hugjen, Completion rates of students in higher education, graduates, specialist field (for example social studies, law, the humanities), Bachelor's degree, Master's degree, undergraduate studies, postgraduate studies, completion timeTertiary education, Education

Completion rates of students in higher education



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Key figures

66.2 %

of new students completed a degree within 8 years

New entrants to higher education and highest awarded degree 8 years later
1Figures for 2011 were corrected 3 December 2020.
Year of entry and highest awarded qualification   
New entrants, in total40 92816 43424 494
Awarded qualification54.547.459.3
Doctorates, Ph.D0.20.40.1
Tertiary graduates from programmes longer than 4 years15.619.213.3
Tertiary graduates from programmes lasting 2-4 years38.627.845.9
No awarded qualification45.552.640.7
New entrants, in total47 59720 36627 231
Awarded qualification66.260.270.5
Doctorates, Ph.D0.30.30.2
Tertiary graduates from programmes longer than 4 years24.326.122.9
Tertiary graduates from programmes lasting 2-4 years41.633.847.4
No awarded qualification33.839.729.4

See selected tables from this statistics

Table 1 
Three-year bachelor programmes

Three-year bachelor programmes1
NumbersPer cent
TotalCompleted within 3 yearsCompleted within 5 yearsStill in bachelor's educationCompleted another qualificationIn a different course of studyDropped out within first yearDropped out after the first year or within final year
1Including students who started a bachelor's degree for the first time during the period 1.10.YYYY-1 -30.09.YYYY
Both sexes35 90150.517.
Total15 06346.614.
0-20 years5 82143.217.711.
21-24 years6 25750.
25-29 years1 64348.811.
30-39 years88240.515.
40 years or older46044.812.04.8-2.019.316.7
Total20 83853.320.
0-20 years10 07955.319.
21-24 years6 48256.
25-29 years1 88947.320.
30-39 years1 45241.427.
40 years or older93644.625.

Table 2 
Five-year master programmes

Five-year master programmes1
Absolute figuresPer cent
TotalCompleted within 5 years2Completed within 7 years2Still in master's degreeGraduated from a tertiary programme lasting 2-4 yearsCompleted another higher degreeIn a different course of studyDropped out within first yearDropped out after the first year or within final year
1Including students who started in tertiary education for the first time during the period 1.10.YYYY-1 -30.09.YYYY
2Calculation of 'number of years': -5 years = -64 months, 7 years = 65-88 months
Both sexes5 25948.
Total2 46346.519.
0-20 years1 25046.621.
21-24 years85946.
25-29 years22750.
30-39 years9742.315.57.23.1--14.414.4
40 years or older3036.7----13.326.710.0
Total2 79649.522.
0-20 years1 47147.
21-24 years95852.921.
25-29 years22657.
30-39 years10642.512.38.55.7-6.610.414.2
40 years or older3528.68.614.38.6-8.614.317.1

Table 3 
1 ½ and 2 year master programmes

1 ½ and 2 year master programmes1
Absolute figuresPer cent
TotalCompleted within 2 years2Completed within 4 years2Still enrolled in one of the selected tertiary programmesGraduated from other tertiary programme longer than 4 years, not included in the selected programmesStill enrolled in other tertiary programme, not included in the selected programmesDropped out within first yearDropped out after the first year or within final year
1Including students started education for the first time, during the period 1.10.YYYY-1 -30.09.YYYY
2Calculation of 'number of years': -2 years = -28 months, 4 years = 29-52 months.
Both sexes13 94848.
Total6 00950.517.
Less than 25 years2 11962.815.
25-29 years2 09953.518.
30-39 years1 10937.822.17.8-2.213.616.5
40 years or older68223.819.612.0-2.820.421.4
Total7 93946.
Less than 25 years2 58265.413.
25-29 years2 25150.
30-39 years1 56229.725.210.4-3.112.918.7
40 years or older1 54424.926.611.9-3.217.416.0

