‘Closing the door’: Government proposes tuition fees for students from outside the EEA

On 8 October, the Norwegian government presented its public sector budget for 2015. One proposal is to introduce tuition fees in higher education for students coming from outside the EEA – effectively non-European students.

‘Closing the door’: Government proposes tuition fees for students from outside the EEA

Noragric Bachelor and Master Students

Noragric Bachelor and Master Students

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Selina Koehr

The effect specifically for NMBU is a cut in the budget of 3,2 million Norwegian kroner (about €400 000), which the university is instructed to recover from international students. 

The proposal will probably not survive the political process, but it is likely to keep coming back in new shapes, so it is worth registering the concern of students and staff.

The same day, together with our department leaders in education I met Noragric student representatives who were deeply concerned about this proposal. They argued that it runs counter to the ambition of having a truly international campus; that it will exclude many students from for example Africa and Asia who already struggle with a high cost level in Norway; that experiences from Denmark and Sweden are negative, with substantial drops in international student numbers; and that it violates the principle of free higher education for which the Nordic countries have had a proud legacy.

President of Noragric Student Council, Edith Kitsao from Kenya stated:

This proposal could kill the programme of internationalization and make Norwegian universities exclusive for European students. Introducing tuition fee is like closing the door.

Our University and our Department is strongly opposed to the proposed tuition fees and side with our international students in their protest. We have yet to see good arguments for the measure. The student wing of the major government party, Høyre, had only bad arguments: about costs of processing applications, saying international students are not mainly motivated by free education, and seeing payment as the proof of quality.

The proposed tuition fee is likely to have the effect of excluding many future students, as it has in Sweden and Denmark. Perhaps members of the wealthy elite of poor countries can still participate, but we do not want to welcome only these students.

As stressed by our Rector Mari Sundli Tveit when she condemned the proposal, our University has a mandate to work on global challenges such as poverty, food security, climate change and environmental governance. We need a wealth of global experiences and perspectives in the classroom and we need to share what we learn.

A tuition fee introduced for an arbitrarily selected category of students can hardly avoid a challenge of being unfair and discriminatory. Nobody in a university, neither students, educators nor leaders, can enjoy or promote an entitlement that is granted on discriminatory basis. We do not want to see the closing of that door.

Published 10. October 2014 - 10:39 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:27

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

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