges are up-to-date on the needs of business and industry, so that the students receive the qualifications Norway needs in the future. The government is giving vocational colleges an opportunity to apply for funding earmarked for developing or establishing new study programmes.

Empowering vocational college students

Students at post-secondary vocational colleges have fewer rights and benefits than other students. If more people are to choose vocational education, these students must be heard and appreciated. The white paper proposes giving them a right to vote on boards and grants for student exchanges abroad. Colleges will be allowed to be part of a student welfare organisation, giving students access to accommodation and other welfare services.

Improved transitions to other study programmes
Post-secondary vocational college graduates who wish to continue studying at a university or university college often encounter obstacles. They risk being ranked lower in the admission process since this education is not awarded additional points in the same way as folk high schools and compulsory military service.

The white paper proposes that vocational college graduates are awarded additional points and will re-encourage more people to consider choosing vocational subjects and vocational education.

The most important measures are:

  • a development fund of NOK 35 million;
  • the right to be part of a student welfare organisation;
  • better transitions to study programmes at universities and university colleges;
  • new national admission system;
  • new grant schemes for vocational education;
  • mapping and raising the competence of vocational college teachers;
  • improving knowledge about vocational education;
  • three-year vocational education in special cases.

Facts about tertiary vocational education:

  • there are 94 vocational colleges across the country with just over 15 000 students;
  • tertiary vocational education is a higher form of vocational education and an alternative to university and university college education;
  • programmes are short and profession-oriented (six months to two years). They often build on craft certificates/journeyman's certificates or work experience, but also on the higher education entrance qualification;
  • vocational colleges offer a wide range of subjects, with technical subjects and health and social studies having the most students.

More information (in Norwegian only):

Report No 9 (2016-17) to the Storting, Fagfolk for fremtiden – Fagskoleutdanning

Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO)

Ministry of Education and Research Statistics Norway (SSB) 2014, 2015