Table 4 
PhD-programmes and completion rates for new entrants

PhD-programmes and completion rates for new entrants1
TotalPer cent
Completed within 3 yearsCompleted within 5 yearsStill in the same course of studyDropped out
1New entrants in PhD-programmes during the period 1.10.yyyy-1 - 30.09.yyyy are included.
Field of education
Both sexes
Fields of education, total1 74414.240.024.721.2
Humanities and arts15414.935.122.727.3
Social sciences and law1816.639.226.527.6
Business and administration575.345.626.322.8
Natural sciences, vocational and technical subjects62316.746.220.416.7
Health, welfare and sport64515.534.129.920.5
Transport and communications, safety and security and other services16-43.8-43.8
Unspecified field of study00.

About the statistics

Statistics on completion rates in higher education are based on a cohort of new students in a given year and a description of their movements forward through the educational system.


Definitions of the main concepts and variables

Enrolled students: Students registered at a Norwegian educational institution.

Completed Education: Educational activities completed with a pass grade.

Calculation of number of years:

1 year = 16 months or less

2 years = 17-28 months

3 years = 29-40 months

4 years = 41-52 months

5 years = 53-64 months

6 years = 65-76 months

7 years = 77-88 months

8 years = 89-100 months

9 years = 101-112 months

10 years = 113-124 months

11 years = 125-136 months

12 years = 137-148 months

13 years = 149 months or more

Highest educational attainment of parents: Parental educational attainment encompasses all of the following levels: (1) Primary and lower secondary education, (2) Upper secondary education, (3) Higher education, short (at least two years but also 4 years or less) and (4) Higher education, long (more than four years).

See also definitions of highest level of education attained.  

Standard classifications

Educational activities are grouped by the Norwegian Standard Classification of Education which was established in 1970 by Statistics Norway and later revised in 1973, 1989 and 2000. Educational institutions are classified as being higher education by the Standard Industrial Classification.

For international puprposes, the ISCED 2011 is used (International Standard Classification of Education).

Administrative information

Name and topic

Name: Completion rates of students in higher education
Topic: Education

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Responsible division

Division for Education and Culture Statistics

Regional level

Figures are presented at national level and by educational institution. Data includes information that makes it possible to provide figures at other regional Levels.

Frequency and timeliness

Figures are published annually in June.

International reporting

Data is provided for UNESCO, OECD and Eurostat (U-O-E).


All education statistics at Statistics Norway are stored in a proper, standardized manner in consultation with the Data Inspectorate.

It is possible to order special tables In addition to the tables that are published by contacting Statistics Norway, oppdragutdanning@ssb.no. The price will depend on the size of the order.


Background and purpose

There is a high demand for the collection of official statistics on education. Official education statistics are individually based and document the educational activities of all Norwegian residents from completion of lower secondary school to completion of all tertiary education including doctoral studies.

Norwegian statistics on education went through a structural reform in the early 1970's. All statistics on higher education were previously available through a census. The data is now individually based, with all educational activities being attached to each individual's Personal ID-number. This individually based data forms the basis for the National Education Database (NUDB). This database enables the production of different kinds of individual-based statistics on education and is important for the production of statistics on the completion rates  of students in the educational system.

The purpose of this statistic is to document the completion rates of students in higher education. The statistics are individually based, reporting each educational activity for each student. Statistics on completion rates of students were first published in 2004.

The statistics are financed from State assignments.

Users and applications

Important users of the education statistics include the Ministry of Education and Research, public administration, research institutions, special interest organisations, media, business, industry and international organisations such as Eurostat, OECD and UNESCO.

In addition, data is used internally in Statistics Norway in publications and in assignments.

Equal treatment of users

No external users have access to the statistics and analyses before they are published and accessible simultaneously for all users on ssb.no at 08 am. Prior to this, a minimum of three months' advance notice is given in the Statistics Release Calendar. This is one of Statistics Norway’s key principles for ensuring that all users are treated equally.

