The Norwegian parliament has voted to scrap free tuition fees for all new non-EU students commencing Autumn 2023. Under the proposal agreed to by the government, Norwegian universities will begin to charge non-EU students around NOK130,000 (USD$13,000) per year from Autumn 2023, although individual institutions can charge more for high-demand courses.

Norway’s Ministry of Education predicts a 70% decrease in the number of international students choosing to study in Norway. However, estimates that this figure will be slightly higher, predicting that 80% of prospective international students are likely to be deterred from studying in Norway as a result of the move.

There are around 22,540 international students studying in Norway, of which two-thirds are from non-EU countries. These students currently enjoy the same privileges of tuition-free education as Norwegian students. Non-EU sending countries include Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia.

The move by the Norwegian government to charge fees for international students has thrown the plans of new applicants for the next academic year into disarray. As most universities’ application deadlines for the next intake were at the end of 2022, students who have already applied for Autumn 2023 will now have to choose between paying the tuition fees or withdrawing their application.

The survey of just over 1,000 non-EU students who were considering Norway as a study destination found that “free tuition” was equally as important as the quality of Norwegian universities when it came to motivations for choosing Norway as a study destination.

A recently released Studyportals report notes that Norway had seen a 19.1% decline in interest for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, attributing this to the introduction of tuition fees.

The Norwegian government has said that the introduction of tuition fees was motivated by a desire to prioritise Norwegian students rather than revenue generation. However, a January 2023 Pie News report notes that in Norway’s state budget, universities faced a funding cut and had been told that they were expected to earn back lost revenue via tuition fees. It is unclear whether the Norwegian government plans to pursue an internationalisation strategy.

The introduction of fees for non-EU students follows in the footsteps of most other European countries, including neighbouring Sweden, which introduced tuition fees for non-EU students in 2011. This resulted in a drop of up to 80% in international student enrolments for several years. However, international student numbers have gradually recovered as a result of a growing focus on internationalisation, following a 2017/18 inquiry into the internationalisation of higher education in Sweden. International student numbers were 39,806 in 2021/22. This represents a 173% increase since 2011, when fees were introduced, and an 83% increase from 2010, the year prior to the introduction of fees for international students.