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Higher education completion rates remain equally low after ten years of reform measures

Ten years of reform measures aimed at reducing dropout rates and speeding up the completion of higher education have not produced the desired result: The situation is about the same as before the reform, and among OECD countries Norway has one of lowest study completion rates. - The Ministry of Education and Research should institute follow up measures to ensure that higher education institutions implement appropriate measures and achieve improvements, says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.​

Published 5/21/2015 1:00 PM

Document 3:8 The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of completion of studies in higher education was submitted to the Storting (Norwegian parliament) on 21 May 2015.

The Quality Reform of higher education was implemented in 2003 with control and study measures designed to help more students to complete their studies, and to do so to a greater extent within the prescribed time. The Office of the Auditor General (OAG)'s audit shows that the higher education institutions' and authorities' measures and efforts have produced few results. In 2011-2013, each full-time student earned an average of 45.5 credits, only 1.5 points more than in 2003. Completing higher education in the prescribed time requires 60 credits per year. This entails a delay of almost six months for every second year of study.

At the same time the dropout rate is high: An overview of students in 18 OECD countries who complete their higher education with at least one degree shows that only Sweden, the US and Hungary have lower completion rates than Norway. In Norway, 59 per cent of students complete their studies, while the average among the 18 countries is 68 per cent. Japan and Denmark have the highest completion rates, with 90 and 81 per cent.

- The expectations of the reform have not been met; it is still an important task for both the Ministry of Education and Research and higher education institutions to achieve higher study completion and lower dropout rates, says Foss.

The OAG recommends that the Ministry of Education and Research ensure that education institutions step up the implementation of relevant measures to improve completion rates. - The measures that have been adopted, such as social programmes for new students and individual support for students with low progression, have not had much effect so far. Both the institutions and the authorities must then consider more and other measures, which may include teaching methods, organisation of studies and the academic quality of the school, says Foss.

The OAG also recommends that the Ministry evaluate how the individual education plans can help achieve the goal of completing studies within the prescribed time. Given the way the plans currently work, they seem to be more of an adaptation to the students' study situation than an effective instrument.

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