Europe - Country Commercial Guide
Norway Education

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-03-10

Education Market Snapshot






Total number of mobile students abroad[1]






Percent of population under 24 years of age[2]





Total population[3]






The United States remains one of the most popular study destinations for Nordic students, and the number one destination outside Europe.  Nordic students view studying abroad as an opportunity to enhance employability and improve transferable skills and they are often motivated to travel abroad in some phases of their study. Generally, the completion of a degree from a U.S. educational institute is a desirable qualification on employment applications.

According to the Open Doors 2020 report, 7,000 Nordic students studied in the United States in academic year 2019/20, a 7% decrease compared to the prior year.  Despite the decline, Nordic students contributed $297 million to the U.S. economy[4] in 2019.

All levels of education are tax funded in the Nordics and thus tuition is free for eligible residents.  The Nordic educational systems range from highly ranked to world renowned, nearly all youth are enrolled in public schools and study English from the third grade or earlier.  All Nordic countries rate around or above the OECD average of performance in reading, mathematics, and science (PISA, 2018), and according to the Shanghai Ranking (2020), there are seven Nordic universities among the world’s top 100.  Nordic students with strong academic abilities often select a secondary education where they can focus on languages, sciences, math, or similar subjects to prepare them for university.

Financial aid is also available to eligible Nordic students wishing to pursue a degree in higher education.  The structure of the aid also transfers abroad with local variations/limitations due to, for instance parents’ incomes, degree level, commencement, and terms of studies (part- or fulltime; maximum amounts, etc.), creating a potential for Nordic students to pursue higher education abroad.

Denmark, Finland and Sweden are European Union (EU) members.  Norway is not a member, but is linked to the EU through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement.  The EU has strict laws governing the protection of personal data, including the use of such data in the context of direct marketing activities. For more information, see the Full GDPR text.


In the academic year 2019/2020, just over 10 percent of Danish university students that studied abroad, studied in the United States.  This was a small decrease from 2018/2019 and a more than 7 percentage point decrease from 2017/2018.

In the academic year 2018/2019, more than 6,900 Finnish university exchange students spent a semester or a whole academic year abroad; 250-300 of them chose to study at a U.S. higher education institution.  450-500 students were studying an entire degree in the United States.

The number of Norwegian students studying in the United States has steadily decreased, the largest percentage decrease last year was at the graduate level.  The Norwegian Government published a White Paper on Student Mobility in October 2020.  To normalize student mobility as a natural part of the Norwegian higher education system, students are now presumed to participate in international studies, unless they make an active choice to opt out of an exchange period abroad.  Financial aid and the structure of support will also be impacted by the recent White Paper, however per today the changes are unclear.

In the academic year 2018/19, 23,600 Swedish students studied abroad, a decrease for the fourth consecutive academic year[5].  Of these, 16.8% or 3,960 studied in the United States (-6.4%), of which 700 were exchange students and 3,270 were free movers.  The decrease in Swedish students studying abroad is in part due to shifting demographics, with smaller cohorts graduating from high school in 2019, and in part due to the unfavorable exchange rate.

Nordic society is highly digitalized, and many students take advantage of the free online education platform available to them through Nordic university enrollment.

Higher Education


Denmark had a total of 230,559 domestic students in reporting year 2020.

Danish students in the U.S.

Academic Level



% Change


















Finland had a total of 260,983 domestic students in reporting year 2019 (latest available information).

Finnish students in the U.S.

Academic Level



% Change


















Norway had a total of 254,179 domestic students in reporting year 2019 (latest available information).

Norwegian students in the U.S.

Academic Level



% Change


















Sweden had a total of 321,339 domestic students in reporting year 2020.

Swedish students in the U.S.

Academic Level



% Change


















Total of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish students in the U.S.

Academic Level



% Change






















Most Nordic students studying in the United States do so at the undergraduate level, with the exception of Denmark.

While Associate Degree courses are popular, there is no Nordic equivalent to the U.S. Associate Degree.  When students return to their home countries, not all U.S. credits are approved for further studies in the Nordics.  Therefore, a non-trade Associate Degree is a less interesting option for a Nordic student, unless they intend to pursue higher education where credit is recognized.

Community College

Many U.S. community colleges are represented by educational agents in the Nordics and are those that draw the largest percentage of Nordic students.  In 2017 1,200 Swedish students studied at community colleges in the United States.  According to a 2018 report by the Swedish Board of Student Finance (CSN), the most popular Community College programs 2010-2012 were the General and Economics Programs.  

