In Norway 68 percent of students say no to tuition fees. Students elsewhere in Europe are up in arms protesting increased tuition fees.På norsk
– Several places the introduction of tuition fees for international students was just the first step. Anne Karine Nymoen, chairman of NSO.
London, 10th of November: Ten thousands of students shatter the windows of the Conservative party’s headquarters. Stones, rotten fruit and shards of glass are thrown at riot control police officers. Anarchistic signs are sprayed on walls of the buildings interior. The students of England are livid after the conservative government’s decision to raise tuition fees.
In Norway students resound with a clear “no!” to the proposition of introducing tuition fees. A survey by Sentio for Universitas and the Norwegian Student Organization (NSO) shows that 68 percent of students studying higher education in Norway are negatively disposed to the idea of tuition fees.
– I’ll be in the frontlines of an eventual demonstration if the Norwegian government wants to introduce tuition fees. I’ll gladly organize the rally myself, says Runa Næss Thomassen, student at the University of Oslo.
– Trend could force Norway
– There are strong forces indicating that tuition fees will be introduced sooner or later, says researcher for the Norwegian Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NifuStep), Bjørn
He thinks the trend in the rest of Europe will affect Norway.
– The implementation of fees for international students in Sweden and Denmark will pressure higher education in Norway. The amount of foreign students coming to Norway will increase. Then the natural solution from the government’s side would be to introduce tuition fees, says Stensaker.
He points to the growing amount of students and pressured budgets after the financial crises as two important reasons for the recent developments in other European countries. In addition he notes that there has been a wave of conservative governmental rule in Europe, and that it’s mainly their decision to introduce tuition fees or increases thereof.
– Higher education is the second greatest expenditure in European government’s budgets. With the welfare state under pressure, they’re frantically looking for ways to cut expenses, Stensaker remarks.
He mentions that the new source of income wouldn’t necessarily lead to better educational programs.
– A classic argument among opponents is that it’ll be the students paying, instead of the government, and the quality won’t improve, says Stensaker.
–Creates class divisions
Runa Næss Thomassen is, along with student of political sciences Haakon
Gjerløw and student of education Kathrine Sollied, greatly critical of the idea of introducing tuition fees in Norway.
– We’ve been working toward a society with equal possibilities for all people the past 100 years. The introduction of these fees would go against everything the Norwegian society stands for. It would oppress those with low incomes, says Thomassen. The students claim that young people from poor families won’t be able to educate themselves if the fees are implemented.
– Where I’m from most people work in agriculture, and most people there wouldn’t go to university or college if it cost money. It would create a divide between classes, says Gjerløw.
The three students strongly criticize the Christian Democratic Party’s and
the Conservative Party’s (Høyre) interest in installing tuition fees for international students. Krf wants to implement the fees, while Høyre thinks it’s important to debate the subject.
– It will be unfair. To people from Chile and one from the US don’t have the same prerequisite to get by economically in Norway. It might lead to that we solely educate students from rich countries, says Haakon Gjerløw.
Runa Næss Thomassen fears that it will also lead to the eventual introduction of tuition fees for Norwegian students.
She’s supported by Stensaker of NifuStep.
– Once you’ve broken the principle of free education it’s easier to take it a step further and demand students with rich parents or well-paying part-time jobs to pay a fee, he says.
Chair of NSO Anne Karine Nymoen says they’re paying close attention to what is happening in other countries.
– Many places the introduction of fees for international students was just the first step, she says.
Nymoen thinks Norwegian students will react strongly if a decision is made to introduce tuition fees.
– The student organizations will respond with nonviolent means, such as demonstrations, and actively oppose the fee, she says.
The survey by Sentio shows that some students are positive towards the introduction of a moderate tuition fee. 18 percent of students are willing to pay a fee of approximately 5000 kroners a year. Only two of the thousand people asked said they were positive to a yearly fee of 30 000 kroners. Thomassen thinks it’s naïve to think it would stop at the level of 5000 kroners, should a tuition fee be implemented.
– Agreeing to 5000 kr fee would just be the first step. We’ve all seen what’s happening in Great Britain. We could end up in the same mess, she says.
(Undersak)—Downplaying of the cost-free principle
When asked by Universitas all the political parties answered that they want to keep the principle of free education in Norway. For Krf and Høyre this does not include free education for foreign students in Norway.
– It’s thought that we should introduce a fee of between 6000 and 16 000 euros a year for foreign students, says spokesman for Krf Jon Håkon Øen.
This equal to what was installed in Denmark. Høyre wishes to start a debate about the introduction of fees, too.
– If Norway becomes the only country left with free education for international students, and this would result in a surge of foreign students, then a tuition fee would be a way to regulate it, says Svein Harberg, a parliamentary representative for Høyre.
Minister for research and higher education Tora Aasland says it is shocking that Krf is the first oppositional party to champion the tuition fee for foreign students.
– This is downplaying the cost-free principle. I expected this from Høyre or the Progress Party (Frp), but not Krf, says Aasland.
She’s worried about what steps will be made should a right-wing government reach power.
– Especially if Krf is part of that government, says Aasland, and gives a short laugh.
She says it’s out of the question for the current government to implement a tuition fee.
– Our goal is to have equal rights to education for everyone.
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