Adult learning in Norway

Lifelong learning is an important principle of Norwegian education policy. Basic skills training and validation of prior learning play a significant part in our adult education policies.

adult woman


The goal is to provide everybody with the possibility of widening their competencies and developing their skills throughout life. This may contribute to increased life quality for the individual and value creation and flexibility in working life. The competence and skills of the population are a major factor in securing economic growth, employability, competitiveness and cooperation.

Changes and challenges

Rapid technological development and increased international cooperation together with the social and cultural developments that results from globalisation are producing continuous changes in social life and working life.

Further education and training play an important role in developing the adaptability of individuals and therefore their ability to use the opportunities that open up as a result of changes in social life and working life.

Laws and regulations

The right to free education for adults up to and including upper secondary is guaranteed by law. The responsibility is divided between municipalities and counties.

Adults who need primary and lower secondary education have a statutory right to such education. Adults also have a statutory right to upper secondary education. This applies to adults who have not already completed an upper secondary education.

Education Acts

Adult education is regulated by the Adult Education Act (1976) and the Education Act (1998).

Under the Adult Education Act, the provision of courses is the responsibility of the respective public education authorities at the various levels of education. The Education Act regulates primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education for all, included adults.

Higher education (universities and university colleges) is regulated in a separate law, which applies to this level of education in general (regardless of the students' age). In 2001, rules about validation in HE were added to the law.

A new law on non-formal adult learning was introduced in 2010, to regulate organised learning activities outside the formal sector. Funding for study associations is regulated in this law, and is administered by Skills Norway. In addition, there is a separate Act on Folk High Schools (1984).


Along with learning in formal and non-formal structures, working life is of major importance as an arena for lifelong learning in Norway. Below, you will find an overview of the division of responsiblity in adult learning.

Skills Norway has a particular responsibility for improving the participation rate in adult learning, specifically with programmes focused on basic skills training within working life and outside. Skills Norway has particular competence within the fields of adults' legal rights and validation of prior learning. Skills Norway also works in close co-operation with social partners and NGOs to advance adult learning in working life.

The formal sector

The provision of adult education at primary and lower secondary school level is the responsibility of the municipalities, and at upper secondary level it is the responsibility of the counties.

The Ministry of Education and Research has the regulatory responsibility for all levels of formal education in Norway from kindergarten upwards. The content of adult education and primary and secondary education in general, is regulated by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.

The responsibility for immigrant education lies within Ministry of Education and Research. Skills Norway is responsible for the improvement of immigrant education and works in cooperation with other relevant stakeholders.

The non-formal sector

Adult education associations

The main objective of the adult education associations is to provide educational opportunities that are independent of curricula and exams. However, they can also provide formal training at all levels.

The Norwegian Association for Adult Learning (NAAL) is an umbrella organisation for publicly approved Norwegian education associations. NAAL acts as a cooperation partner and link to the Ministry of Education and Research.

Distance education

Distance education comprises various forms of flexible learning, ranging from traditional correspondence courses to web-based learning and use of various digital media. The courses cover all levels of training.

Flexible Education Norway (FUN) is a nationwide organisation for institutions that provide distance education.

Folk high schools

The folk high school are institutions for adult education that generally do not grant academic degrees. The objective is to promote learning for life and general knowledge. Within this framework, each school is responsible for establishing its own set of values.

The Folk High School Council represents the interests of the folk high schools.