Strategy for digital transformation in the higher education sector


The ability of students and staff at higher education institutions to use digital tools in studies and work was put to the test when the corona pandemic hit the country last year. The test was passed, and I would like to commend the efforts many have made to ensure that the students receive the best possible educational offer and that the research and development work did not stop.

The rapid digitalisation during the pandemic has shown that much remains to be done before digital tools provide the increase in educational quality we want. At the same time, there is great potential in making better use of digital tools in the higher education sector.

Consequently higher education institutions must adjust to take greater advantage of digital technology. Going forward, it will be important to continue the work of  further developing quality in education, research and innovation. The institutions must also contribute with new courses and the knowledge and understanding that is necessary to utilize the opportunities and meet the challenges that digitalisation presents.

The efforts during the pandemic promises well for further work, and I am confident that the higher education sector will come to terms with the restructuring that lies ahead.

Henrik Asheim 

Minister of Research and Higher Education (24th January 2020 - 14th October 2021).

1 Introduction


The digital transformation is one of the biggest changes our society is going through this decade. We need to understand how digitalisation affects society and individuals. The change in technology may improve products, processes and   services, but it may also increase social and cultural differences and challenge  freedom of expression, privacy and security. This strategy aims for higher education institutions to contribute the knowledge and expertise that society's  citizens, companies and public agencies need to succeed in the digital transformation.

More and more people experience a need to understand and use digital technology more than before. Hence higher education institutions must offer courses that provide relevant digital skills for most professions. There have to be opportunities both for those entering higher education for the first time, and for those returning for upskilling or reskilling. This implies that higher education must be made more accessible. Higher education institutions need to get more involved in lifelong learning. They must offer decentralized and flexible courses for those who, due to residence or life situation, are not able to study full-time at an institution.[1] Good digital education will be crucial to achieve this.

During the corona pandemic, students have experienced that digital teaching was of a lower quality than physical teaching.[2] At the same time, students have appreciated the flexibility that some types of digital education provide to study when and where appropriate. Both students and teachers have gained useful   experience with digital education. When the campuses reopen and the institutions no longer have to carry out digital education for reasons of infection control, they can again use digital and physical teaching methods where they are most suitable. They should then use digital technology to increase the quality of education in a way that students learn more.

Increased access to data means that new research questions can be explored across disciplines and sectors of society. Digital technology will provide a more outward system of research where research results are easily accessible and the knowledge be used quickly. Higher education institutions may also use digital technology to collaborate more closely with labour market and society on education, research and innovation.

The education and research sector as a whole offers a number of user-oriented digital services such as study admissions, approval of foreign education and study financing. More data sharing across education levels will help the sector streamline work and deliver better services to users.

New digital technologies used to create, process and share information are also changing the way we establish and use new knowledge. Digital technology has the potential to move disciplines, educations and research forward. Hence a digitalisation strategy also have to deal with how the institutions carry out their core tasks: education, research and dissemination, including innovation. Not least, the strategy must be about what management, culture and organization are needed to achieve the goal of transforming the institution using digital technology.

The purpose of this strategy is to provide direction for the further digital transformation in a way that better enables the higher education sector to meet society's need for knowledge and skills. The goal is for the institutions to have a cohesive approach to the use and consequences of digital technology to solve their social mission in a better way.[3]

Who the strategy applies to

This strategy replaces the Digitalisation Strategy for the higher education sector 2017–2021 and applies to all higher education institutions , as well as the Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir), the Education and research sector's service provider (Sikt) and the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT).[4] The strategy may also influence adjacent sectors such as the institute sector, health trusts, the education and research sector in general, as well as working life and society at large.

How the strategy came to be

The Ministry of Education and Research has developed the strategy for digital transformation in close collaboration with the higher education sector. In the annual notice of funding for 2020, the Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (Unit) was commissioned to prepare a draft in  collaboration with the sector. A working group with representatives from the educational institutions, the business community, the student organizations and  Unit was established. In January 2021, the working group submitted its proposal to the Ministry. The proposal was anchored in the sector through two rounds of input. The Ministry processed the proposal, then sending it for consultation on June 28, 2021. The consultation provided great support for the six strategic priority areas. Several higher education institutions addressed what the digital transformation in the individual subject area should entail, and what values ​​and ethical principles should underlie it. Such questions are up to the single institution to consider in the follow-up of the strategy. Which research fields that are to be prioritized in the future will also be discussed in the ongoing work on revising the Long-Term Plan for Research and Higher Education.

This strategy must be viewed in the context of other initiatives of the Norwegian Government to strengthen the quality of research and higher education. Among white papers to the Storting and national strategies that are relevant to the follow-up of this strategy are; the Long-term plan (white paper),[5] the Quality report (white paper),[6] the Mobility report (white paper),[7 the report on Labour market relevance (white paper),[8] the Governance report (white paper),[9] the Data economy report (white paper),[10] National strategy for artificial intelligence, National strategy for digital security and National strategy for making research data available and shared. In addition, the strategy must be seen in connection with the Strategy for flexible and decentralised education at vocational colleges, university colleges and universities.

