Yesterday, the Norwegian government proposed to introduce tuition fees for international students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
Nearly 100 students were protesting the proposal when Isaksen came to the University of Oslo (UiO) to launch his long-term plan for higher education.
– It is very important to defend the principle that higher education in Norway should be free. In our society, equal opportunities is fundamental, and the introduction of tuition fees for international students challenges this principle, says Marianne Andenæs, leader of the Student Parliament at the University of Oslo.
Andenæs and University Rector Ole Petter Ottersen met Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen at Blindern to emphatically signal their opposition to the proposal.
– It is important to mobilize more people to understand that this does not only affect the international students. In other countries where tuition fees for international students have been introduced, this has also affected the other students, says Andenæs.
Support from union
The Norwegian union Norsk Tjenestemanslag at UiO (NTL UiO) were also present during the protest to support students in the fight against tuition fees.
– The introduction of tuition fees will not lead to more students with a foreign background in Norway, – on the contrary. International students are very important, not only for the universities, but for all of Norway, says Mari Helen Varøy, Director of NTL UiO.
She is very disappointed by the proposal.
– Both the liberal party Venstre and the Christian-Democratic party Kristelig Folkeparti have clearly voiced their opposition to the proposal. Parliament does not support the proposal, says Varøy.
Anders Kvernmo Langset, head of the Norwegian Student Organization (NSO) is pleased that so many showed up to demonstrate with just a few hours notice.
– Tuition fees for international students violates the basic principle that higher education should be free and accessible to all. You should not be dependent on your parents' finances to study in Norway, he says.
– We will do everything we can to ensure that this proposal does not become law, says Langset.
Minister: – as expected
The Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen was not surprised by the demonstration.
– We know that both student organizations and the higher education sector in general does not want tuition fees, but we hope that they will be reassured by the fact that this is not a backdoor attempt to introduce tuition fees for everyone, says Isaksen.
He told Universitas that he would have been more surprised if no-one had turned up to demonstrate.
– Iʼve just been through a teacher strike where I was greeted by 800 striking teachers in Stavanger, so Iʼm prepared for it. It would be more worrying if no-one bothered to come and hold up a poster, he said.