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Vocational education and training in Norway

The Norwegian education system has programmes for vocational education and training of two kinds: The Upper Secondary Vocational Education Schools and Tertiary Vocational Education Schools. Though vocational education sector in Norway is advanced, it is also complex and often changing. VET sector consists of schools with different ownerships and in some cases very different provisions, and student number at vocational schools ranging from less than 50 students to over 3000 students. A clear majority of vocational schools currently have private ownership, but the public vocational schools and colleges still account for about half of the total number of students as of 2022. The public vocational education schools and colleges offer, among other things, publicly funded technical and maritime education, as well as offers in health and early childhood education. Whereas many private vocational colleges have a range of offers within creative and mercantile subjects, service, media, multimedia, and ICT subjects.

The public vocational schools are largely owned by the counties, except for four vocational schools that are owned by the state. For other schools, at the same time, the picture is somewhat more complex than the distinction between public and private, which are the main categories of ownership presented in a recent evaluation report by the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills. The report contained several measures aimed at ensuring that tertiary vocational schools/colleges are well organised, with clear ownership and good governance. This entailed clarification and requirement for the composition of the boards of vocational schools, and the representation from the labour and business sectors and the right to vote for students and employees on the board. Even though the formal requirements for board composition are largely met, there is still a long way to go when it comes to actual participation. There are also still challenges associated with the county municipalities’ dual role as owner and manager, and some actors in VET advocate that discussions on county ownership of vocational schools should be resumed.

Further, the vocational education report suggested the government a total of 48 measures that should contribute to strengthening and further development of the vocational education sector. The report proposed a range of measures that can broadly affect the tertiary vocational education sector on several levels and require the use of several central instruments on the part of county authorities to contribute to change and achieve national objectives for tertiary vocational education sector. Achieving national VET objectives should ensure that:

  1. The students must get involved in the subject and succeed in tertiary vocational education and training.

  2. The academic environment must be up-to-date and practice-oriented vocational competence.

  3. The tertiary vocational education sector must offer education that the labour market needs, and that the students want.

  4. The tertiary vocational education sector must be well organised, with clear ownership and good management.

To meet the above objectives, several of the proposed measures in the tertiary vocational education report are specifically aimed at strengthening a knowledge base in the VET sector. In several cases, these measures include surveys aimed at students or the former students, including the inclusion of tertiary vocational education educators in the Studies-based and Living Conditions Survey, and the implementation of the Candidate-based surveys. Although these measures have been implemented, the report shows that there is a perception among actors in the VET sector that these surveys are not sufficiently well adapted to the tertiary vocational education, and that some further work is thus needed to ensure the accuracy of the investigations. A lack of adaptation and accuracy is perceived to leading to deficiencies in the knowledge base in VET sector, both in that fewer students respond to the surveys and by not providing the sufficiently relevant information. It is important that this feedback is followed up, so that the surveys can provide a good knowledge base for quality vocational education and work outcomes to an even greater extent than today. At the same time, the report clearly shows that, among other things, the studies surveys provide important information in relation to quality of vocational education colleges, which shows that there has been a positive development in terms of the sector’s knowledge.


Authors of the Report

The project Competences for the Future – Matching the Needs of the Labour Market benefits from a € 106 000 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants. The aim of the project is to update the education offer through the exchange of opinions and good practices between organizations with experience in the field of vocational education of youth and adults.