Validation of prior learning

The Norwegian concept of «realkompetanse» refers to all types of prior learning – formal, non-formal and informal.

validation of prior learning

The importance of guaranteeing the right of the individual to such validation is reflected in key legislation and national strategies.

At a strategic level, there has been a development towards policies aimed at broad, differentiated opportunities for competence development. In the Norwegian Strategy for Skills Policy 2017 – 2021 (Ministry of Education and Research),validation of informal and non-formal learning was one of the main priorities. The White Paper on Adult Education states that the system for validating prior learning must be promoted and strengthened.

Shared principles

The Norwegian validation system is based on shared principles in all sectors; among others that the validation process should be voluntary and beneficial for the individual. The opportunities, rights and benefits related to the validation process are promoted by various stakeholders locally and nationally. Skills Norway is one of the important national bodies in this work.

The Norwegian validation system, in short

In the Norwegian validation system, prior learning is validated against learning outcomes in curricula from each education sector.

In primary, lower and upper secondary educations prior learning is validated against learning outcomes in national curricula. The validation is performed by services at county or community level, in adult education centers.

In tertiary vocational education and higher education prior learning is validated against learning outcomes in local curricula developed in each institution. The validation is performed locally in each institution.

All validation of prior learning in Norway follow the same overall procedure, regardless of education levels:

validation of prior learning


Skills Norway has been responsible for developing guidelines for validation towards enrolment in tertiary vocational education and towards exemption in higher education. The guidelines have been developed in cooperation with relevant stakeholders from the sector. In 2013, the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training developed national guidelines for validation in lower and upper secondary education.

Glossary of validation terms

In the diverse field of validation, there are various terms in use. Here is a list of internationally used definitions.

View the glossary (pdf-file)

Laws and regulations

Validation of prior learning for adults is regulated by law in Norway.

Primary education

Adults who are entitled to primary and lower secondary education, have a statutory right to have their prior learning validated. Their competences are assessed against learning outcomes in the national curricula, and approved subjects are certified in their final primary education diploma.

Upper secondary education

Adults who are entitled to upper secondary education have the same right to validation of prior learning. This applies for adults who want to enter upper secondary education, and for those who only want a competence certificate.

In the validation process, the candidates’ competences will be assessed against the learning outcomes in the national curricula. The candidates have a right to get a diploma or a competence certificate that confirms the approved learning outcomes from the curriculum.

Adults who are not entitled to upper secondary education, can have their prior learning validated if they are referred from the Labour and Welfare Administration or the municipal authorities. The right to validation of prior learning in primary education and lower and upper secondary education is regulated in the Education Act.

Tertiary vocational education

Enrollment in tertiary vocational education is usually based on a vocational diploma from upper secondary education. Candidates without a vocational diploma are also entitled to apply for enrollment if they can prove relevant competence from prior learning according to the requirements for admittance in the specific institution.

Higher education

As for higher education, adults (age 25 or above) without a general college and university admissions certification can apply for enrollment to a specific study programme on the basis of documented prior learning. This right was introduced in 2001. Documentation of informal and non-formal learning may also provide a basis for exemption from modules in the study programme.

Documentation of prior learning in working life

The Basic Agreement for 2009–2013 between the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO) and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) confirms the importance of making prior learning visible, stating in § 16-4 Documentation of actual qualifications: «It is important that enterprises have a system to document the individuals’ experiences, courses and practice related to the employment relationship.»

Hidden competences and skills

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