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Norway (and SIU): Prioritising international joint degrees

Norway’s Ministry of Education and Research has identified joint degree programmes as a priority for the country’s future internationalisation. To promote developments in this area, government funding is available in 2012 to enable Norwegian higher education institutions (HEIs) to develop new joint degree programmes at the master’s or PhD level, in collaboration with one or more institutions outside Norway. The support period for the joint degrees can be up to two years, with a maximum per-programme allocation of NOK 250 000 (about EUR 33 400) per year, and a maximum total allocation per programme of NOK 500 000 (about EUR 66 800). The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has so far allocated 9 000 000 NOK (about EUR 1 180 000) for this purpose. All programmes funded following the first call for proposals are expected to enroll their first students no later than autumn 2014.

As this important initiative gets underway, it may be helpful to consider the baseline state of play with regard to international joint degree programmes in Norway. A report produced in late 2011 by ACA’s member in Norway – The Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) – provides direct insight into this issue. International Cooperation on Degrees and Study Programmes at Norwegian Universities (or Internasjonalt samarbeid om grader og studieprogram ved norske læresteder in Norwegian) presented the findings of two surveys focused on this specific topic, which SIU administered among Norwegian HEIs. One of the surveys was directed at individuals who were responsible for managing existing joint degree programmes; the second survey was distributed among the central administrative units of HEIs that had earlier indicated that they had or were planning relevant collaborative activity. The response rates from the two survey groups were 61% and 84%, respectively.

The survey responses provide information on the motives and goals of the HEIs, and how they organise implementation of joint degree programmes. The data also give indications of the challenges HEIs face in this work, as well as results and effects of their efforts. According to the responses, a primary goal of HEIs engaged in joint degree programming is to attract well-qualified and highly motivated students both from Norway and abroad. However, the survey indicates that recruitment of students is a central challenge, not least among Norwegian students for whom the benefits of enrolling in an international joint degree programme may not be obvious.  For joint degrees to become a major form of cooperation, the SIU report argues that recruitment challenges must be effectively addressed. In addition, courses and programmes must be developed with an eye on leveraging their uniqueness as well as the added value obtained through the international cooperation. Hopefully, the new government funding will help Norway’s HEIs move even more quickly toward the achievement of their aspirations in this increasingly important area of internationalisation.

Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) – International Joint Degrees call for proposals SIU report International Cooperation on Degrees and Study Programmes at Norwegian Universities (full report in Norwegian, abstract in English)