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The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of completion of studies in higher education

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Summary

Background and objective of the audit

Completed in 2003, the Quality Reform in higher education was designed to strengthen the quality of education so that more students could successfully complete their studies. Among other things, the reform entailed higher education intensity, closer follow-up, new examination and evaluation forms, and enhanced quality to ensure increased throughput.

Report No. 7 (2007-2008) to the Storting stated that the evaluation that existed at the turn of 2006/2007 did not provide answers to whether the main goal of the reform had been reached: lower dropout and faster completion rates. Proposition to the Storting 1 S (2014-2015) referred to evaluations and indicators suggesting that the quality of education in Norway is too low.

The purpose of the audit was to consider the education institutions' and authorities' use of policy instruments to strengthen study completion in higher education. The audit covers the period 2011–2013.

Findings and recommendations

Study completion rates are still suboptimal ten years after the Quality Reform

The expectations of the reform have not been met. Suboptimal completion and high dropout rates continue to be a significant challenge. Norway has one of the lowest higher education completion rates among OECD countries.

The Office of the Auditor General (OAG) recommends that the Ministry follow up educational institutions to ensure that they more actively exploit opportunities to bolster completion of studies using targeted measures that also include study organisation, teaching methods and the academic quality of the school.

Efforts to increase completion rates have produced few results

The six educational institutions that underwent closer examination have initiated measures to strengthen both the quality and completion of education. The Ministry of Education and Research follows up on this in its management of the institutions, with the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education performing oversight and evaluations. Considering that the results are nevertheless persistently weak, it is the OAG's opinion that sufficient policy instruments have not been implemented.

The OAG recommends that the Ministry of Education and Research see to it that the educational institutions do more to evaluate these measures.

Agreed education plans do not increase the production of credits

The OAG notes that the institutions have reported significantly better achievement of goals in education plans rather than completion of studies within the prescribed time, and that this indicates that the plans increasingly function as an accommodation of the students' study situation rather than an effective instrument for increasing the production of credits.

The OAG recommends that the Ministry of Education and Research consider how education plans can contribute to achieving the national goal of completing studies within the prescribed time develop a statistical basis to make it easier to see whether full-time students complete their studies within the prescribed time.

There is little support for using completion as a quality indicator

The audit shows that educational institutions and the Ministry consider completion to be a good indicator of quality to only some degree. The OAG points out the importance of having good quality criteria for describing development and assessing means.

The OAG recommends that the Ministry of Education and Research consider adopting indicators that are more capable of illustrating and developing the quality of higher education.

Ministry/ministries:

Riksrevisjonen, Storgata 16, P.O. Box 8130 Dep, 0032 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 24 10 00

Org.nr: 974 760 843