Graduate Education

Contrary to their Nordic peers, Danish students generally study abroad during their master’s degree program.  In Denmark, international study at the graduate level in the United States increased slightly in the academic year 2019/2020 as compared to 2018/2019.  Historically, the number of Danish students studying at the graduate level abroad has been relatively stable.

Secondary Education

Due to the difference in educational systems between the United States and Nordic countries, the demand for secondary education in the U.S. is limited.  Since U.S. high school credits generally are non-transferable to Nordic high schools, students need to redo the grade upon returning to the Nordics, with the below mentioned exception of Norway.  A U.S. high school year can be integrated into a Norwegian diploma, but not into a Danish, Finnish or Swedish diploma.

In Norway, credits can be considered and approved, but need to be confirmed in advance with the student’s Norwegian school.  Swedish students take a gap year when attending U.S. high schools, since U.S. high school grades are only acknowledged at the lowest passing level in Sweden, an option that is not attractive to most pupils.

Financial aid is generally not available to Nordic students for high school studies abroad, with the exception of Norway.  In Norway, students whose U.S. high school credits have been confirmed and approved in advance, can be granted a scholarship from the government. Students are also required to pass their classes.  Finnish students are able to apply for financial aid for international secondary education, but the requirements are stricter than for financial aid for local secondary education.  Swedish students are eligible for financial aid at the secondary level, if the equivalent education is not available in Sweden.

Online Programs

There are many local providers of non-degree and certificate online programs in the Nordics.  Online programs are typically targeted for individuals to further their professional development in a specific field.  These programs include Professional Certificate Training and eMBA programs.   In general, for these types of programs, Nordic students cannot receive financial aid.

Research and Development

Research and development are high priorities for all Nordic governments.  Some of the most well-known programs for research and development between the United States and the Nordic countries can be found below:


American Scandinavian Foundation

Thanks to Scandinavia Scholarship                   


The Denmark-America Foundation

Fulbright Center Denmark 


Fulbright Finland

Björn Savén’s Finnish American Scholarship



EducationUSA Norway

NORAM Scholarships

U.S. - Norway Fulbright Foundation



Fulbright Sweden

The Sweden America Foundation        



Professional Training Services

There are many local providers of professional training services in the Nordics, both public and private.  Among the most popular professional training services are management training, courses for entrepreneurs, and courses in ICT, accounting, and marketing.  Nordic customers could be trained virtually in areas where expertise is high and where the market segment is considered narrow, such as high tech.  For U.S. companies interested in entering the Nordic market, the best option is to identify a Nordic partner to collaborate with.  For more information, please contact the Commercial Specialists listed at the end of this report.

Education Technology

The Nordic countries are among the most digitalized in the world and have specifically been working toward digitalizing education over the last decade.  Many schools use Zoom or Microsoft Teams as platforms for distance teaching.  For handing in assignments, posting course literature, and communicating with classmates and instructors, it is common in Nordics schools to use Learning Management Systems (LMSs).  Examples of such include Google Classroom, Canvas, Moodle, Itslearning, and Showbie.  The decision regarding which LMS each school uses is often made on a municipality level, although many schools have the autonomy to make the choice independently.  U.S. companies hoping to break into the Nordic LMS markets will need to adapt their products/services to each respective Nordic language and curriculum.

Online learning platforms are widely used in Denmark, though the market is dominated by a few domestic providers.  Because of the oligopolist structure of the market, it would be challenging for a new platform to enter the Danish market without establishing a strong partnership with one of the giants in the industry.

In Norwegian higher education, the local platform Itslearning is losing market share against its international counterparts such as Tieto and Showbie.  The latter two are commonly used for elementary, middle and high school.

In Finland and Sweden, pupils are provided with personal devices as early as in elementary school.  Throughout all levels of education, students are commonly given access to MS Office and use a wide array of LMSs.  In addition to the LMS platforms common to the Nordics, these platforms are also used: Ping Pong, Fronter, and Vklass.


Nordic students are highly literate, proficient in English, have an open, international mind-set, and are interested in travel and engaging with other cultures.  Many Nordic students are attracted by the characteristics of American university life.  The life painted through media in the last century holds promise of collegial activities such as a playful environment with an inspirational and high standard learning.  In the very fitness and sports oriented Nordic societies, college sports are an area for elite youths looking for scholarships in the United States.  Programs/agreements where tuition can be reduced are attractive for Nordic students who want to partake in the American college experience while further improving their English language skills.  Partnership and exchange agreements with Nordic universities are a common method for market entry.

