Norway Country Profile - Education System

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System Structure 

Norway has an excellent education system and the level of general education among adults is considered to be one of the highest in the world. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16 and is divided into primary school and lower secondary school. This ten-year compulsory period is known as ‘grunnskole. Following grunnskole students can choose to continue their education at upper secondary school, where they will aim to meet the requirements of admission to university or to leave education with a vocational qualification. The different municipalities are responsible for the provision of education and schools in their area. Education is free for all children in Norway, up to and including university.

Academic year

The academic year is divided into two semesters; Autumn (mid-August to December) and Spring (January to June). State school holidays comprise a week in the autumn, a fortnight at Christmas, a week’s winter holiday in February, and around a fortnight at Easter. Schools in Norway also have a compulsory ‘Ski Day,’ when children and teachers take to the hills and forests on cross-country skis. The school day starts at around 8.30am and finishes at 2pm, when pupils are encouraged to play sports and engage in outdoor pursuits and clubs.

Higher education

Norway has a well-regarded higher education system comprising eight universities, nine specialised institutions, 25 university colleges, two national academies of art and a number of private higher education institutions. The highest-ranking institutions are the University of Oslo and the University of Bergen.

Overall responsibility for higher education rests with the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research which offers a wide range of scholarship and grants to help with the country’s high living costs.  


Higher education is fully funded by the state in Norway, which is now one of the few European countries to have retained a system of ‘free education for all.’ Of the Nordic countries, Norway stands alone in offering free higher education to all students, regardless of nationality. Both home and foreign students are also able to apply for help with living costs through the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund.


Norway was one of the first countries in Europe to adhere to the Bologna Process, implementing a two tier system comprising three-year undergraduate degrees and two-year Master’s degrees. Tuition is in Norwegian although a wide range of courses across all disciplines are now taught entirely in English. A PhD in Norway takes at least three years to complete and is fully funded – the majority of doctoral students receive a monthly salary. To find out more about admission requirements consult the Norway Universities and Colleges Admission Service.


Norway is committed to investment in research in order to develop its strong knowledge-based economy. The country’s geographical location offers unique opportunities in marine research, environmental sciences, energy and health and attracts scientists from all over the world. The Norwegian government also invests heavily in medicine, materials science, biotechnology and communication research programmes. The Research Council of Norway - an agency of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research – is responsible for awarding funding to universities and individual research programmes, as well as advising on research policy.

Primary and Secondary Education

All children are entitled to 13 years of free education, ten years of which are compulsory between the ages of six and 16 (known as ‘grunnskole’). Schools are divided into:

  • Primary School (barneskole): from ages six to 13
  • Lower Secondary school (ungdomsskole): from ages 13 to 16.
  • Upper Secondary School (videregående skole): from ages 16 to 19. Upper secondary school is optional and is separated into academic study for those who wish to attend university or vocational study/apprenticeships for students who wish to enter the workforce on completion of their education.


There is no formal kindergarten period in Norway but preschool, nursery or day care (barnehage) is offered to children aged 0 to 5. Compulsory education is free in Norway but parents are required to pay a monthly fee for their children to attend preschool, which can be lower in state-run centres. Norwegian preschool places great emphasis on play-led learning and children spend much of their time outdoors, in all weathers.

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