Stop the Discontinuation of the Quota Scheme
Stop the Discontinuation of the Quota Scheme
Background information on the quota scheme:
In the previous budget rounds the Norwegian Ministry of Education has decided to cut the quota scheme which provides education free of charge at Norwegian institutions to 1100 students yearly. University of Oslo has 189 places, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has 168 places, University of Bergen has 154. A total of 43 Higher Education Institutions in Norway receive quota students. 800 of the students come from developing countries, while 300 come from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“Lånekassen” is responsible for managing the financial support of the Quota student. The purpose of the quota scheme is for the international student to return to their home country upon completing the course of study. The quota student receives the same amount of money as a Norwegian student. 30% is given as a grant and 70% is given as a loan. If the quota student stays in Norway after completing their studies, the student must repay the loan.
The quota scheme is currently costing the government 18 million krones. The program is proposed to be replaced with:
9 million krones to the new Panorama strategy from 2016-2020 which seeks to concentrate on strategic partnerships with BRICS + J (Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and Japan). These are countries which are rapidly growing in terms of GDP and investing increasingly in education.
9 million krones distributed to a new partnership program with institutions in countries in the South. Student mobility is said to be an important element in the program.
Evaluation and conclusions regarding the quota scheme:
The quota scheme was evaluated by DAMVAD, a Nordic analytical consultant firm providing assessments of education, the workforce, research and commercial development. Knowledge and skills as a basis for growth, is DAMVAD’s speciality. The evaluation was requested by the ministry of education. The evaluation report concluded that the quota scheme was not serving goals related to strategic internationalization of higher education, but was fulfilling the aim of supporting development. According to DAMVAD “the Quota Scheme works well in supplement with other programmes, but has less tangible effects on its own”.
Our question is then, if the quota scheme works well in supplement with other programs, but not optimally on its own, why completely cut off the quota scheme and replace half of its budget with a narrow partnership program with the BRICS + J -countries which already are investing largely in education and which also are strategic assets for Norwegian businesses (point A above)? Moreover, why replace the other half of the budget from these broad mobility funds (quota scheme) with a contentless, vaguely outlined partnership program (point B above)?
Arguments against the discontinuation of the quota scheme:
Head of the Noragric department Poul Wisborg at the Norwegian University of Lifesciences (NMBU) rightfully argues “narrow political and economic agendas should not shape Norway’s international academic cooperation. Therefore, we would argue for broad, open international scholarship scheme, allowing a diversity of countries and ensuring that the poorest have a significant place. While BRICS+J are globally important in almost every respect, they should not be seen as representative of the continents they come from”.
Rector at UiO, argues along similar lines (own translation): “several of UiO’s master programs are built around the quota scheme… In a world with increasing inequality there is an even greater need to open up our boundaries for exchange of researchers, students, expertise and talent. It therefore seems “umusikalsk” to phase out the quota scheme without further discussion.”
Johanne Nordby, professor in Public Health and Society (In Norwegian:samfunnsmedisin) argues (own translation): “The government could have continued with the quota program demanding higher quality requirements”. Moreover she says: “I think it is a bad idea to politically steer which countries we as institutions should cooperate with”. The students recruited through the quota scheme are a critical mass to their respective countries and serve as resources when returning to their countries with foreign competence. Doctor-student Seydou Drabo believes that the (own translation) “quota scheme gives us the opportunity to get an education of high quality, so that we can contribute to development once we return to our home countries”.
In light of these arguments the student parliament believes that:
The quota scheme should not be phased out. It should be expanded and improved.
The aforementioned point is necessary for a global diversity of scholars and students at universities. Such diversity leads to excellence in research and education.
The countries of focus in an international program, such as in the quota scheme, should not be steered by political wishes of the government but rather by internal academic evaluations
Sustainable development, and not interests of the Norwegian businesses, should be an important factor when evaluating the purpose of an international program in higher education