2 Six strategic focus areas

In order to provide a clear direction for the further work on how digital technology will be used to improve higher education, research and dissemination, six strategic focus areas have been selected. For each focus area, some main ambitions have been set for the work. Then challenges, opportunities and gains as well as requirements are described, and finally there are areas of action that follow up the main ambitions. Most areas of action require effort and action by the higher education institutions themselves. Higher education institutions have different profiles and different starting points for the digital transformation. For some areas of initiative, collaboration and joint solutions across the institutions will be  beneficial. The Ministry of Education and Research expects that measures that are suitable as joint solutions will be realized as joint solutions.

Digitalisation for flexible education


  • Higher education institutions must be attractive to students in all phases of life and offer educations that meet changes in labour market and society in general.
  • A user-centered approach to the student must be applied, and digital technology will be used to develop more adapted and flexible courses with high quality.


Society increasingly expects that offers and services are accessible and     personalized in a lifelong learning perspective. New target groups require better insight from higher education institutions into who the potential students are and what their needs are. Digitalisation is driving changes in study habits and learning preferences that higher education institutions have to meet in order to be relevant. An important experience from the corona period is that future education should combine physical presence and digital offerings in a way that promotes learning, learning environment and flexibility.

About the concepts of physical, all-digital, mixed and hybrid teaching

Physical education: All students are present physically following the teaching together. Teaching may take place e.g. in a lecture hall, a group room, a laboratory, in the field or in practice. Digital      technology is used where appropriate to support learning.

All-digital teaching: All students participate in the teaching      entirely digital. Teaching may consist of e.g. video lectures, online teamwork or digital exercises that take place in real time or by  working at other times.

Mixed teaching: Included in a study offer that is composed of  physical and all-digital teaching situations that take place       separately. Physical and digital arenas are chosen based on what they are best suited for while pedagogical principles of reverse teaching ( flipped classroom ) may be used as a basis. The course may e.g. consist of digital lectures, physical teamwork and physical or  digital exercises.

Hybrid teaching: Some students are present physically while some students participate in the teaching digitally. This form of teaching requires technological equipment as well as pedagogically based teaching program that provides all students equal opportunities for active participation and to achieve the same learning outcome.

All four forms of teaching may be included in both ordinary campus-based degree educations as well as in decentralized and flexible education.

Opportunities and gains

Digital flexible education makes it easier to access knowledge, technology and  solutions developed at higher education institutions. Hence more use of digital technology in education may increase the number of people who find it attractive to seek education, and for the institutions to develop new courses that reach out to the whole nation. Online courses may be all-digital, but can also be supplemented with regional or campus-based gatherings. An advantage of all-digital courses is that they make it possible to take higher education completely regardless of where you live.

Institutions that work well with labour market and society know better which skills are needed. This makes it easier to create attractive and relevant courses. Digital platforms and solutions may strengthen the implementation of the skills reform and contribute to increased labour market relevance in the educations.[11] Digital  technology can also be used to adapt study offerings to students' skills needs and preferences. With a more flexible and digitally accessible study offer, more people will be able to complete their education. This implies that higher education     institutions are able to meet education seekers in different life situations, both on   campus and elsewhere.

There is an ambition of the Norwegian Government that 50 per cent of Norwegian  students experience a study or internship abroad.[12] International digital teaching arrangements where students both receive instruction and collaborate digitally, combined with shorter physical exchange stays, may provide a strengthened    international dimension in courses where longer stays abroad are difficult to achieve. For students who cannot travel on physical exchange at all, digital      education with students in other countries is an option.


Digital flexible education has to be based on a clear understanding of the education seekers and their needs and preferences for teaching and learning. To achieve this, students, teachers, researchers and labour market must be given a real opportunity to participate in the design of the educations, both in terms of academic content and form.

The digital measures and instruments that the higher education sector develop must meet the requirements of the Gender Equality and Discrimination Act on the universal design of digital services and learning resources. Requirements from the incorporation into the EEA Agreement of the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sectors websites and mobile applications with effect from January 1, 2023 must also be taken into account.[13]

Flexible courses have to be closely linked to the various skills needs of the labour market and society, as well as the demand for education and skills development in different regional and local labour markets. Priority must be given to the development of flexible and digitally adapted study programs with a good learning environment in physical, all-digital, mixed and hybrid learning situations.[14] It is  important that digitalisation strengthens courses and teaching aids in a way that is adapted to Sami inhabitants.

Areas of action

  1. Utilize digital technology for more people to have access to higher education regardless of life situation, work situation and place of residence, and develop digital tools to provide more suitable information and more seamless services for courses of lifelong learning.
  2. Assess how data about the students can be used to personalize courses in a way that is adapted to their individual skills needs and preferences, and that safeguards privacy and ethical considerations.
  3. Facilitate virtual international exchange for all student groups by developing new online and flexible courses.
  4. Utilize the opportunities digitalisation provides to develop collaboration with the labour market on education, research and innovation.
  5. Develop employees' skills about the requirements for universal digital design.

 Digital innovation in teaching and learning


  • The teachers' educational digital skills will be developed to promote  innovation in all forms of teaching, learning and assessment.
  • Digital technology will be used to facilitate improved learning.


The higher education sector has made great progress in the use of digital technology in education. However, there is a way to go before digital teaching and assessment are performed in a way that pedagogy and didactics play well with the learning content to promote students' learning. At the same time, students need social contact to learn well, something the institutions must facilitate in digital education as well. There is also a growing need for flexible study options as well as for considering hybrid forms of teaching, where some students participate digitally and others physically.

