Norway has launched a new strategy aimed at encouraging more students to study abroad and a number of initiatives are being set up with the United States and Canada with Asia also regarded as an important region for growth.


New Norwegian Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, has confirmed that academic collaboration with educational institutions in the US, Canada and Asia is a priority.

After a recent visit to Washington DC for the annual Transatlantic Science Week organised by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, he said that Norway needs to promote its international credentials and outlook.

‘Norway has a long coastline, and we have always been a very international country, even if it is not necessarily a very well-known country in the rest of the world. Sometimes I will joke and I say that it first became international when the Vikings went to plunder in Ireland and Britain. But the truth is that Norway has always been built on trade and openness towards the world,’ he said in an interview with the upcoming edition of the Institute of International Education’s Networker magazine.

‘For a time, the second greatest percentage of migrants entering the United States came from Norway, after Ireland. We have churches all over the world and are the Scandinavian country with the most embassies. So, we are a very international country, and I think that higher education in Norway is very international as well,’ he explained.

He believes that more effort needs to be made to promote Norway as truly global nation. ‘The Norwegian Association for Students Abroad was founded in 1956 with one specific purpose: to stop students from studying abroad. It was considered a disgrace that people had to leave Norway to study. This has all changed now,’ he pointed out.

‘Today we see that, as an open and competitive economy, we are dependent on internationalised higher education institutions, and not just because Norway has something to offer to the world. We are dependent on it in order to be an open, wealthy economy and to continue developing,’ he said.

‘We want more Norwegian students to go abroad. To accomplish this, we have set up a very good student financing scheme, perhaps the best in the world. We have given them every financial incentive to do it. Six or seven years ago the financial incentives were almost as good as they are today, but still only a thousand students studied in America. We need to do something more to encourage other students to go abroad,’ he added.

He points out that so far there has been a special focus on the United States and Canada. ‘I think the next step is to concentrate on other places as well. Asia is also important for Norway. Asian countries are significant trading partners, and politically they are interesting. So that might be the next step,’ the minister explained.

To support the cooperation with the United States and Canada, Norway launched a North America Strategy for Higher Education Cooperation for the period 2008 to 2011 and this resulted in increased student mobility between Norway and North America.

But he added that there needs to be increased efforts regarding meeting places for cooperation with Canada, mobility at the Master and Ph.D. levels and the recruitment of North American students to Norway. A new strategy was launched in October 2011 for the 2012 to 2015 period.