A day for protest
This year's International Students' Day was marked with protests against the government's proposed tuition fees for international students.
– The University of Bergen will not be charging tuition fees next semester, regardless of what the government decides to do, says Oddrun Samdal from the podium.
Samdal is the vice rector at the University of Bergen (UiB), and one of the speakers at the International Students’ Day celebration at Kvarteret. UiB has long been opposed to the government’s proposal to introduce tuition fees for students from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.
A global event
International Students’ Day has been a global tradition since 1941. In Norway, this year’s celebration is particularly important because of the government’s attempts to introduce tuition fees. Students across the country have expressed solidarity with their non-Norwegian peers. In Sogndal, students posed nude in a PR campaign against fees.
In Bergen, the festivities are put together by the Student Parliaments of UiB, Høgskolen i Bergen (HiB), and NLA Høgskolen, as well as the International Student Union of Bergen (ISU UiB).
Kvarteret’s Grøndahl room is filled with international students. Representatives from several political youth parties, ISU, and UiB all speak out in favor of free education for all. Oh, and there’s pizza too.
Conservatives in favor
Leader of Bergen Young Conservatives Even Bakke Dimmen, on the other hand, thinks tuition fees for international students is a good idea.
– We want international students to come to Norway because of the quality of our education system. Not because the Norwegian government, and, by extension, Norwegian taxpayers, foot the bill, he says.
He thinks plenty of international students will come to Norway, even if the proposal is adopted.
– Quota students and other students who enter through a number of international agreements will still attend free of charge, says Dimmen.
He adds that this opens up an opportunity to expand quotas for students from developing countries, which could make education a more efficient form of foreign aid.
ISU UiB president Benkamin Batinge has previously told Studvest he thinks tuition fees for international students makes little sense – both for international students and for Norway. He argues that Norwegian students have much to learn from their international peers.
Knut Hidle, who is an associate professor at the Geographical Institute, agrees with Batinge.
– We fear that tuition fees can set back international recruitment. International students are important both to our fields of study and to the university as a whole, says Hidle.
He believes the number of international students can drop as a result of the proposal. As a result, the university may miss out on good candidates from abroad.
Retains principle of free education
Although the Bergen Young Conservatives want to introduce tuition fees for some international students, Even Bakke Dimmen maintains that they do not wish to introduce such fees for Norwegian students.
– The Conservative Party and Conservative students have remained crystal clear that this will not threaten the principle of free education, he declares.
Read more: Raging against tuition fees