Opportunities and gains

Students need courses that to a greater extent activate them in their own learning and enable them to develop a broader range of skills. Problem solving, collaboration, creativity and digital skills are examples of relevant skills.[15] Digital teaching and assessment will make it easier to achieve the goal of student-active learning formulated in the Student Supervision Regulations.

Digital technology in good interaction with proper educational digital skills among  those who teach, may provide better learning. Students and teachers together have to utilize new digital opportunities through varied teaching and learning  processes and forms of assessment well adapted to new pedagogical angles. They need to embrace new learning arenas becoming available through digital technology. Satisfying pedagogical arrangements must be developed for physical, fully digital, mixed and hybrid teaching. Increased access to data and digital technologies, such as digital learning analysis, may contribute to new learning  processes.[16]


The teachers’ role must be developed so that in addition to emphasizing professional knowledge, it places greater emphasis on knowledge about learning and teaching. Teachers need training in the new forms of teaching and assessment as well as the use of digital technology in teaching. They also need incentives that can stimulate to pursue digital pedagogical innovation, e.g. through the institutions' quality assurance systems and merit schemes in education.

Students, on the other hand, need training in study techniques and digital judgment adapted to the digital everyday life. Extensive collaboration on further development of the courses is necessary, both within and across institutions. This requires the strengthening of both the culture and the arenas of sharing. There is a lot to build on both nationally and internationally, such as, the development of a national solution for sharing digital learning resources by Sikt. Another example is the European Commission's follow-up of the European Action Plan for Digital   Education.[17]

Methods of digital teaching and assessment need to be rooted on a comprehensive knowledge base. Physical and technological infrastructure must  facilitate physical, fully digital, mixed and hybrid teaching. The forms of assessment have to support the changes in learning processes desirable to achieve. Management must use organizational development and culture to   support new ideas about teaching and assessment in a way that higher education institutions fulfill their role as key innovation actors when developing digital solutions.

Areas of action

  1. Develop pedagogical principles and didactic methods that contribute to the use of different digital teaching and assessment methods to improve learning, as well as involving all students.
  2. Improve employees skills in research-based forms of digital teaching, learning and assessment, and facilitate a good interaction between the use of digital technology, pedagogical principles and academic content.
  3. Develop a culture and framework for collaboration and sharing internally as well as between educational institutions on digital development and renewal of courses both nationally and internationally.

Digital themes, methods and skills in all subjects


  • The understanding of digitalisation, and new ways of working based on the possibilities provided by digital technology, are developing subject areas and courses.
  • Students learn digitalisation-relevant topics in a developing interaction with the rest of the academic content of the course.
  • Higher education institutions must provide the higher education of ICT specialists in accordance with both the students' demand and the needs of working life.


The digital opportunities have changed research and teaching in many subject  areas, but to varying degrees influenced the academic content in the breadth of courses. This is especially true early in the studies.

There is a persistently low proportion of women among students in ICT educations, although there has been an increase in recent years from 18 per cent in 2015 to 25 per cent in 2020.[18]

In addition to the fact that digital topics, methods and skills must be included in all subjects, labour market needs sufficient access to candidates with specialized  digital skills. Despite a severe increase in the admission to ICT courses since 2015, there is still a certain gap between supply and demand.[19] ,[20] Higher education    institutions must provide sufficient study offers in line with working life's need for qualified labor and students' demand for education.[21] However, a study has found that the institutions lack a good knowledge base about the needs of the labor  market. Thus, in practice, they find it difficult to re-prioritize in line with the  changing needs.[22]

Concepts for digital skills

  • Basic digital skills: The digital skills everyone needs to perform well in school, in studies, in labour market as well as community  The concept includes information security and data privacy as a basic element.
  • Specialized digital skills: The skills needed to develop, operate and maintain digital technology. Typically, such skills is acquired through educations in informatics and other subjects relevant to digitalisation, such as software development, digital security, bioinformatics and forensic informatics.
  • Vocational digital skills: The digital skills that is specific to the individual subject discipline, the occupational practice and the  single profession. Typically, this may indicate that the candidates are able to use digital tools that they encounter in their      profession, that they understand the strengths and weaknesses of the technology and methods behind the tools, and that they can assess what digitalisation signifies for their own subject area.

Educational digital skills: The skills in pedagogical use of digital technology among those who teach higher education.

Opportunities and gains

The interplay between discipline and technology has for many years laid the foundation for new knowledge. However, digital technology not only creates new subjects and fields of research, it may also change the very way education and research is conducted.

The research methods in all subjects are changing due to constantly new digital tools and provide opportunities for new knowledge. Even more important is that research themes and research fields also change in accordance with the digitalisation of society in general. Today we do not know which technologies we need to master in the future, which problems we must solve, how technology will  affect us and what we will have to meet with criticism. Exploration of digital topics in all disciplines, beyond those subjects where advanced digital technology already are used, will improve the ability of society to take advantage of the opportunities and meet the challenges that digitalisation presents. At the same time, it is necessary to be able to develop the content of the educations.

If the institutions integrate digitalisation-relevant topics in the academic content of all study programs, the students will receive a more relevant education that   provides them with the necessary vocationally adapted digital skills. That is, skills to understand and integrate digitalisation in one's own subject and creatively   utilize the opportunities that digital technology provides in the execution of the subject.

