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DIKU: Norwegian and international students need more meeting places

International students in Norway find it far easier getting to know other international students than Norwegian students, a new report by Diku shows. It recommends that Norwegian universities do more to endorse exchanges between international and domestic students to advance intercultural learning for their student population as a whole.

International students are wanted at Norwegian institutions of higher education as they add valuable perspectives that Norwegian students would otherwise not have been exposed to. The report International Students in Norway – Contributors to Quality in Higher Education shows that most of the international students are ambitious and hard-working. Their presence has the potential of contributing to the relevance and quality of Norwegian higher education in a globalised world. For this to happen, academic and social interaction between the domestic and international students is essential.

‘Getting Norwegian and international students to interact more, requires a planned approach on the part of the institutions’, says Minister of Research and Higher Education, Iselin Nybø.

Course teaching practices, student residences and introduction weeks are factors that can play an important role in bringing the students together. Unfortunately, these meeting places are sometimes organised in ways that separate rather than bring the groups together, the report shows.

‘The results show noticeable differences between the institutions. Many of them already perform very well, but we hope this report can help raise awareness about the possibilities that lie in more interaction, Diku Director Harald Nybølet says.

The feedback from international students helps us assess the quality of Norwegian higher education in an international perspective. The report shows that international students come to Norway because of the quality of the education offered and because of the country itself. Three in four rate Norway as their number one preferred study destination and 85 percent of the students are likely to recommend studying in Norway to fellow students.
The students who come to Norway to study do get an international experience while in the country, but not all of them get a particularly Norwegian experience.

‘This is a loss to the large share of international students who list the country in itself as their most important motivational factor to study here in the first place. If they had been given the chance to get to know Norwegian people and culture during their stay, even more of them would perhaps become good ambassadors for Norway later’, Minister Nybø says.

The Norwegian White Paper «Culture for Quality in Higher Education» (Kvalitetsmeldingen, 2016) states that students from other countries than Norway should be part of all Norwegian students’ learning environment, to ensure exposure to international perspectives.

‘Norwegian students, and especially those who do not go abroad during their studies, can profit from internationalisation of Norwegian campuses. We are currently working on a White Paper on student mobility, where we address the need to make the most of the valuable asset that international students represent for Norwegian students and universities’, Nybø adds.

The international students are generally satisfied with the teaching at Norwegian institutions, particularly with the teachers’ ability to teach in English and the institutions’ facilities. At the same time, some of the sub-groups among the international students stand out with experiences that moderate some of the positive findings. The report concludes that some of the students could have been better prepared for the bureaucratic challenges related to arriving in Norway.  I addition, features of the Norwegian academic tradition might come as a surprise to many of the international students.

‘It’s quite clear that some of them need more information prior to arrival in Norway and that there is room for certain degree of expectation management. Such input should be taken seriously both as ideas on ways to improve the quality of Norwegian higher education and as an inspiration for the work to attract and accommodate future international students’, Harald Nybølet says.

Students in Norway – Contributors to Quality in Higher Education is the sixth in a series of surveys among international students in Norway, conducted by Diku (previously SIU). It gathers information about the students’ motivations for, experiences with and assessments of their studies in Norway. It gives a unique international perspective on Norwegian higher education and is therefore a vital source of knowledge for its further development.

The 2019 report has a special focus on the international students’ contribution to the quality in Norwegian higher education. The report is based on analyses of a survey distributed to all international students at 24 Norwegian higher education institutions, and 5094 students responded. The data collection was carried out by the analysis agency ideas2evidence.