There has been a chorus of criticism – and some protest action – from students, academics, union leaders and politicians of the Norwegian government’s proposed measures and budget cuts that are perceived as a threat to the country’s higher education internationalisation agenda.
The measures include the introduction of university tuition fees for non-European students and cuts to grants for students seeking to study abroad.
On Wednesday 26 October, local media reported that student demonstrations against the proposed introduction of international student fees for students from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area (EU-EEA) were held in Oslo, Ås, Stavanger, Levanger, Bodø, Trondheim and Volda.
Arguing the need for economic discipline and to rectify an economic mess inherited from the former [Erna] Solberg government, Research and Higher Education Minister Ola Borten Moe’s ministry has cut the 2023 budget to higher education institutions by NOK74.4 million (US$7.2 million), which it estimates will be made up by universities through the imposition of fees on international students.
There are also proposed cuts to grants for Norwegian students seeking to study abroad and research collaboration programmes.
Borten Moe has consistently defended the moves as economically necessary – despite the fact that Norway is benefiting financially from the war in Ukraine which has caused a massive increase in the country’s energy export revenues.
Earlier this year Borten Moe forced the entire board of the Research Council of Norway to resign, accusing it of “irresponsible spending of funds they did not have”.
Opposition voices question whether his decisions are financially or ideologically motivated since the government’s ‘flexible and decentralised’ strategy for higher education targeting those people unable to study full time on a campus has in fact received a 2023 budget injection of close to NOK100 million.