Assuming that students in all subjects achieve vocationally adapted digital skills, they will obtain increased flexibility and adaptability due to the fact that stronger digital skills may increase the ability to learn throughout life. Perhaps it may also help fill some of the gap between supply and demand for ICT specialists.

If more bachelor's programs integrate digital skills in their courses, it may lead to  some master's studies in digitalisation becoming more relevant to a wider target group than today. Similarly, if several master's studies, also beyond STEM disciplines, integrate advanced digital topics, it may lead to labour market gaining access to more people with specialized digital skills adapted to their profession.[23]

It is desirable to make education in digitalisation attractive to a wider target group than today, among other things to strengthen the share of women. Gender balance and diversity among those who develop and lay the foundations for future digital technology are desirable both to promote quality and to counteract any  unintended discrimination. Experience shows that the higher education institutions, by developing the shape and content of the courses for the education of ICT specialists, may facilitate a greater diversity of students.


Digital skills in all subjects is not about adding ICT courses to existing        educations. Development of the subject areas requires deep professional insight and understanding of the possibilities that lie in the use of digital technology in each individual subject. It also requires new pedagogical approaches.

Vocational digital skills must include an understanding of the ethical issues that  occurs along with the opportunities digital technology provides for the individual subject area, as well as skills within information security and data privacy. Equally important is that researchers develop their own digital skills through an exploratory interplay between available digital technology and academic issues.

The responsibility for developing the subject areas and the content of the     educations lies with the academic communities at each individual institution. In many educations, especially those offered at several institutions, collaboration across the institutions may reduce the amount of work of developing digitalisation-relevant topics in the educations.[24] It should be possible to reuse digital learning resources in comparable educations.

The curricula in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools have changed. Thus students who finish upper secondary education will gradually   possess stronger digital skills which higher education must take into account when  developing their study offer.

There is a need for better knowledge about society's demand for different kind  of ICT specialists at a national as well as a regional level. Such a knowledge will make it easier for the institutions to offer sufficient courses. The Directorate for Higher Education and Skills will contribute with analysis and information.[25]

Areas of action

  1. Stimulate basic, academic development of research and education in interaction with digital development.
  2. Develop employees' skills about how digitalisation changes their subject area in order to renew subjects and education.
  3. Develop a culture and framework for collaboration in the higher education sector to develop and include digitalisation-relevant topics in education.
  4. Establish processes at the institutions so that they may better provide the sufficient study offer for the education of ICT specialists in accordance with both the students' demand and the needs of working life.
  5. Improve gender balance and diversity among students who are training to become ICT specialists by developing the courses so that they become relevant and attractive to a wider target group as well as contributing to improved completion.

Open science and new research opportunities


  • The quality of research will be strengthened through digital technologies and the use of new research methods and analysis tools in the subjects.
  • The use of digital technology will contribute to strengthening research collaboration nationally and internationally.
  • Research results must be easily accessible to all, within the framework of good data privacy and consideration for security, intellectual property rights and trade secrets.


The large increase in quantities of data places great demands on research networks, computing power and data storage. There are still a lack of open access to publicly funded scientific articles amongst different stakeholders in society. Research datasets are not easily accessible. More systematic sharing of these data would enable other researchers to verify the quality and validity of the data on which the research findings are based. Easily accessible data may also to a greater extent activate the potential of innovation and economic growth that lies in the further use of research data. It may be a problem that research projects to a large extent develop individual solutions, and to a small extent use joint digital services and infrastructure.

Opportunities and gains

Increased access to data combined with new techniques for data analysis, makes it possible to explore new research questions. The technology facilitates that research results can be verified and examined better, traditional subject    boundaries may be moved and innovative research collaborations established.

Europe is in the process of establishing the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). EOSC is a system of research infrastructures and digital platforms. The aim  is for these infrastructures and platforms to interact well and function so that researchers experience open and seamless services for storage, management, analysis and reuse of research data. This will support the goal of greater transparency and better utilization of publicly funded data in research and innovation. The opportunities for good interaction with research institutes, health trusts and international research actors will be strengthened through more   sharing of data and research resources, joint infrastructure solutions and better IT support for collaboration. This will advance new research opportunities.

Establishment of national big data collections in areas such as sustainability and green transformation enables, among other things, big data analyses that contribute to strengthening Norwegian research, economic growth and public administration.

Fake news, misuse of research and support for conspiracy theories necessitate  that higher education institutions must contribute more to developing reflection and judgment in the population. Open science processes, open access to research results and innovative dissemination will provide society better insight into the way in which knowledge is acquired and developed. An important part of this is the knowledge of what kind of data we surround ourselves with, the quality of the data and a curious and critical approach to the source basis.


In order for research infrastructures and data platforms to make a good contribution to more data sharing and better research services, it is important to recognize the skills required to organize, direct and manage such infrastructures. Data must be managed in a secure way to build trust in research.  Furthermore, work on information security and data privacy must be of high priority in the higher education sector.

For the purpose of strengthen participation in international research and innovation collaboration, it is important that Norwegian higher education institutions use digital solutions for infrastructure and data sharing that make data truly reusable. This entails that solutions and research data must comply to the internationally established FAIR data principles which state that data must be  findable, accessible, interactive and reusable.[26] The Norwegian infrastructures must be compatible with international infrastructures, and must be able to take into account future data growth as well as the need for compilation of data sources, both nationally and internationally.

