Educational attainment of the population
Updated: 18 June 2021
Next update: Not yet determined
About the statistics
Educational Attainment of the Population includes residents in Norway as of October 1, aged 16 years or older by the end of the calendar year. Fifteen-year-olds who have completed compulsory education or who are enrolled in education beyond compulsory level are also included.
Completed education: Educational activities that are completed at an educational institution during the period in question.
Immigrants: Persons born abroad of two foreign-born parents and four foreign-born grandparents.
Norwegian-born to immigrant parents: Persons who are born in Norway of two parents born abroad, and in addition have four grandparents born abroad.
Age: Calculated as of December 31.
The Norwegian Standard Classification of Education (NUS): is a 6-digit code system that classifies educational activities by level and field. The level classification is intended to give the best possible notion of the educational system structure in Norway. The 1st digit indicates the level of education. Furthermore, 2-4 digits indicate detailed field division. The entire six-digits state the specific study programs.
International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED): The international statistical standard for classification of education.
Education level: The definitions of the various educational levels used in the statistics on the Educational Attainment of the Population are as follows:
COMPULSORY SCHOOL LEVEL: Compulsory schooling (in the statistics called “Below upper secondary education”) in Norway is divided into a primary level and a lower secondary level. The primary level consists of grades 1-7 while the lower secondary level consists of grades 8-10. In the statistics, it includes (i)-(iv):
(i) Individuals with educational attainment at only primary level. This information is derived from surveys and implies to a large extent to immigrants who have stated primary level as their highest educational attainment.
- NUS-level = 1
- ISCED2011-level = 1
(ii) All individuals who complete compulsory schooling, regardless of their results.
- NUS2000-level = 2
- ISCED2011-level = 2
(iii) From the school-year 1975/1976 up to and including the school-year 1994/1995: All individuals who have completed upper secondary education with a duration of less than two years, i.e. mainly study programs at primary level.
- NUS-level = 2
- ISCED2011-level = 2
(iv) From the school-year 1995/1996 onwards: All individuals who have completed upper secondary education with a duration of less than three years, i.e. mainly study programs at primary level and upper secondary level-I courses.
- NUS-level = 2
- ISCED2011-level = 2
UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOL LEVEL: People who have completed both primary and lower secondary education or the equivalent have the right to three years’ full-time upper secondary education, either general theoretical education or vocational education and training. In the statistics, it includes (i)-(iv):
(i) All individuals who have completed upper secondary education prior to 1974/1975, regardless of the education’s length.
- NUS-level = 3 and 4
- ISCED2011-level = 3
(ii) From the school-year 1975/1976 up to and including the school-year 1994/1995: All individuals who have completed upper secondary education with a duration of two years or more, i.e. mainly upper secondary level-I and level-II courses.
- NUS-level = 3 and 4
- ISCED2011-level = 3
(iii) From the school-year 1995/1996 onwards: All individuals who have completed upper secondary education with a duration of three years or more, i.e. mainly upper secondary level-II courses/third-year upper secondary courses.
- NUS-level = 4
- ISCED2011-level = 3
(iv) From the school-year 1998/1999 onwards: All individuals who have obtained less than 120 credits at tertiary level, and who do not have a tertiary vocational education with a duration of less than two years.
- NUS-level = 4
- ISCED2011-level = 3
TERTIARY VOCATIONAL EDUCATION LEVEL: Includes all individuals who completed tertiary vocational education (both 2-years and 2-years or more), but which are not approved as higher education (i.e. academic tertiary education).
- NUS-level = 5
- ISCED2011-level = 3, 4 (duration of less than 2 years) and 5 (2 years or more)
HIGHER EDUCATION – undergraduate level:
(i) All individuals who have completed a tertiary education with a duration of up to four years.
- NUS-level = 6
- ISCED2011-level = 5, 6 and 7 (one-year master’s programs)
(ii) From the academic-year 1998/1999 onwards: All individuals who have obtained 120 credits or more at tertiary level, regardless of obtaining a degree.
- NUS-level = 6
- ISCED2011-level = 5
HIGHER EDUCATION – postgraduate level:
(i) All individuals who have completed a tertiary education with a duration of more than four years.
- NUS-level = 7
- ISCED2011-level = 7
(ii) All individuals who have completed a doctoral degree.
- NUS-level = 8
- ISCED2011-level = 8
Educational activities are grouped by the Norwegian Standard Classification of Education (NUS) 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 purposes, the ISCED 2011 is used (International Standard Classification of Education).
Name: Educational attainment of the population
Division for Education and Culture Statistics
National, county and municipal level. In addition, figures for districts in the four largest cities are presented.
The statistics are published annually in June and refer to October 1 the previous year as the counting date.
Data on enrolment is delivered to OECD, UNESCO and Eurostat (U-O-E).
Statistics Norway stores all data in a proper, standardised manner in consultation with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.
Statistics Norway can deliver supplementary data and tables related to these statistics. To order supplementary data and tables, please contact Statistics Norway at firstname.lastname@example.org. The price will depend on the size of the order.