The Nordic countries consistently rank in the top 10 in EF’s English Language Proficiency Rankings.  In 2020, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway occupied the second, third, fourth, and fifth spot rankings, respectively.  Because of their high English language proficiency, many Nordic students will not be attracted to basic English classes, but will seek educational opportunities in other, more specialized fields.

The EU goal is that, by 2020, 20% of all students should have experience from exchange studies or internships abroad when they graduate.  The Norwegian government announced in 2017 and confirmed in a 2020 White Paper, that they have a long-term goal of 50% exchange/studies abroad.  In Sweden, the student mobility goal has been set at 25% by the year 2025, yet of those that graduated in 2018/19, only 15% had studied abroad.

Engineering, and Business and Management are the two most popular study fields for both Danish and Finnish students in the United States.  In Norway, the one-year LLM program in the U.S. is of interest to Norwegian law students wishing to gain expertise in a specialized field.  Swedish graduates with the highest share of studies abroad included those with masters degrees in Business, Economics and Law as well as degrees in social sciences, law, business and administration.

Digital Marketing Strategies

Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the most used social media platforms among students in the Nordic countries.  These platforms each attract more than 70 percent of students from each country, making them ideal venues for digital marketing campaigns.

Generally Zoom and Microsoft Teams are the online communication platforms of choice among Nordic schools and universities.  Nordic students most frequently stream videos from YouTube and Netflix.  Spotify is commonly used to stream music, and in Finland, WhatsApp is a common messaging platform among students.  Students search for extracurricular jobs on LinkedIn, union websites, private job platforms (I.e. CareerGate, Graduateland,, Monster, etc.), and university-sponsored job platforms.

In Denmark, students generally learn about educational opportunities such as exchange through their academic institution or personal connections.  It is common for universities to advertise their international programs by organizing student fairs and through student counseling.

Finnish schools often provide students with information about educational opportunities through visits or “open house” days in higher education institutions.  During these days, high school and vocational school students visit university campuses to learn about degrees they are interested in.  Higher education institutions advertise in social media.

Norwegian and Swedish students often learn about the different educational routes through student fairs, guidance counselors in their high schools, ads on social media, or personal connections.  There are also information meetings and student fairs held by local education agents reaching out to students regarding international higher education opportunities, sports scholarships, etc. 

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs how personal data of individuals in the EU may be processed and transferred, went into effect on May 25, 2018.  The Nordic markets are bound by GDPR rules.  Conducting advertising campaigns directed at EU markets or mentioning an EU member state in relation to the good or service could be relevant to U.S. companies. For more information, see Full GDPR text.


College Days Scandinavia                             


EDU days

Webinars approximately biweekly (no in-person events due to COVID-19)



Educa Helsinki

Trade fair for education and training sector

Helsinki (online event)


Finland’s largest youth study and career event



Ta Utdanning 2020

EducationUSA Fair



This is Sweden’s largest high school fair. 2021 dates have not been set yet, but are generally in November. In 2020 this fair was virtual.

Saco Student Fair

This is Sweden’s largest event for post-secondary education. 2021 dates have not been set yet, but are generally in late November-early December in Stockholm and Malmö. In 2020 this fair was virtual.


  • U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service Global Education Team –
  • Industry and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services –




  • U.S. Commercial Service – Norway -
  • Association of Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA) -
  • Fulbright Norway -
  • Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) -
  • Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education (DIKU) -
  • Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, NOKUT -
  • Norway America Association (NORAM) -
  • Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund (Lånekassen) -
  • StudentTorget -
  • U.S. Commercial Service – Sweden -
  • Fulbright Commission -
  • Study Now -
  • Sweden America Foundation -
  • Swedish Board of Student Aid -
  • Swedish Council for Higher Education -
  • Swedish Higher Education Authority –
  • Swedish Institute -   



Patrycja Dahl, Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Copenhagen, Denmark
Phone number: +45 3341 7202


Mia Maki, Senior Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Helsinki, Finland


Phone number: +358 9 6162 5289


Heming Bjorna, Senior Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Oslo, Norway


Phone number: +47 213 08 760


Nancy Bjorshammar, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Stockholm, Sweden


Phone number: +46 8 783 5347



[1] UNESCO Student Mobility number

[2] CIA World Factbook

[3] CIA World Factbook

[4] BEA, Table 2.3. U.S. Trade in Services

[5] Swedish Higher Education Authority, 2020 Annual Report

[6] Open Doors, Research & Insights and Open Doors, Places of Origin

[7] Open Doors, Places of Origin

[8] Open Doors, Places of Origin

[9] Open Doors, Research & Insights and Open Doors, Places of Origin