Areas of action

  1. Strengthen the skills within open science and digital technology among researchers and support personnel.
  2. Further develop digital platforms for open science and utilize the technology to develop and promote research dissemination to society.
  3. Further develop the evaluation of researchers by including more types of results than scientific articles and monographs and recognize practices for sharing and making available research data and open source.
  4. Further develop tools that support good processes for collecting, publishing and archiving research data, and consider national big data collections in selected areas.

Utilize data about the education and research sector


  • Sharing and facilitating the further use of data in the higher education sector and across sectors, will contribute to streamlining and strengthening education and research and provide more innovation and economic growth.
  • Consideration for the data privacy of students, employees and others affected must underlie the work of sharing data.
  • Information security must be safeguarded through proper management of data in the sector.


The potential of knowledge and economic growth out of data from the education and research sector is not sufficiently utilized. There is no mapping of the data landscape. There are many data owners. Common metadata is missing. The culture of sharing data between institutions is poorly developed. There are significant opportunities to gain more knowledge and develop better services for students and other users through data sharing, but it is demanding to create such services. The challenge is that the benefit may come elsewhere than where the   effort was made.

Opportunities and gains

Better access to data on the education and research sector will provide a basis for more research-based innovation as well as enable closer collaboration between the education and research sector and other parts of the public sector and working life. Re-use of data for analysis and statistics may strengthen the knowledge base about the higher education sector and provide an improved  foundation for management and governance in the sector. More data sharing and reuse may provide innovation, new services, new business models along with new user experiences in and around the education and research sector.

Proper use of personal data, in some cases in collaboration with other sectors, may create opportunities for better digital services for students and staff in the higher education sector. Such services will make everyday work more efficient and liberate time for the core activity.


The use of digital technology to utilize data in and about the education and research sector must take into account the needs and interests of students and staff. It requires insight into their situation of work and study. Furthermore it   requires favorable arenas for collaboration between students and staff and those  developing digital solutions. The services must be developed in a way that they  fulfill the needs and may be used on the platforms mastered by the users. The  sector must be in control of all its data, even if they are created in applications provided by external suppliers. The efforts regarding good information management - "order in one's own house" - must be followed up.[27]

Considerations of privacy place great demands on the proper sharing and  processing of personal data. The privacy principles, i.a. data minimisation and  purpose limitation, must be taken into account in all processing of personal data. System development in line with guidelines on embedded privacy requires that privacy consequences be mapped early in the development work.

Sharing data for purposes of analysis deals with collaboration and culture. Incentives may be important, but there is also the need of a genuine team spirit.  It is demanding to facilitate data for sharing with others, moreover it is necessary that it is perceived as useful and can be done as plainly as possible.

The technical solutions need to be present. Data sharing must be supported by  necessary joint services, and the various solutions must be sufficiently compatible. The higher education sector possesses large amounts of valuable data, both personal data and research data. The management and in particular sharing of such data places great demands on good information security.

Areas of action

  1. Ensure that administrative information about students, researchers and lecturers is registered only once and made available from one source only.
  2. Establish systems and infrastructure for data capture, sharing, storage and reuse of data on the education and research sector.
  3. Ensure that the data privacy principles are observed in all processing of personal data and that data privacy consequences are mapped early in the process of developing new digital solutions.
  4. Further develop and systematize the work with information security in the higher education sector, including developing measures for skills development to promote secure storage, sharing and archiving of the sector's data.
  5. Develop technical and organizational mechanisms that improves the efforts of facilitating and making data about own institution available to other stakeholders.

Management and culture for digital transformation


  • Digital transformation in the higher education sector must be clearly rooted in management at all levels and contribute to strengthening the quality of education, research and dissemination.
  • Higher education institutions share digital learning and research resources and jointly contribute to increasing the quality of education, research and dissemination.


Digital transformation is far more than about technology. Organizational and   cultural development is of great importance for the opportunity to successfully transform the institution using digital technology. At the same time, organization and culture are shaped by digitalisation. Hence organizational and cultural development should be coordinated. Management must have the ability to motivate, lead and support ambitious digital change processes.

Opportunities and gains

The digital transformation represents a positive opportunity to further develop  organization, management and culture at higher education institutions.

Active participation of students and collaboration between students and academic staff promotes academic quality and increases the benefits of education and   research. Arenas for sharing experiences between scientific staff contribute to closer collaboration between academic communities and institutions - across  research and education, nationally as well as internationally.

A culture where those who work and study at higher education institutions collaborate both internally, and with colleagues at other institutions to contribute to joint academic development and quality, increases societal benefits. Cooperation with actors outside the higher education sector will have the same effect. Today, large resources are spent on developing similar solutions several places, consequently increased sharing and collaboration might reduce the total spending of resources.


Organizational development and alteration practice at the individual institution must be based on the needs of researchers, students and others seeking   knowledge. Furthermore, scientific staff should be encouraged to share and reuse research data and digital learning and research resources. Easy and sound handling of copyright issues will be an important success factor.

Willingness to organizational change is necessary, at different levels. It will require anchoring throughout the institution. Employees and managers must act as good role models to develop the culture the sector wants. These changes do take time, and it is important to highlight good examples as well as support local initiatives and the user-driven innovation power. 

