European Free Trade Association

Until recently, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Iceland, and Switzerland made up the countries of the EFTA. Three of these countries-Austria, Finland, and Sweden-have voted, in national referenda, in favor of joining the EU. These decisions were ratified by their respective parliaments in early 1995.


Norway has two sectors in its higher education system: the university sector consisting of 4 universities and 10 university-level colleges, and the non-university sector which contains 98 colleges. The latter include specialized colleges for fields such as nursing, teacher training, and engineering. These were upgraded to higher education institutions after 1970 and reorganized into 26 units in 1994. Great expansion has taken place in the non-university sector, as has occurred in the United States in community colleges. Three year, vocationally oriented programs in higher education were a priority of Norway's labor sector.

The trend in Norway is toward an aging student population; the mean age of first year entrants is 23, with a slow study progression in most fields. Only in engineering do students complete studies in the prescribed time. The average age of the first university degree in the sciences is 28. Engineering and computer sciences in the university sector require 4 to 5 years of study. The natural and social sciences require 3 years for a lower degree, with 2 additional years for a higher degree (master's). In the sciences, higher degrees are much more common; three times as many students obtain higher degrees than lower degrees in these fields (Naess and Aamodt, 1992).

Norway more than doubled enrollment in higher education between 1975 and 1991, from approximately 67,000 to 166,000 students. By 1992, 49 percent of the college-age population was enrolled in some form of higher education. A significant amount of this growth is to study business administration in newly formed private institutions, to try to fill the demand for these skills in the labor market. Only about 40 percent of the enrollments in higher education are in the traditional university sector. The majority, 60 percent, are in regional and specialized colleges upgraded to higher education institutions after 1970.

A high fraction (30 percent) of Norwegian young people obtain a university education, comparable with the United States, but relatively few students major in science. (See appendix tables 1 and 22.) Only about 2.5 percent of university degrees are in fields of natural science. Engineering degrees, however, quadrupled from 1976 to 1987 in response to the demand created by the discovery of North Sea oil and now make up 10 percent of all university degrees.

More women in Norway complete a higher education degree than men, but fewer women earn their degrees in the sciences. Thirty-eight percent of the female college-age cohort obtain a first university degree, while only 22 percent of men obtain such a degree. (See figure 30.) The likely reason for this disparity is that teaching and nursing schools, predominantly female, were incorporated into university education. Men major in science and engineering far more than women; 5.7 percent of the male college-age cohort obtains a natural science or engineering degree, while less than 2 percent of college-age females obtain such degrees. Women do, however, obtain a relatively high share (22 percent) of engineering degrees and a third of the natural science degrees in Norway (Stiver Lie and Teigen, 1994).

Norway's economy suffered a severe slump in the 1980s until the North Sea oil discovery could be exploited. GDP has shown positive growth since 1988. In 1993, with a GDP of $62.9 billion, Norway invested $1.2 billion or 1.9 percent of GDP in R&D. Industry's share of R&D funding reached as high as 50 percent in 1987, but has since declined to 44 percent in 1993. R&D investments increased rapidly in the 1980s, leveled off in 1989 to 1991, and increased towards 1993 [40] . International sources of funding reached 5 percent in 1993.Norway has singled out certain priority areas for research. These include information technology; biotechnology; new materials; aqua culture; offshore oil and gas technology and related research, management, organization, and administrative systems; health, environment, and social issues; and research related to the dissemination of tradition and culture (EC, 1994b).


Two federal institutes of technology, in Zurich and Lausanne, and seven cantonal [41] universities, accommodate the relatively small portion of the population that goes on to a post-secondary education in Switzerland. Only 13 percent of high school students receive the education and pass examinations necessary for the university. Seven out of ten students go to a high school with an apprenticeship program. As in the United States, there is no national system; each Canton is responsible for financing its higher education system (Ogay, 1992). Swiss are conservative in their definition of first university degrees. There are no professional schools within universities. Professional education and training occurs in non-university higher education for teacher training, engineers, public administration, social work, and education specialists. Switzerland does not include graduates from these specialized schools in university counts as other countries have begun to do. Partly because of this restrictive definition of universities, Switzerland ranks near the bottom of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in the percentage of its college-age cohort who obtain a university degree-8.3 percent. (See appendix table 1.) If non-university higher education was included, that figure would be 14 percent, similar to many European countries (Gov. of Switzerland, 1993).

There are two routes for engineering education: engineering studies in polytechnics, which are the university-level Federal institutes of technology, and the higher technical schools. Access to the formal higher education institutes are reserved for those who have completed the pre-university track in secondary school. In the polytechnics, students learn engineering concepts and basic sciences and are prepared to engage in fundamental research. Admission to the higher technical schools requires a certificate of professional formation in industry or in a trade school. Students receive a 3-year practical education in mechanical, electrical, civil, or construction engineering. Two to three times more students receive engineering degrees from higher technical schools than from the university level (Lambrech, 1993).

Traditionally, Swiss university students have preferred non-technical majors. In 1992, only 8 percent of first university degrees were obtained in fields of engineering, similar to the percentage for engineering in the United States. Since 1985, the annual growth rate in numbers of S&E degrees has increased slightly faster than overall university degrees. Most fields of science and engineering grew between 4 and 6 percent. Mathematics and computer science degrees grew at more than 11 percent annually, but from a small base. Overall university degrees grew at 3.8 percent during this same time. Only 2 percent of the college-age cohort obtains a university degree in natural sciences or engineering. (See appendix table 1.) Women make up 30 percent of university enrollments in Switzerland. They obtain half of the social science degrees, and one-quarter of the natural science degrees, but only 3 percent of the university engineering degrees. (See appendix table 20.) Switzerland, with a 1993 GDP of $125 billion, invested $3.3 billion or 2.6 percent of GDP in R&D. R&D investment grew sharply from 1983 to 1990 and leveled off when the GDP growth leveled off in 1991. RSEs rose from 10,000 in 1975 to 17,000 in 1991, representing 45 RSEs per 10,000 of the labor force in 1991.

[40] The EU's Fourth Framework Program is included in the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement among 17 European countries. Thus, although Norway elected to remain outside the European Union, as a member of the EEA, the country will be a full participant in the EU's joint research programs (Gov. of Norway, 1995).

[41] A canton is a territorial division, or state, of Switzerland.