The purpose of the statistics is to present individual-based statistics on the Educational Attainment of the Population. The statistics are government-funded.
Statistics on the Educational Attainment of the Population have previously been compiled in conjunction with the census of 1950, 1960, 1970 and 1980. In addition, a status report on the Educational Attainment of the Population was compiled in 1975. Data on educational attainment for the entire population was for the last time collected as part of the Population and Housing Census in 1970 (FoB70).
Based on census data, as well as the annual files on completed educations in Norway, data on educational attainment was updated from 1970 to November 11, 1980. Completed educations abroad between 1970 and 1980 were obtained from the 1980 Population and Housing Census (FoB80). In addition, three surveys have been conducted for individuals with a completed education abroad before immigrating to Norway:
1. In the spring of 1991, a survey called “Utdanning fullført i utlandet,” collected data on completed educations taken abroad by foreign-born individuals who had immigrated to Norway for the first time between November 1, 1980 and December 12, 1990 and who were in the age group 16 years and above the first year of their stay.
2. In 1999, a similar survey was conducted, where the respondents were all registered Norwegian residents with foreign background and missing educational attainment in the database of the Educational Attainment of the Population. Also included in the survey were non-respondents to the 1991 survey and Norwegians who were living abroad and registered with missing educational attainment when the Educational Attainment of the Population was initially created in 1970.
3. In the autumn of 2011, a similar survey, called “Undersøkelse om utdanning 2011,” was again conducted. Statistics Norway sent out a questionnaire to more than 217,000 immigrants residing in Norway who as of October 1, 2011 had no registered education in the database of the Educational Attainment of the Population. Lack of information on educational attainment applies mainly to individuals who have graduated in countries other than Norway. Individuals under the age of 20 were not included in the survey due to the assumption that they would probably encounter the Norwegian education system and would be reported through the educational institutions’ reports. Prior to the survey, Statistics Norway lacked educational information for 43 per cent of all immigrants aged 16 and over. The survey resulted in this proportion being reduced to 20.4 per cent.
The number of immigrants with missing educational attainment has continued to increase every year following previous survey. As of October 1, 2014, 25 per cent of resident immigrants were registered with missing educational attainment in the database of the Educational Attainment of the Population. To better shed light on the level of immigrants’ educational attainment, including those for whom this information is lacking, statistical methods have been used as of October 1, 2014 to estimate the level of educational attainment for this group. It implies that Statistics Norway can provide statistics on immigrants with missing educational attainment at aggregate level, but not at individual level. The statistical methods are described in detail in the section “Production.”
Important users of the education statistics are public administration, special interest organizations, the media, researchers, business and industry. Key users among the ministries are the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. The statistics are also used by international organizations such as the EU, the OECD and UNESCO.
In addition, the statistics are used internally in Statistics Norway in publications and in assignments.
No external users have access to the statistics and analyses before they are published and accessible simultaneously for all users on ssb.no at 8:00 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.
Education statistics are individually based and therefore easily linked to other individual-based statistics at Statistics Norway. Education statistics are used comprehensively by labour market statistics, health statistics, living conditions statistics and income and wage statistics. The education statistics are also used in various sample surveys directed by Statistics Norway.
Act of 21 June 2019 No. 32 relating to official statistics and Statistics Norway § 10.
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 database of the Educational Attainment of the Population encompasses all individuals registered as residents in Norway as of October 1, aged 16 or older at the end of the calendar year. Fifteen-year-olds who have completed compulsory education or who are enrolled in education beyond compulsory level are also included.
The database of the Educational Attainment of the Population is based on the 1970 Population and Housing Census. Annual files of completed educations are also utilized to produce statistics on the Educational Attainment of the Population. Additional data on completed educations is obtained from the State Educational Loan Fund, Norway (Lånekassen) for individuals who complete their education abroad with financial support from Lånekassen. Data from Lånekassen was first collected in 1992 for the years 1986 to 1992 and has ever since 1993 been collected annually. From 2001 onwards, the data base has been supplemented with data from the National Diploma Database (NVB) and the Health Personnel Register (HPR). Completed educations files for the years 2001-2002 have also been updated with data from NVB and HPR. From 2008, 2017 and 2018 onwards, the database has been, respectively, supplemented with annual data from the Database of Foreign Nationals (UDB), the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV).
In 2020, the database of the Educational Attainment of the Population was supplemented with data on completed educations from the statistical agencies in Iceland, Finland and Denmark. These are mainly educations completed before 2019 in one of the mentioned countries by individuals who either have been or are residents in Norway.
The database of the Educational Attainment of the Population is extracted directly from the Statistics Norway’s National Education Database (NUDB). NUDB covers the following educational statistics: completed educations as of school-year 1970/1971; enrolment from the school-year 1974/1975; and data on the Educational Attainment of the Population from the 1970 census. The basis for the extraction from NUDB is being resident in Norway in the age group 16 years or over as of October 1 the current year. If several educational activities are registered for one individual, the one with the highest level is selected, classified according to the Norwegian Standard Classification of Education (NUS). If level does not differentiate the educational activities, the one with the highest-grade level is selected. If grade level does not differentiate the educational activities, the one which does not have any code for general field of study in NUS2000 is selected. If the field of study can neither distinguish between the educational activities, the one with the latest graduation date is selected. And if the graduation date does not separate the educational activities, one is selected randomly.
