Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Norway’s new minister of education and research

The new government of Erna Solberg in Norway has been in office since mid-October and with the change of government Norway has also got a new Minister for Education and Research and a slightly distinctive approach towards higher education policy.

Born in 1979, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen holds a Master’s degree in political science and a pre-Bologna Master’s degree in history of political thought and media studies from the University of Oslo. Previously, he worked as a journalist for local newspapers and started his political career in the youth branch of the Norwegian liberal conservative political party Høyre in the 1990s. In the 2009 Parliamentary elections, Isaksen ran as top candidate for Høyre in the county of Telemark and was elected for the first time as a member of the Norwegian Parliament. 

Following the recent budgetary proposal by the previous Jens Stoltenberg government (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, October 2013), Norway’s new Minister for Education and Research has announced further spending on professional training for teaching staff, and support for vocational training as well as Norway’s adult education programme Basic competences in work life (BKA). With regard to higher education and research, Isaksen has announced further financial support for universities, notably additional NOK 50 million (EUR 6 million) for new equipment and facilities for engineering studies and NOK 100 million (EUR 12 million) for renovation works at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The budget for research will be further increased by NOK 320 million (EUR 40 million) up to NOK 27.7 (EUR 3,367 billion) which is an increase of 3.4 % in comparison to last year’s research budget.

Apart from further spending, Isaksen also came up with the idea of introducing tuition fees for students outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The same measure was implemented in Denmark and Sweden a few years ago, and caused a significant decrease in international student enrolment. The National Union of Students in Norway (Norsk studentorganisasjon – NSO) voiced concern about such a measure, stressing the importance of free access to higher education regardless of nationality.

The amendments to the previous Stoltenberg government’s budget proposal demonstrate the Solberg government’s priority for education and research, as pointed out by the new Minister Isaksen. However, the government seemingly does not embrace the idea of free access to higher education for everyone. It remains to be seen, whether tuition fees for non-EEA/Switzerland students will be introduced and if yes, what effect this would have on international students’ enrolment.

Minister for education and research - Short biography (in Norwegian)

Ministry of education and research - Press release (in Norwegian)

National Union of Students in Norway - Press release (in Norwegian)