Fee plan may deter up to 80% of non-EU students – Survey

A new survey suggests that the proposed introduction in 2023 of university tuition fees in Norway averaging NOK130,000 (US$13,000) for non-European students will discourage up to 80% of international students from choosing Norway as a study destination.

The survey, conducted by Study.eu, a European study platform based in Hamburg, comes in the wake of the Norwegian goverment’s proposal, made earlier this year, to introduce university tuition fees for students coming from outside the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

Up until now, all students at Norwegian universities, including international students, have enjoyed tuition-fee-free study. While the average fee proposed by the government is NOK130,000, the government has also told universities they will each need to carefully calculate their costs, and it is expected that many universities will demand considerably higher fees to meet expenses.

The survey, published on 8 November, involved 1,027 students from outside the EEA and Switzerland who said that they were interested in studying in Norway.

A ‘fool’s bargain’

It found that one third of prospective students would still be “likely” or “very likely” to choose Norway as a study destination if fees of up to NOK50,000 (US$5,000) were imposed, while 63.8% said it would be “impossible” with fees of up NOK100,000 per year, and 85.4% said it would not be possible with fees of up to NOK200,000 per year.

“This would mean a loss of around 70%-80% of non-EEA students. In the long run, this might be a fool’s bargain,” said CEO of Study.eu Gerrit Bruno Blöss.

When asked why they wanted to study in Norway, 75.6% of respondents mentioned university reputation and quality of higher education, 74% cited the tuition-fee-free study options and 52.4% said it was quality of life.

The government’s proposals have been criticised by a number of academics and students as a discriminatory policy which targets the world’s most vulnerable groups, particularly those in the Global South.

According to the survey, Norway attracts approximately 13,000 international students, with 65% coming from countries outside Europe. Top sending countries include China, Nepal and India.

Blöss said fewer students would also mean less money into the local economy.

Norway’s neighbours Sweden and Finland introduced tuition fees for non-European students in 2011 and 2017, respectively. In both cases, fees led to immediate declines in international enrolment numbers with slow rebound growth over time which relied heavily on scholarship schemes and international marketing efforts. A recent report issued by the Swedish Institute quantified the economic impact of each freemoving student at SEK97,000 (US$9,400) per year excluding tuition fees, according to Study.eu.

Poor communication

Among the students responding in the Norway survey, 67.8% indicated they were not aware that Norway was considering introducing tuition fees from the autumn of 2023.

“Introducing fees in a hurry will destroy study-abroad plans for many young people and it is likely to cause lasting reputational damage to Norway’s education as well as the country as a whole,” Blöss said.

Emmanuel Kofi Ovon Babatunde, senior advisor at the University of Bergen, confirmed that many students are unaware of the possible changes.

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