Norway ‘far behind’ in making its higher education international
The University of Oslo's historic Faculty of Law. International learners, both from inside and outside Europe, represent approximately 9.5 percent of all students in Norway. Source: Shutterstock

The Norwegian government lacks focus in recruiting international students, causing it to lag “far behind” other European countries, Times Higher Education (THE) reports.

According to BI Norwegian Business School (BI) president Inge Jan Henjesand in an interview with THE, talks to lure more foreign students “does not exist” among policymakers, despite demand within the industry and the possible benefit to the schools.

Pointing to fellow European countries such as Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, he said Norway was “already far behind” in terms of “specific and targeted strategies” to recruit students from other countries.

Such failure will be costly to Norwegian institutions as Henjesand said the top students from abroad would “strengthen the learning environment at Norwegian institutions, both for [themselves] and also for our Norwegian students”.

In 2016, there were 25,424 students from Europe, in undergraduate and taught postgraduate levels at the country’s higher education institutions, according to the Database for Statistics on Higher Education in Norway.

Another 10,157 overseas students come from outside the continent.

International learners, both from inside and outside Europe, thus represent approximately 9.5 percent of all students in Norway, estimated by Statistics Norway to be about 266,400 altogether.

In Henjesand’s school, they make up a slightly bigger cohort, at 10 percent of its entire full-time student body.

These figures pale in contrast with U.K. universities, where non-EU students make up 14 percent of all students in 2015-2016.

Henjesand hopes BI’s numbers will increase, but is weary of the circumstances the school faces in doing so.

“I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but when we recruit international students, we not only compete with other institutions, but also with national strategies,” he said.

‘No action in attracting skilled foreign students’

One such scheme is Norway’s focus on making higher education free for all students, including for overseas students, instead of internationalisation.

According to him, there has been no action in attracting skilled overseas master’s student, despite the 2016 budget recommendations from the Norwegian parliament’s standing committee on education, research and church affairs.

The Parliament of Norway building in Oslo.

This puts to doubt the country’s seriousness in making higher education a valuable “export”.

“They spent a lot of money in the country [on higher education, so believe that’s enough]. If they [thought international students were a priority], they would have followed up on the note in the budget,” he said.

Henjesand hopes the government’s stance will change with a national election due in September, banking on the belief “most parties have this [matter] on their [policy] agenda”.

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