PhD life in Norway

It almost never came across my mind to pursue my PhD study in Norway. As an academician in the field of accounting/management, my “only knowledge” of pursuing a doctoral study is to countries such as the US, the UK, or Australia. Not only its beautiful nature and scenery, but Norway also offers high-quality education and a unique student experience that I would like to share here:

1. Free education

Education in all level from elementary, secondary to tertiary levels (bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees) are free in Norway. No tuition fees applied in the Norwegian Higher Education system. Most of the universities are state-owned and fully subsidized by the country. If you want to study your PhD in Norway and bring your family along, your children can also go to school for free, both in public school and international school.

2. Funding scheme

There are several types of funding schemes for pursuing a doctoral degree in Norway. Generally, Norwegian universities open job vacancies as a PhD Research Fellow (in Norwegian called: stipendiat). These vacancies are available and published on each university’s website. PhD student as stipendiat is considered as an employee and you will earn a research fellow salary stipulated by Norwegian Law. This salary can be used in everyday life. As an employee, a PhD student is associated with the employee’s rights and obligations the same as other employees, for example, related to taxes, pension contributions, working hours, leave, and other facilities. Scholarship and cotutelle (joint PhD) are also other alternatives for this funding scheme. Aside from Norway, PhD student employment scheme is also known in other European countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands.

3. Study period

The normal study period of a PhD student in Norway is between 3-5 years, depending on each university. In my campus, there are two types of employment contract schemes for PhD students, three-year contract and four-year contract. Three-year contract for full research (meaning that the students’ obligation is only research). At four-year contract, 75% of the time is for research; the remaining 25% is used to teach in class, could be either in Masters or Bachelor levels.

4. Study output

There are typically two formats in the PhD program: single monograph or publishable papers. In my campus, the output is three publishable papers. At the end of the study period, these three papers should be combined in one document called “Kappa.” In addition, a PhD student should present his/her research in a public debate, with a trial lecture related to his/her research field, as a preceding.

5. Compulsory coursework and academic conference

To the best of my knowledge, PhD students in Norway have to take some courses to support their research project. In my campus, a PhD student should take 30 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) courses (or approximately 5-6 subjects, depending on ECTS per subject) during his/her doctoral study. Some of these courses are having a sitting-exam. However, most are having take-home exams, for example, making a research proposal, a literature review paper, or a critique paper. In my program, I have to take three compulsory subjects: 1. Philosophy and theory, 2. Quantitative methods, 3. Qualitative methods. The rest of the courses shall be taken to fulfil 30 ECTS. PhD students are able to take other subjects that are relevant to their research projects, for example, experimental methods, survey methods, structural equation modelling (SEM), or other specific subjects such as the examples above, at all universities in Norway and Europe. The related expenses (e.g., tuition, travel, accommodation) are borne by the university. Research facilities with a generous budget are given to PhD students during their study to conduct academic conferences and all research needs such as related to data, books, proofreading, academic association membership, etc.

6. Supervisor and professor

Supervisors assigned to each PhD student are usually 1-2 professors. The relationship between supervisor-student is not too formal but mutually respectful. Norway is well-known as an egalitarian and low power distant country.

7. Language

The national language of Norway is Norwegian (or Norsk). Nevertheless, Norwegians are well-known as one of the best non-native English speakers in the world, according to some surveys. No worries if you cannot speak Norwegian fluently as I do, you still can survive in your everyday life. Particularly in the university’s environment, there are quite numbers of professors who are not Norwegians and can only speak English. However, you can learn Norwegian since the university usually provides free Norwegian course for PhD students.

8. Healthcare

PhD students are entitled to healthcare once register as residents. In most cases, medical treatment is free of charge if certain prerequisites are met. Moreover, Norway’s clean air and a healthy lifestyle are the best prevention of being sick.

9. Activities outside the campus

As far as I concern, Norwegians are sporty, they like to do sports, and are very concerned about work-life balance. For those who like sports, some universities offer gym facilities and swimming pool. If you like an outdoor sport (and free), there are public facilities such as outdoor gym, basketball, and volleyball courts, or you can swim in a lake or beach during summertime. Hiking is also another alternative to do sport while enjoying Norway’s beautiful natural scenery. There are also many public parks, such as botanical gardens or children’s playgrounds.

10. Housing and transportation

Most universities provide student housing at “student prices.” However, you can also rent private apartments outside the university area. Most of these apartments are furnished, but there are also unfurnished ones. Public transportation within the city is usually by bus. But you can also ride a bicycle or a scooter, or just walk by. Electric cars are also very common in Norway; many public charging facilities are available.

I hope this information can be a little help for those who want or are interested in pursuing PhD study Norway. Best of luck!

This post is originally written by Arizona Mustikarini, current a PhD candidate of Accounting at the University of Agder, Norway. She is also a lecturer of Accounting at the Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia.


  1. Raju

    How we can apply for Sweden PhD

  2. Kamaldeen Sanusi

    Wao! Interesting. How do I get a PhD position in biomedical science?

  3. Gemechu Shiferaw Lencho

    i want to persue my PhD in psychology i need any advice pls

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