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PhD Study in Norway - A Guide for 2019

There are lots of advantages to studying a Norwegian PhD degree. Norway has many natural resources and a strong economy yet maintains a welcoming and forward-thinking culture. This is exemplified by its excellent higher education system, which delivers admirable teaching and research. Norway has a small number of universities, yet they often outperform what may be expected of them. Significantly, Norwegian public universities offer free education for their students.

This guide covers everything you’ll need to know about doctoral study in Norway, including information about Norwegian universities, PhD course structure, applications, funding and visas.

PhD opportunities in Norway – what’s on offer for 2019?

Known as a ‘knowledge nation’, Norway prides itself on lifelong learning. Despite the small size of its higher education system, Norway has many world-leading universities that deliver high-quality education.

The country has also produced some amazing artists, thinkers and scientists such as Ludvig Holberg, Edvard Munch, Roald Amundsen, Magnus Carlsen and no less than 13 Nobel Prize winners.

A Norwegian PhD also enables you to study in a beautiful country, with an array of unique natural phenomena that cannot be experienced anywhere else.

There are some fantastic reasons to find your PhD in Norway:

  • No tuition fees – There are no tuition fees in the Norwegian Higher Education system. PhD researchers are considered employees and you will earn a doctoral salary and associated worker’s rights
  • Happiness – Norway is regularly ranked as a country with the best quality of life in the world
  • Natural beauty – Norway is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The serene fjords, Arctic tundra, Northern Lights and solar spectacles make it a great place for you to study
  • English-speakers – English is widely spoken to an excellent standard in Scandinavia
  • Egalitarian society – Equality is a key value of modern Norwegian society, making a it a safe and forward-thinking destination for study
  • Unique research location – Norway’s distinctive position between Europe and the Arctic means it can offer specialised training a research in areas such as marine research, energy and climate, medicine and health, food, communication technology, biotechnology, materials science and nanotechnology

And, of course, as an international student in Norway you can imagine yourself carrying on the traditions of Viking adventurers and Polar explorers with your doctoral research (dog-sleds and longboats are optional).


PhD Study in Norway - Key Details
Universities 24
Nobel Prizes 13
Oldest University University of Oslo (1811)
International Students 10,880
PhD Length 3-4 years
Representative Fees None
Academic Year August to June

Norwegian universities

There are four main types of university institution in Norway. The majority are public and state-run but there are a range of private institutions too. Most doctoral students will study at public universities.

  • Universities are the main higher education research and teaching institution in Norway. They usually offer a range of postgraduate degrees and have extensive academic powers enabling them to accredit their own programmes. There are ten universities in Norway.
  • Specialised universities are much like standard universities but offer postgraduate courses in a focused area of research. There are three of these institutions in Norway.
  • University colleges are very similar to universities, except that they are private institutions and must apply for external accreditation. Eight university colleges are accredited.
  • Private specialised universities are private higher education institutions in Norway that provide courses in specialised areas of research. Like university colleges, they also require external accreditation. Three private specialised universities are accredited.

Norwegian university cities

There are several cities in Norway with one or more universities and large numbers of students:

Norwegian university rankings

Although Norway is a small country, its higher education system can challenge those of larger nations and a significant number of Norwegian universities feature in international ranking tables.


Top 5 Norwegian Universities in 2019
University THE 2019 QS 2019 ARWU 2018
University of Oslo =121 135 62
University of Bergen 197 171 201-300
Norwegian University of Science and Technology 351-400 =363 101-150
UiT The Arctic University of Norway 401-500 =369 -
Norwegian University of Life Sciences 501-600 - -
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do rankings matter for PhD study?

University rankings can help you choose a PhD project or programme, provided you know what to look at. Our guide explains how to use rankings as a prospective postgraduate.

Accreditation

The state-run public higher education institutes of Norway (universities and specialised universities) have self-accreditation rights and can organise and award their own degrees. Private institutions must have their postgraduate degrees accredited by the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT). NOKUT has a key role in the governance of all higher education institutions.

PhD structure

Norwegian PhD programmes are third-cycle qualifications following the Bologna process. As such, you will be required to perform research and write a PhD thesis.

Often, PhDs in Norway follow a structured format. This typically involves a training component prior to commencing your doctoral research and thesis writing. You may also be considered a university employee with accompanying employment rights. In this case, you will have teaching and administrative responsibilities to uphold.

PhD length

A typical full-time PhD in Norway lasts three years. However, for a structured PhD programme with institutional duties and specialist training, you may be employed by your university for four years.

Supervision

Much like in the UK, doctoral students will have a senior researcher as a supervisor. They will regularly oversee and evaluate your research work, project progression and thesis writing. You may also have additional supervisors with specific responsibilities.

Assessment and examination

Your PhD thesis will be read by a committee of at least three senior academics, with a minimum of one external examiner. After the thesis has been examined and approved by the committee, your research must be defended orally through at least one lecture and a public thesis defence before a reviewing committee of institutional opponents.

Fees and funding

An important and appealing aspect of PhD study in Norway is that tuition is free for all students. However, the country has a high cost of living. Therefore, some form of maintenance funding is usually necessary.

Norwegian PhD fees

There are no tuition fees to pay for PhD programmes at universities in Norway. However, at many Norwegian universities you will be expected to pay a €50-100 fee to the student’s union each semester for membership and a student card.

Norwegian PhD funding

Although tuition fees for PhD study are normally free, Norway has a high cost of living. Most doctoral candidate subsidise this either through university employment (and the associated responsibilities) or through part-time work.

