Norway’s parliament voted this week to end the free-tuition policy for international students from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, raising concerns about the future of free education.
The parliamentary vote on June 9, which marked the official end of Norway’s free university tuition for students outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, was met with disappointment and dismay despite being expected.
The government proposal to end free tuition received 86 votes in favor and 11 votes against. The opposing votes came from the Red Party (4), The Liberal Party (Venstre) (3), The Green Party (2), and Christian Democratic Party (2).
As anticipated, the vote confirmed the previous decision made on June 6 by the parliamentary committee on higher education and research to endorse the government’s proposal of implementing tuition fees for non-EEA and non-Swiss students.
The decision of the Socialist Left Party (SV) to support the government’s proposal in the final round of voting drew significant criticism.
MP Abid Raja, a member of the parliamentary committee and from Venstre, stated in an interview with Norwegian newspaper VG that the Socialist Left Party is no longer representing the interests of students.
Expressing his criticism, MP Abid Raja pointed out the “numerous policy shifts” within the party and accused it of playing a role in the elimination of free education in Norway, thereby limiting access to quality education only to the wealthiest individuals from the global South.
Emmanuel Ovon Babatunde, senior adviser in the Division of Research and Innovation at the University of Bergen, expressed shock at the Socialist Left Party’s support for what he described as a “disappointing, repressive, and discriminatory policy.”
Babatunde, who hails from Ghana and has personally benefited from Norway’s free tuition program, expressed his disbelief that the Socialist Left Party, a party known for advocating for the most vulnerable in society, would support such a policy.
Raja characterized the decision as a “devastating blow” for Norwegian universities and university colleges.
“With the backing of the Socialist Left Party, the Conservative Party, and the Progress Party, the government has made the unfortunate choice to allow Borten Moe, the Minister of Research and Higher Education, to further dismantle the academic sector,” Raja stated.
“This is a day marked by darkness and alarming repercussions,” expressed Raja.
The Socialist Party argued that their obligation to support the government’s proposal stemmed from the national budget passed in December 2022, which had already made provisions for it.
However, the party’s reluctance to fully support the move was evident in two proposals: firstly, to modify the wording of the government proposal, allowing higher education institutions the discretion to decide whether to implement tuition fees or not, and secondly, to exempt collaborating country partners supported by the Panorama program.
The Panorama program promotes research and higher education cooperation with countries such as Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States.
Source : universityworldnews.com