White Paper on student mobility: A summary

The overall goal of this White Paper, published October 2020, is to contribute to a cultural change in the higher education sector where international student mobility becomes a natural and integral part of all study programmes. Here you will find a summary of the paper. 

White Paper No. 7 (2020-2021) A World of Opportunities – International student mobility within higher education was presented to the Parliament on 30 October 2020. The White Paper lays the foundation for and describes how the government's long-term ambitions for international student mobility in higher education can be achieved. 

The spring of 2020 has clearly shown how dependent we are on each other and how intertwined the world is. International cooperation and dialogue across national borders are prerequisites for succeeding in handling the major global societal challenges the world is facing. Global challenges require global solutions. 

Good quality higher education is essential for the development of society, and international student mobility must be an integral part of the higher education institutions' strategic work on quality. International comparison and cooperation provide both higher education and students with valuable perspectives which in turn will improve the quality of higher education in the broadest sense. 

The overall goal of the White Paper is to contribute to a cultural change in the higher education sector where international student mobility becomes a natural and integral part of all study programmes. The Government's goal is that half of those completing a degree in Norwegian higher education should have had a study or training period abroad during their studies. Students should be expected to have a study or training period abroad, amongst other things through setting up a system where students have to actively opt out of a study period abroad if they cannot or do not want to travel. 

With this White Paper, the Government seeks to provide a holistic approach to how the Governments' ambition on student mobility can be achieved in the long run . The White Paper presents, amongst other things, the following measures to support the Government's ambitions: 

Comprehensive study programmes with integrated mobility 

All higher education institutions are expected to ensure that study periods abroad are integrated in all study programmes. The Government's ambition is that a study period abroad shall be the norm for all students, provided that the professional outcome of such a stay is beneficial. All study programmes must have clear mobility windows, making it clear to the students at what time during the study programme mobility has been planned. All higher education institutions shall in the long run introduce a system where students will have to actively deregister if they cannot or do not want to go abroad, so-called opt out. The institutions may decide how and when such a system is implemented. 

The higher education institutions shall to a greater extent develop an make use of  pre-approved course packages for student mobility for their study programmes. Such packages should ensure that students know in advance that the study period abroad has been quality assured and that it will be fully recognised as part of their degree at home. 

The higher education institutions should also ensure that the study periods abroad are relevant and has a clear link to the domestic study programme. It must be made clear to the students what the expected learning outcome of the stay abroad is, and how the courses taken abroad contribute to the overall learning outcomes for the study programme. 

A learning outcome descriptor on international competence will be included in the national qualifications framework to emphasise the importance international competence and the fact that everyone completing a degree should have attained international competence. 

Financial measures 

The government will include mobility periods of between one and three months in the indicator for student mobility in the performance based part of the funding scheme as soon as possible. According to several surveys, the perceived outcome for students with shorter stays abroad is as high as for students with longer stays abroad, i.e. periods of more than three months. Furthermore, some instruments for international co-operation provide for and make use of various forms of shorter stays abroad, e.g partnership programmes such as UTFORSK and INTPART. The government expects the institutions to continue to focus mostly on increasing mobility of at least three months' duration, but will include mobility of between one and three months duration in the performance based indicator for student mobility in the funding scheme as soon as possible. This amendment is particularly important to the professional programmes with national curriculum regulations, as it can be challenging to facilitate long stays abroad due to a high level of compulsory subjects and teaching. 

The Government wants a higher proportion of Norwegian students to have a study or training period abroad in a non-English-speaking country. The Government will therefore as soon as possible make changes to the regulations of the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund in order to increase mobility of Norwegian students to the priority partner countries. This will apply both to those who take part of their degree abroad and those who take a full degree abroad. 

In order to achieve a cultural change where international student mobility becomes an integral part of all studies, good digital administrative systems are required. This applies in particular to the process of handling applications for and approval of mobility, but also to information in general. The Government has therefore allocated NOK 1 million to the Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (Unit) for this work. 

The government proposes that Norway participates in the next programme of Erasmus + (2021-2027). Participation in Erasmus + is the largest and most important programme for achieving the Government's long-term goal that half the Norwegian students completing a degree should have had a study period abroad during their studies. 

An international study environment in Norway 

Studies abroad must be seen in connection with other activities for internationalisation and quality development at the institutions. This is of particular importance when the aim is to achieve a cultural change where mobility and international impulses become an integral part of all study programmes. Even though the extent of student mobility should increase significantly in the future, a large proportion of Norwegian students will neither in the future have had an international experience as part of their studies. It is therefore important that the study programme as a whole has an international profile. This can be achieved in a number of ways: Through virtual collaboration, through study programmes being taught in English in Norway, through the use of guest lecturers and not least through better interaction between Norwegian and foreign students in Norway. Although no target has been set for the number of incoming students, the basic idea behind student exchange is that there should be an approximate balance in the number of incoming and outgoing students, hence the term «exchange». This means that the starting point should be that the number of incoming and outgoing students at an institution should be of approximately the same order of magnitude. 

Many countries have a defined policy when it comes to attracting foreign students, using campaigns, dedicated websites, the Foreign Service and students who have previously been exchange students in the country having now returned home, to increase the number of incoming students. incoming students constitute a particularly valuable resource for making the study environment in Norway more international. The Government will develop an explicit and more strategic national policy on which international degree students Norway wants to attract, and a working group will be established in order to develop a more deliberate policy towards foreign degree students at Norwegian higher education institutions. 

Recognition of foreign qualifications 

A lot of students point out that one of the obstacles to studying abroad is the uncertainty of whether the courses taken abroad will be recognised at home. Recognition of foreign higher education as equivalent to that provided by the higher education institution is the responsibility of the institutions themselves, and they have extensive powers in granting exemptions for courses taken abroad. It is important that the higher education institutions establish transparent and flexible procedures for approving subjects and courses taken abroad as part of Norwegian degrees for all subject areas. In connection with the work on the new Universities and University Colleges Act, the Government will seek to emphasise Norway's obligation under the Lisbon Recognition Convention regarding the approval of foreign education and will consider changing the provision in the Universities and University Colleges Act so that the principle in the convention that foreign education is approved unless it can be shown that there are “substantial differences” is established by law.