However, there are also a limited number of funding opportunities for international students. These are usually intended to corer maintenance costs during your study. Many of these scholarship and grants have important restrictions and prerequisites that should be noted. Examples include:

  • EEA / Norway Grants are offered to EEA students studying in Norway. You will receive a monthly grant of €600-1,200
  • The Anglo-Norse Society in London offers bursaries and grants to British students studying in Norway
  • The Erasmus+ scheme can provide funding and Erasmus loans for EEA students studying abroad

Applying for a PhD in Norway

PhD applications in Norway are processed by individual research institutions. Therefore, the requirements, documentation and deadlines for doctoral programme applications can vary between institutions. Applications should also be made directly to the prospective university.

Admission requirements

PhD applicants in Norway must have a Masters degree in a relevant subject area. A corresponding degree may be acceptable – you can check the eligibility of your qualifications at the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT).

The specific application requirements vary between research institutions. You should always check with your prospective university.

PhD candidates will usually be required to write a good research proposal or project description and complete relevant application forms. You may also be required to provide other typical PhD application documents. Some additional materials that may be required could include:

  • Certified copies of all documents relevant to your educational background
  • A funding plan for your studies (for the full 3-4 years of full-time study, plus information about the funding source and type)
  • A statement describing any significant scholarly or material resource requirements
  • The name of at least one proposed academic supervisor (unless stipulated otherwise)

PhD entry requirements

The general eligibility criteria for PhD applications in Norway is similar to most other countries in the Europe. Our guide explains entry requirements for a prospective PhD student.

Language requirements

Most PhD programmes in Norway are taught in English. Prospective doctoral candidates from non-native English-speaking countries will need to submit scores of English language tests. The test and scores required can vary between different Norwegian research institutions and may even differ depending on the doctoral programme.

Some PhD programmes may be taught in Norwegian. Similarly, the scores of Norwegian language tests will need to be submitted for non-native Norwegian speakers. The scores required differ depending on research institution and programme of study. Even if Norwegian is not the language of instruction, proficiency in Norwegian will come in useful academically and in daily life.

Application process

In Norway, PhD programme applications are formal job applications. To complete admission, a written contract must be signed between the doctoral candidate, your supervisor, and the university or The Research Council of Norway (or an industry partner / funder, if appropriate).

You can find opportunities for PhD study on individual Norwegian university websites or browse current PhD projects in Norway.

Applying for a PhD

PhD applications in Norway will require additional application documents and processes. These are similar to those in the UK. Our guide explains PhD applications for a prospective PhD student.

Student visas

Norway is a welcoming country for PhD students, and this is reflected by the relatively simple immigration process. Doctoral candidates will still need to obtain some important travel documents.

Norwegian visas

PhD students from EU / EEA / Switzerland will not need a visa to travel to Norway; other international students will require a visa to enter the country.

In Norway, visas are only valid for a period of up to 90 days. Instead, you will require a student residence permit, health insurance and a Norwegian identity number.

Your prospective university will be able to advise and assist you with your visa process. More information can also be found at your nearest Norwegian foreign embassy.

Student residence permit

In order to study a PhD in Norway for more than three months, you may require a student residence permit.

For doctoral candidates from EU / EEA nations, you will only need to register with the local police within the first three months of living in Norway.

For doctoral candidates from non-EU / EEA nations, you will need to apply for a student residence permit. To be eligible for this you will need approximately €12,062 to cover living costs. If you are studying at a private university and will be paying tuition fees, you will need additional funds to cover these, too. This money will usually need to be deposited into a Norwegian bank account. There is also a processing fee of around €545 for each application.

Doctoral candidates from Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden) are only required to report their residence to the National Registry.

Health insurance

All doctoral candidates require a form of health insurance to access medical treatment in Norway.

EU / EEA / Swiss students that hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are eligible for health treatment in Norway. If you do not have an EHIC, you must have another form of medical insurance.

Non-EU / EEA / Swiss international PhD students (who are studying in Norway for more than one year) will be insured under the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme upon registering at a research institution and receiving a student residence permit.

Nordic students (Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and Swedish) automatically become entitled to healthcare upon registering in the National Population Register.

Norwegian identity number

To live in Norway for more than six months, you will also be required to report your move and receive a Norwegian Identity Number. To do this, you must book an appointment at a Norwegian Tax Office before you move in order to report your relocation within eight days of arrival.

The documents that are usually required to report you move are:

  • Your passport or national ID card
  • Police registration certificate
  • Property contract (purchase or rental)
  • Employment contract (for employed PhD students)
  • Confirmation of study place offer
  • Any other additional documents (this will be requested by the Norwegian Tax Administration)

This will enable you to open a Norwegian bank account and receive a student card.

Next steps

Studying a PhD in Norway provides an opportunity for globally-recognised high-quality research and should be a considerable qualification for future work.

As an employed doctoral researcher in Norway, you will receive professional experience of Norwegian work that will be useful for future endeavours.

Norway welcomes international workers, and the immigration process is relatively simple. The country has a highly-regarded welfare and social system with many benefits.

Can I work in Norway after my PhD?

It is normally possible to continue to work in Norway once your doctoral programme is completed. In addition to the other international documents outlined in the student visas section, you will also need to:

  • Have a tax deduction card
  • Submit tax returns
  • Receive tax assessment notices

More information can be found at the Norwegian Tax Administration or at New in Norway.

Find a PhD in Norway

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in Norway? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.

Last updated - 30/11/2018

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