The EU does not have a common education policy. Each member state is responsible for shaping its own education policy and its own education and training system. The EU’s role in the field of education is to facilitate and support cooperation on education. Through the EEA Agreement, Norway participates in most of the European programmes and collaborative processes in the field of education.

The countries of Europe, on a voluntary basis and with the help of the EU, have developed ever closer and more systematic cooperation during the past 15–20 years on an increasing number of education issues. Many of the challenges are the same for all these countries, and they benefit from the knowledge, inspiration and progress achieved through European cooperation.

EU cooperation in the field of education
Vocational training was identified as an area for joint action in the Treaty of Rome (1957), but not until the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) was a legal foundation and mandate in the field of education established. The EU contributes to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation and supporting member states as needed. The EU can adopt stimulation measures, programmes and country-specific recommendations, but cannot harmonise legislation in the field of education.

Education plays a key role in Europe 2020, the EU’s new, overarching ten-year strategy for growth and employment. Two of the primary objectives involve education: the EU intends to reduce school dropout rates to below 10 % and to increase the number of young people who complete tertiary education to at least 40 %. Education and lifelong learning are highlighted as extremely important, not only for individuals, but also for democracy, society, economic growth, welfare and employment in Europe.

Cooperation in the field of education is pursued through the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). This involves structured cooperation, with agreement on shared overall objectives. These are translated into common targets and priorities, and common indicators and benchmarks for countries to be measured and compared against. Openly published national and joint reports show the countries’ efforts and results. European working groups have been established for a number of priority themes, and there is extensive exchange of experience.

The EU has developed cooperation on vocational education and training and higher education. This cooperation has also been extended to include adult education, schools and pre-schools.

The EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications governs the right to practise a regulated profession in another EEA country. There is automatic recognition of professional qualifications for doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinary surgeons, midwives, pharmacists and architects. For all other regulated professions (for instance teachers, divers, certified electricians, physiotherapists, driving instructors, certified accountants), the directive generally means that if you have the right to authorisation in your home country based on your qualifications, you should have the same right in other EEA countries. The EU intends to remove barriers to free movement of labour, and has drawn up a proposal to modernise the regulations for recognition of professional qualifications.

Norway’s participation in EU cooperation on education
Education, training and youth issues are part of the EEA cooperation outside the four freedoms. EU cooperation in the field of education through the Open Method of Coordination is financed by the Lifelong Learning Programme. Norway participates in this programme, and is thus involved in EU cooperation on education. There are Norwegian representatives in all the thematic working groups, such as the working group for the modernisation of higher education. Another group where Norway is represented is working to reduce school dropout rates among young people in Europe. The challenges facing the EU and the priorities chosen are consistent with Norwegian priorities, including efforts to reduce school dropout rates and initiatives to improve reading skills. Norway benefits from this cooperation and has useful experience and knowledge to contribute.

The EU has established a 10-year plan of action (2010–2020) for European cooperation in the field of education. Norway is participating in all facets of this cooperation.  

Participation in EU programmes
Through the EEA Agreement, Norway participates in EU programmes and activities in the field of education.

Norwegian schools, child day care centres, universities and colleges, educational organisations, pupils, apprentices, students and educators cooperate with partners from other European countries in the full range of activities and at all levels in the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), which has four sub-programmes:

  • Erasmus: for cooperation in higher education
  • Comenius: for cooperation at the child day care centre, elementary school, lower secondary and upper secondary levels
  • Grundtvig: for cooperation in adult education
  • Leonardo da Vinci: for cooperation in vocational education and training

LLP also supports a number of horizontal activities and projects in areas such as language teaching and learning and the use of ICT in education.

In addition, Norway participates in parts of Erasmus Mundus, the EU programme that supports cooperation and exchange between institutions of higher education in Europe and corresponding institutions elsewhere in the world.

The Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education is responsible for promoting and administering Norway’s participation in EU education programmes.

Norway has also participated in the EU programme Youth in Action (2007–2013), which promoted non-formal learning and provided funding for group exchanges and the European Voluntary Service ­– offering placements for volunteer workers in Europe and grants for local youth projects. Erasmus+ is the new EU funding programme (2014–2020) for education, training, youth and sport.

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs is the Norwegian contact point for Erasmus+.

Relevant forums

  • The Ministry of Education and Research chairs the EEA special committee for education, in which other ministries also participate.
  • The Ministry of Education and Research participates in EFTA’s working group for education, training and youth. The primary task of this group is to monitor all EEA-relevant proposals and initiatives by the EU in these areas, particularly developments in education and youth programmes and the participation of EFTA/EEA countries in these programmes.
  • The Ministry of Education and Research coordinates Norway’s implementation of the directive on the recognition of professional qualifications for regulated professions, and participates in the EFTA working group for this directive and in the EU coordination group.

National experts
Contact information for all the Norwegian national experts can be found on the EFTA Secretariat’s website.