Adult Education in Norway

Hilde S. Grønhovd

 What is meant in the country when you talk about Adult Education? 

Adults who need primary and lower secondary education have a statutory right to such education. Adults also have a statutory right to upper secondary education. This applies to adults who have not already completed an upper secondary education. The right to free education for adults up to and including upper secondary is guaranteed by law. The responsibility is divided between municipalities and counties. Adult Education also implies learning in Folk High Schools and Adult Learning NGOs offering courses to 4-500.000 Norwegians every year. Adult Education also takes place in all parts of working life. We also have private schools and Adult Education centers providing AE, but this activity is not included in this report.

What is typical for Adult Education in the country?AE in Norway is complex and organised by a lot of different providers. It involves Formal AE, mostly organised by municipalities and counties, labour training AE mostly organised by the Labour and Welfare Authorities, Basic Competence training organised by workplaces with public funding, different courses and learning activities organised by Study Associations, NGOs, distance education providers, Folk High Schools, private businesses and worplaces.
Non formal Adult Education (Study Associations etc) is open and accessible to the whole population from the age of 14, at a low cost, including a wide variety of topics and all levels of education.

Legal basis

Education Act (1998)
Regulates the right to primary, secondary and upper secondary education for everybody, including adults.
Adult Education Act (2009)
Regulates non-formal adult education sector, including study associations and distance education institutions.
Folk High school Act (2002)
Regulates the Folk High Schools, their mission, goals and funding.

Responsible public bodies/ministries

Ministry of Education
Vox – Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning
Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (Udir)
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV)

Relevant umbrella associations and national (service) organisations

NAAL/Norwegian Association for Adult Learning (VOFO)
(Umbrella organisation for Study Associations in Norway)
Flexible Education Norway (FuN)
Umbrella organisation for for institutions involved in distance education.
Norwegian Folk High School Association

Providers of Adult Education

428 Municipalities/Local authorities provide Adult Education on primary- and secondary level to all inhabitants with rights to this education, according to the Education Act.
19 Regional Authorities provide Adult Education on upper secondary level, also according to the Education Act.
15 Study Associations and their muoffer non-formal Adult Education, and also provides formal Adult Education on demand from Public Authorities.
Universities, University Colleges
Provide full time and part time studies
Distance education providers
Organizations and institutions offering distance courses on different levels.
Basic Competence in Working Life program


Adult Education in Norway is financed by the central, county and local governments and by learners’ fees.
Study Associations:
In recent years the funding of non-formal Adult Education from central authorities has not changed much, and in 2013 the total amount is 189 million NOK (about 23 million Euros).
Basic Competences:
In 2006 the Government started the Basic Competence in Working Life program, and they have increased the commitment each year. In 2013 104 mill NOK (13 mill Euro) was spent on this purpose.
Folk High schools:
The funding of Folk High Schools from the Norwegian Government was 712 million NOK (about 87 mill Euros) in 2013.
Distance Education Providers
The funding of non-formal distance education from the Norwegian Government was in 2010 about 70 million NOK (about 9 million Euros).


Non-formal Adult Education (Study Associations), ca. 460000 participants.
Esthetical subjects/handicraft 46,4 %
Organization and leadership 16 %
Health/ sports sciences 11,5 %
Nature/outdoors 7,1 %
Humanistic and religious 4,3 %
Social Sciences 4,1 %
Language 3,3 %
Science/Industry 2,8 %
Economy/ICT 2,3 %
Transport 1,6 %
Services 0,3 %
No accessible statistics on topics in Formal AE, Folk High Schools and Distance Education.

Quality system / insurance

No restriction on starting organisation sthat offers courses and education, but restrictions to get public funding. To be able to carry out formal education there are demands. Quality management systems: Different from institution to institution.
Restrictions for organizations to be able to get public funding and to use the term Study Association in their name are regulated in the AE-act. These restrictions include organizing a minimum of learning activities, having a democratic structure and some other demands.

Latest developments / main problems in the discussion

Some current discussions:
Validation of prior learning, National Qualifications Framework (NQF), Basic competences, Training for labour market, Drop outs (young adults).Overview written by Hilde S. Grønhovd

Relevant links 
Euridyce: Structures of Education and Training Systems in Europe – Norway
EAEA Country presentation: Norway