Management at all levels has a key role to play in the digital transformation of   higher education institutions. Managers must take ownership of the processes and have a clear vision for what needs to change and why. Managers must have sufficient knowledge of digitalisation to notice how technology affects and changes the institution.

Areas of action

  1. Strengthen leadership and anchoring of organizational development and alteration practice in management to ensure a cohesive approach to the use of digital technology to strengthen the quality of education, research and   dissemination.
  2. Establish the necessary support for the introduction and good educational use of digital technology in the courses through a closer interaction between the academic communities, academic support functions and the IT departments.
  3. Establish arenas and practices that strengthen collaboration and sharing of digital learning and research resources.
  4. Assess measures at institutions that stimulate employees to share digital learning and research resources and share research data.
  5. Utilize the opportunities of digitalisation to strengthen cooperation with business, industry and the public sector.

3 Five visions for the future

The purpose of presenting five visions for the future state of the higher education sector is to provide a direction for the effort of implementing the strategy. The   visions will also make it easier for students, staff and the outside world to imagine what they may expect from the digital transformation of the sector in the years to come.

The student:

  • gains a basic understanding and knowledge of how the methods and algorithms used in the subject work
  • becomes aware of ethical, legal and security issues when using data and digital technology
  • undergoes courses that are adapted to different needs and phases of life, with flexible arrangements for execution both on and off campus
  • experiences that the use of digital technology is integrated with the academic content in a way that promotes learning and labour market  relevance
  • has access to a personal digital learning environment that is adapted to many different studying situations and requirements and facilitates active learning
  • actively participates in an academic community of staff and fellow students where digital technology and research-based methods of  activating and varied teaching, learning and assessment are utilized for the best possible learning outcome
  • has opportunities to participate in digital collaboration with students in other countries
  • takes an active part in research projects and receives training in digital technology that is necessary to be able to participate and contribute to research
  • undergoes a smooth and effective transition from upper secondary  education to higher education. The systems for application, admission, student loans and the like are user-friendly. Necessary data is     provided only once and is shared by relevant participants
  • experiences that data privacy is thoroughly safeguarded and that control of own data lies with the individual, and that data on all   completed education and other activities is available throughout life

The teacher:

  • has good educational digital skills that makes it possible to design teaching programs that promote good learning for students through digital tools and services
  • is stimulated to develop one's own educational digital skills and practice and has opportunities to get credit for good results in the education (e.g documented educational skills, salary, promotion)
  • experiences that the institution establishes arenas and initiatives that strengthens collaboration and sharing of digital learning resources and innovative digital pedagogical practice across disciplines and institutions
  • is motivated to develop digital teaching in international educational cooperation to strengthen the pedagogical approach in connection with international student mobility
  • possess the skills to handle data privacy and information security concerning teaching
  • has access to suitable applications and digital tools and services that support the performance of the education
  • has access to good collegial communities and satisfying professional and administrative support services for their use of digital tools and services in education
  • has valuable insight into working life's and society's need for digital skills in their subject areas

The researcher:

  • has a good understanding and knowledge of how digitalisation changes the subject and the field of research and utilizes the opportunities that digital technology provides to develop one's own  research and field of study
  • facilitates that new research opportunities created by digitalisation may be explored and research made more open
  • possess the skills to handle research data in a proper way that safeguards information security and data privacy
  • experiences that it is prepared for researchers to share data and open source code, and that it is good access to data and open source code
  • has access to scientific publications as well as digital tools and services that provide an adequate overview of relevant researchers and available research data for one's field
  • is met by user-friendly ICT support functions making it possible to work more efficiently in projects as well as attending needs related to both professional and administrative tasks
  • has access to digital infrastructure and tools that make it possible to interact with other researchers across disciplines, both nationally and internationally

The management:

  • consists of managers at all levels with the skills to motivate, lead and support digital change processes
  • involves representatives of students and staff early enough in major digital change processes
  • contributes to a culture as well as arenas for sharing and reusing digital learning and research resources and innovative digital pedagogical practice across disciplines and institutions
  • exploits the opportunities provided by digital technology to raise the quality of education, research and dissemination by including digitalisation both in planning as well as specific measures and processes
  • ensures that all employees can acquire the skills to utilize digital technology in an able manner in their work and to utilize the opportunities digitalisation provides to develop the professional content
  • contributes to open access to scientific articles and ensures that the institution's guidelines for data management are well known and that employees and students may acquire skills in data management plans and reuse of data
  • establishes formalized systems for documentation and reward of work with digital development of the educations
  • ensures having skills, routines and guidelines assuring data privacy and information security are sufficiently taken care of
  • utilizes digital technology to obtain valuable management information, streamline administrative support functions and ensure good management
  • ensures having tools and systems that facilitate collaboration among the higher education institutions and with actors outside the higher education sector, both nationally and internationally

Labour market and society:

  • experience that the opportunities provided by digitalisation are utilized to offer flexible, accessible, relevant, adapted and inclusive  educations that respond to the needs of working life
  • experience that both basic education and further education provide candidates with relevant digital skills, including vocationally adapted digital skills and specialized digital skills
  • experience that the institutions' basic and further education uses digital technology to create a good professional and mutually beneficial educational collaboration with working life
  • experience that legal, ethical, organizational, business and other professional issues related to digitalisation in labour market have been  included in the educations
  • experience a digital interaction with the higher education sector, and have easy access to research results within the framework of security, data privacy, intellectual property rights and trade secrets

4 Requirements for the work with digital transformation

This section presents some general requirements for the further work with digital transformation in the higher education sector.