Data collection: Data on completed compulsory education (in the statistics called “Below upper secondary education”) is obtained from the county municipal admission system to upper secondary education, called “VIGO,” which is also the most important source of data for upper secondary education.
Statistics Norway collects educational data on tertiary vocational colleges, university colleges and universities from Database for Statistics on Higher Education (DBH), Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD), and the administrative systems of various higher education institutions.
Editing: Editing includes both control and revision and is performed on all educational data collected. It encompasses deletion of duplicate records, a control for correct and valid values for each variable, comparisons with last year’s data and checks for missing information. Several variables are re-coded to comply with control programs run by Statistics Norway. Personal ID-numbers are referenced against Statistics Norway’s population database to check for errors. At last, duplicate students are deleted, which implies that a student can only be counted once although the student may be registered for several educational activities or educational institutions at the same time.
Estimation: As of October 1, 2014, statistical measures have been implemented to provide better statistics at aggregate level on immigrants with missing educational attainment. Educational attainment is computed using a statistical method called “predictive mean matching,” which is derived from “nearest neighbour method.” It implies finding a donor, an individual who is as similar to the individual with missing educational attainment as possible but with known educational attainment and using their observed value. Then, by using various background variables of individuals, a regression model is adapted for the available data. By utilizing the regression model, both individuals with known and missing educational attainment are attributed a predicted value. In this way, the predicted value of the donor is used to impute an educational attainment value that replaces the missing value for the individual with no educational attainment. Thus, the most probable value of educational attainment is attributed to each individual with missing educational attainment. Auxiliary variables used to find the “nearest neighbour” are gender, age, country background, immigration category, citizenship, registered date of immigration to Norway, occupation and income. For a more detailed explanation of the method, see Jentoft (2014).
The imputation method implies that Statistics Norway can present representative statistics at aggregate level for immigrants with missing educational attainment. The statistics provide a better notion at aggregate level but are not intended for use on small populations. Imputed values should not be included for imputation of other characteristics. Researchers can decide whether they want to use datasets with or without imputation method for their purpose.
The general rule is not to publish data if less than 3 individuals are found within a cell or unit in a table. This is to prevent identification of individuals within the statistics.
Systematic data collection on the Educational Attainment of the Population began in 1970. Prior to this, data on the Educational Attainment of the Population was compiled in conjunction with the census of 1950 and 1960.
Comparability of the Educational Attainment of the Population registered in 1970 and 1980 could cause inconsistency if a detailed education level breakdown is desired. Nevertheless, the following three main levels should be used if one wants to compare over time: compulsory school level schooling (in the statistics called “Below upper secondary education”), upper secondary level, and higher education.
In the past, data on completed higher education contained less detailed information, due to the fact student data that was reported to Statistics Norway by universities and university colleges consisted of study programs with large and compact courses. For students who took exams in, for instance, mathematical and natural science faculties this led to their educational attainment not being updated before completing their “cand.mag-degee” (“cand.mag” is a former degree and title obtained after three or four years of undergraduate study, similar to a bachelor’s degree). From the academic year of 1998/1999, data on credits obtained for every course in a study program at higher education level was collected. Subsequently, after a restructuration of the data collection, the data base includes all exams taken at tertiary vocational colleges, university colleges and universities. From 1998/1999, this implied that an attainment at a specific higher education level could also be obtained on the basis of the sum of credits obtained, in addition to attainment by completing the education at higher education level. For example, if a student obtained a total of 120 credits in mathematical and natural sciences at higher education, the student would be attributed educational attainment of higher education – undergraduate level.
However, as of 2006, changes have been made to the level definitions in all the statistics of the Educational attainment of the Population. The changes were done primarily to increase the harmonization between the Norwegian level definitions and international guidelines. In general, the requirements to be defined at upper secondary level and higher education was restricted.
Comparability of immigrants’ educational attainment over time is influenced by the fact that all immigrants with missing educational attainment has been attributed an educational attainment level as of 2014 (see section “Collection of data, editing and estimations” above).
There is no educational information on completed education by Norwegian-born individuals abroad between 1980 and 1986. In 1992, data on Norwegian-born individuals who were studying abroad between 1986-1992 and who received financial support were obtained from the State Educational Loan Fund, Norway (Lånekassen). This kind of information has ever since been obtained annually from Lånekassen.
The education statistics are not based on sample selection, and Statistics Norway attempts to embrace every pupil and student that the statistics by definition should include. There could be cases of pupils and students not being included in the statistics. This may be due to inadequate reporting or Statistics Norway not being aware of all relevant data registry sources.
Possible errors may be related to the educational files that form the basis for the statistics on the Educational Attainment of the Population or errors in the responses of respondents in some of the surveys, although most errors are identified in the control and audit routines at Statistics Norway. See general principles for revisions in Statistics Norway.