Coherence with other statistics

The Norwegian Institute for Studies in Research and Higher Education (NIFU) adjusts a number of statistics on throughput in higher education. These statistics are largely based on data from Statistics Norway.

Legal authority

Act of 21 June 2019 No. 32 relating to official statistics and Statistics Norway § 10.

EEA reference

Commission Regulation (EU) No 88/2011 of 2 February 2011 implementing Regulation (EC) No 452/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the production and development of statistics on education and lifelong learning, as regards statistics on education and training systems.



The statistics include all students registered at universities and colleges that are classified by the Standard Industrial Classification as a higher education institution. Analyses of the completion rates of students are based on a cohort of new students in a given year (students who started education for the first time during the period 1.10.YYYY-1 -30.09.YYYY) and a description of their movements forward through the educational system. Alternatively, a cohort of graduates from a given year is taken and their movements are followed backwards through the educational system.

Data sources and sampling

Statistics Norway collects data from Database for Statistics on Higher Education (DBH) and from the administrative systems of the various higher education institutions. Data on Norwegian students abroad is obtained from the State Educational Loan Fund. The Health Personnel Register supplements data on health education. 

Survey techniques are not employed in these statistics.


Collection of data, editing and estimations

Data sources and sampling:

Pursuant to the Statistical Act, Statistics Norway collects student data from Database for Statistics on Higher Education (DBH) and the administrative systems of the various higher education institutions.

Information on students abroad is provided by The State Education Loan Fund.

Surveys are not employed to collect education statistics. All data is obtained from university and college databases.

Editing: Editing includes both control and revision. Control and revision is performed on all data received from educational institutions. It encompasses deletion of duplicate records, a control for correct and valid values for each variable and checks for missing information. Several variables are re-coded to comply with control programs run by Statistics Norway and personal ID-numbers are referenced against Statistics Norway's population database to check for errors.

Estimation: No estimation is performed. The statistics are based on enumeration of registered students and graduates from higher education.

Seasonal adjustment

Not relevant


To prevent identification of individuals within the statistics, data is not released where less than three students are contained within a single cell in a table.

Comparability over time and space

Individually based data on competed education has been published annually since it was first collected in the 1973/74 school year. Most variables are comparable, but some have changed. The revised Norwegian Standard Classification of Education recoded education courses to enable comparison of newer and older data. While education courses are reasonably comparable over time, other variables are not (e.g. coding of institution types).

Statistics on the completion rates of students was published for the first time in 2004. A reform was taken into action in 2003. The main effect of this reform was to introduce Bachelor and Masters Degrees, thereby reducing the duration of undergraduate degrees in Norway from four to three years, and postgraduate degrees from six to five years. Completion rates of students statistics will not be entirely comparable during the period of transition to the new degree structure.

Accuracy and reliability

Sources of error and uncertainty

Educational statistics comprise of data collected from the administrative systems of the various higher education institutions. Errors in the data can occur upon registration at the higher education institutions, or during the control and revision processes performed by Statistics Norway. It is difficult to know the extent of the errors made in the registers. A person may be wrongly registered as being a student. Overestimation of student numbers is common for universities where registration occurs with payment of registration fees rather than enrolment in subjects. It is difficult to estimate the extent of over-registration of students.

Underreporting of completed education in the academic years 2004/05 and 2005/06, were mainly a problem with Cand.Mag. degrees (Bachelor of Social Science) as they did not have a set curriculum. These degrees were often registered as completed once the diploma was issued rather than when the degree was actually completed. This time difference could lead to underreporting of graduates by actual academic year. These students (graduations) will therefore be reported in the throughput statistics as taking one year longer than they actually did to complete their degree.

Completion rates of students in higher education is defined as the number of years from first time registration in a higher education institution until graduation. The statistics are not readjusted if a student changes to a new degree. According to this definition, very few students who switch degrees underway will be able to finish within the expected timeframe. Deferment and part-time studying are not accounted for either.


See general principles for revisions in Statistics Norway.