General economic conditions

The major reorganization of teaching and assessment that is expected to take place in the future, going hand in hand with the need for building skills among  employees, call for the higher education institutions to make significant investments. It is essential that the institutions make use of the existing funding sources and arenas of co-operation, including international arenas and European funding programs such as Horizon Europe, the Digital Europe Program and  Erasmus +.

The government expects digitalisation to lead to solutions that raise quality and meet users' needs in a better way. The government also expects solutions that provide benefits realization and thereby liberate resources that can be used to  further strengthen digitalisation for higher quality.

International cooperation

Higher education and research are international in nature, and digitalisation helps to strengthen international cooperation.

The European Commission has declared the 2020s Europe's digital decade. A broad-based strategy has been developed to prepare Europe for the digital age.[28] Digital education is a high priority with a separate action plan that provides recommendations on infrastructure, capacity, learning content and skills to adapt education systems to the digital age.[29] The establishment of well-functioning European digital ecosystems for education and open science will be crucial for the development of the European Education Area and the European Research Area.

Digitalisation is also a high priority for the OECD and UNESCO.

Joint services and shared digital foundation

If the higher education sector is to succeed with digitalisation that moves both  education and research forward, it is important to have joint services that can  support the core activities. New teaching services will, for example, require the  renewal of study administration services and a common platform.[30] In research, there is a need for joint services that liberate time for the core activity.

An initiative from the Universities of Bergen, Oslo, Tromsø and Trondheim (the BOTT collaboration) underlies the establishment of joint services and major     investments in, among other things, administrative systems in the years to come. Joint services of high quality are crucial for a cohesive digitalisation of the sector.  This is also communicated through the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development's annual Digitalisation circular as well as the annual notices of funding to the institutions. When developing joint solutions, it should be considered whether solutions may also be utilized in the primary education or  vocational school sector, and vice versa, whether solutions in other parts of the  education and research sector may be utilized in the higher education sector.

In order to realize the benefits of the digitalisation that the strategy envisages, the shared digital foundation for the higher education sector must be further developed. This foundation must provide effective access to networks and infrastructure, facilitate identity and access management with the possibility of  secure federation and take into account information security and data privacy.

Information security and data privacy

The rapid increase in the use of digital technology escalates the vulnerabilities   in society because security work does not keep the same pace. The higher education sector is responsible for managing this risk in the six priority areas of the strategy.

The institutions' work with information security and data privacy must ensure that all activities within education, research, dissemination and administration are  carried out in a secure and trustworthy manner. Valuable information ​​and personal information must be protected. Both scientific and administrative staff have to possess a satisfying knowledge about information security and data privacy, so that they are able to create, use, store and share data in a secure manner. 

Legislation that supports sharing and collaboration

The higher education sector manages large amounts of data that may be better utilized for research and innovation. Many disciplines have public administration data as their primary data source. Furthermore, sharing and reuse of data are a prerequisite for realization of the opportunities that lie in lifelong learning, learning analysis and sharing of learning resources. The need for regulatory changes must be considered specifically when the need for data sharing arises, for instance  when developing coherent services or introducing new tools such as digital  learning analysis.

Universal design and accessibility

All higher education studies must be universally designed, and the academic staff must have access to universally designed digital tools and services. In order to  ensure compliance with the legal and regulatory provisions in the field, it is important that the institutions work determined and possess high level of skills in universal digital design. The skills must include both knowledge of technical requirements and of universal facilitation of digital education. The requirements for universal design embrace researchers, teachers and students in addition to technical-administrative staff. In order to meet the requirements, targeted work with universally designed digital solutions is required, combined with individual  adaptation at each single institution. Universell (The National Coordinator of  Accessibility of Higher Education in Norway) can provide technical assistance.

User-oriented services should use the character set UTF-8, which supports both Norwegian and Sami. In the long term, user-oriented fixed texts and prompts on all websites should be available in both Norwegian and Sami. Well-organized   education and research are necessary to ensure the development of the Sami  language, culture and social life.

5 The road ahead

The Ministry of Education and Research expects higher education institutions,  relevant public agencies and other enterprises in the higher education sector to contribute knowledge about how digitalisation affects society and utilize the opportunities that digital technology provides to strengthen the quality of education, research and dissemination.

Higher education institutions, along with the other actors in the sector, share the responsibility to contribute to the following up of the strategy for digital transformation, but the responsibility for implementation lies first and foremost with the institutions themselves. The Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) has a coordinating and proactive role for digitalisation in the sector and a follow-up responsibility for the strategy being implemented in collaboration with the institutions and the other administrative bodies in the sector. The follow-up will be in accordance with the principles in the report to the Storting on the management of state higher education institutions.[31]

The Ministry of Education and Research expects higher education institutions to follow up the strategy through their institutional strategies and development work. The Ministry expects that the follow-up will take place in collaboration with HK-dir, the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), the Research Council of Norway and the Education and research sector's service provider (Sikt).

In order to achieve a greater effect of measures, all institutions should seek to identify the opportunities and needs that are common to several or all of the   institutions, and together assess how these may be addressed. Some measures will be relevant to implement under own management, others will be part of national and international models of cooperation. HK-dir and Sikt hold a central role in following up and coordinating possible joint initiatives and joint procurements initiated by one or more institutions. Furthermore, HK-dir and other joint units may be initiators in areas that are not close to the institutions' core   activities.

The establishment of the Digitalisation Board for Higher Education and Research has contributed to speeding up joint digitalisation measures for higher education and research.[32] Through the digitalisation board, the higher education sector has received a forum for user involvement, collaboration, strategic assessments and co-management. The changes in the structure of directorates through the establishment of HK-dir and Sikt implies that necessary adjustments must be made in the co-management model to continue the positive contribution.

The previous digitalisation strategy was followed up with an action plan for the  sector, made in collaboration between higher education institutions and the   former Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (Unit). The action plan will be revised in accordance with the content of this new strategy where HK-dir holds a follow-up responsibility. Emphasis should be placed on how joint solutions can support user-centric digitalisation at the institutions, as well as increase the speed of the implementation of measures. The Government's Strategy for a cohesive institute policy implies that policy development for one of the research-performing sectors always must be seen in connection with the policy for the other research-performing sectors.[33]

Several of the priority areas highlighted in the strategy signifies an ambitious boost, depending on further development in the institutions and strengthening of  cooperation and openness between the institutions. Through cooperation and sharing of resources and experiences, the sector as a whole will improve the ability  to fulfill the ambition that Norwegian higher education and research will be at the forefront internationally.


[1] See also the government's strategy for flexible and decentralised education at vocational colleges, university colleges and universities

[2] NOKUT's study barometer , NIFU's corona survey and the SHoT survey

[3] Such a cohesive approach to transforming the business, where technology is one of many drivers and enablers, is often called "digital transformation". See e.g. mention at the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency .

[4] Sikt will be established on 1 January 2022 and entails that Unit's digital service deliveries will be organized together with Uninett and NSD.

[5] Report. St. 4 (2018–2019) and Inst . 164 S (2018–2019) on long-term plan for research and higher education 2019–2028. (According to the plan, a revised long-term plan will be presented in the autumn of 2022.)

[6] Report. St. 16 (2016–2017) and Inst. 364 S (2016–2017) on culture for quality in higher education.

[7] Report. St. 7 (2020–2021) and Inst . 247 S (2020–2021) on international student mobility in higher education.

[8] Report. St. 16 (2020–2021) Education for adjustment – Increased working life  relevance in higher education.

[9] Report. St. 19 (2020–2021) Management of state higher education institutions.

[10] Report St. 22 (2020–2021) Data as a resource - Data-driven economy and innovation.

[11] Report. St. 14 (2019–2020) and Inst . 370 S (2019–2020) The Skills Reform - Learning all your life and Report St. 16 (2020–2021) and Inst . 391 S (2020–2021) on Education for adjustment - increased relevance of labour market in higher education.

[12] Report. St. 7 (2020–2021) and Inst . 247 S (2020–2021) on international student mobility in higher education.

[13] Prop. 141 LS (2020–2021) on i.a. incorporation into the EEA Agreement of Directive (EU) 2016/2102 on the availability of public agencies websites and mobile applications (WAD) directive which contains rules on universal design of digital technology, ref. sett. 457 S (2020–2021) , S-section.

[14] See also Strategy for decentralized and flexible education at vocational university colleges, university colleges and universities .

[15] NOU 2019: 2 Future competence needs II - Challenges for competence policy

[16] The Ministry of Education and Research has announced that an expert group will be appointed to study issues surrounding the use of digital learning analysis in basic education, higher vocational education and higher education.

[17] Units website for work on a national solution for access to learning resources ( DLR ) and the European Commission's Communication on the Digital Education Action Plan (2021–2027) , COMM (2020) 624 .

[18] Source: Norwegian Center for Research Data, extract from the Database for statistics on higher education.

[19] NOU 2019: 2 Future skills needs II - Challenges for skills policy and NOU 2020: 2 Future skills needs III - Learning and skills in all stages .

[20] NIFU report 2020: 15 , The labor market for ICT candidates with higher education .

[21] Report. St. 19 (2020–2021) Management of state higher education institutions .

[22] NIFU report 2019: 15 , Controlled or applicant-controlled? A study of how higher education institutions dimension their study offerings .

[23] Detailed discussion in chapter 4.4. and Report. St. 16 (2020–2021) Education for restructuring - Increased working life relevance of labour market in higher education .

[24] Digitalisation-relevant topics mean both topics about digital technology and topics relevant to the digitalisation of society in general.

[25] Further discussion in Meld. St. 19 (2020–2021) Management of state higher education institutions .

[26] FAIR is an English abbreviation: F = findable, A = accessible, I = interoperable, R = reusable.

[27] On «order in one's own house», see e.g. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency's Guide for order in one's own house .

[28] The European Commission's prioritization for 2019–2024, A Europe fit for the digital age .

[29] European Commission Communication on the Digital Education Action Plan (2021–2027)  

[30] The term «teaching services» here means e.g. learning platforms, video services and the like.

[31] Report. St. 19 (2020–2021) Management of state higher education institutions

[32] Mandate for the Digitalisation board from 2021

[33] Strategy for a cohesive institute policy