Find out more about life in some of Norway’s top student cities...
Universities in Oslo
The economic and governmental center of Norway, capital city Oslo is also a thriving trade hub which includes the banking and maritime industries. Oslo has several times earned the title of the world’s most expensive city – most recently in 2012, in a report by Swiss bank UBS. But, if you can handle the expense, it has also been ranked number one for its quality of life.
Due to its fast-growing immigrant population, Oslo is known as the ‘melting pot’ of Norway, with continuous influxes of people from all over the world (the largest groups coming from Sweden, Poland and Pakistan). The resulting cultural and ethnic diversity has meant that there’s no end to variety in Oslo’s cuisines, arts and shopping experiences. Full of life and culture, Oslo’s city center is easy to travel around on foot, and offers a good selection of museums, galleries, cafes, music venues, festivals and nightlife and is home to some of Norway’s wealthiest celebrities. It’s also easy to access the great outdoors from Oslo – popular pastimes include hiking, fresh water swimming (just don’t swim in Maridalsvannet lake – it provides drinking water for the city!) watersports, cross-country skiing, ice-skating and cycling.
The University of Oslo is Norway’s highest ranking university, reaching 89 in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings®. Also of note among universities in Oslo are BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo University College (which offers many courses in English including the European Project Semester), the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, the Oslo School of Architecture, the Norwegian Academy of Music and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Universities in Bergen
Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen is located on the west coast, and is a popular base for visitors exploring the country’s famous fjords – long, narrow stretches of water bordered by steep cliffs (this might not sound much, but they really are spectacular). The city is surrounded by mountains (earning it the nickname ‘the city of seven mountains’), making Bergen perfect for hiking in summer and skiing or sledging in winter.
As well as being ‘The Gateway to the Fjords’, Bergen itself is an attractive coastal city, with its historic harbor area, Bryggen, included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Hanging out at the beach is also a popular summer activity, with clean, fresh and comparatively warm waters and plenty of sandy beaches.
The city is also an international center for aquaculture, shipping, offshore petroleum subsea technology, tourism, finance and higher education. Bergen’s cultural contribution is also of note, having supported the growth of many of Norway’s indie bands and artists. Bergenfest music festival runs from April to May and is joined by the week-long Bergen International Film Festival, the Bergen Reggae Festival, the Bergen International Festival and the two-week long Nattjazz – the longest jazz festival in Europe. And, where the Bergen nightlife lacks in grandeur, it makes up for with variety – plus its range of smaller venues often make for a better atmosphere.
Bergen is home to the third-largest and second-highest ranked university in Norway: the University of Bergen, 151= in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. Other universities in Bergen include Bergen University College, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH), one of Norway’s leading business schools.
Universities in Tromsø
If you’re really looking for a study destination with a difference, Tromsø could well catch your attention. This relatively small city is mainly located on the island of Tromsøya, close to the northern tip of Norway, and well within the Arctic Circle – which puts it in prime position for those wishing to view the famous aurora borealis (northern lights) in all its glory. Promoted as the ‘capital of the Arctic’, Tromsø is a popular base for those exploring this region – and yes, you guessed it – there are plenty of fjords and mountains nearby (bored of all this natural beauty yet?) and it is in the northernmost part of Norway, meaning it gets the midnight sun during the summer months.
Although small, the city is bustling, with a renowned nightlife (make sure to visit Ølhallen, the Beer Hall), plenty of art, museums and history to soak up, and lots of choice in cuisine, particularly seafood. Architecture students might also enjoy northern Norway’s greatest concentration of wooden houses in Tromsø’s city center, along with northern Europe’s oldest cinema still in use, the Verdensteatret, and the striking design of the modern Arctic Cathedral.
The city is also home to the world’s northernmost university, Tromsø University, which is ranked 306 in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. While there aren’t many universities in Tromsø, it does have plenty of research institutions and a highly skilled population. Tromsø is also where the indigenous Sámi population and culture are most visible.
Universities in Trondheim
Being an old city in Central Norway, Trondheim has a rich cultural heritage. It’s the oldest of Norway’s major cities, meaning there’s lots to explore in and around the city center. Major attractions include the Nidaros Cathedral, the second-largest church in Northern Europe, historic rock carvings, and Trondheim’s characteristic mansions and harbor houses. Trondheim’s is also known for its mercantile history and for being the religious center of northern Europe during the Middle Ages.
Although small, Trondheim has plenty to offer in terms of student life, with choices including music, arts, theatre, film fests, alternative politics and sports (skiing and football). You should also venture out to the islet Munkholmen in the north, which has served as a place of execution, a monastery, a fortress, a prison and a World War II anti-aircraft gun station, and is now a popular tourist and recreation site.
In terms of universities in Trondheim, the city is dominated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), which is ranked 251 in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. Sør-Trøndelag University College is also based in Trondheim, with other technology-orientated institutions including the SINTEF and St Olav’s University Hospital. NTNU has more than 25,000 students – equal to a fifth of the city’s 170,000 inhabitants. The city is therefore heavily influenced by student culture, at the heart of which is the large Studentersamfundet i Trondhjem, the student society building where concerts, political debates, wine tasting, discussions, discos, football matches, choirs and orchestras are regularly hosted. As you might expect, Trondheim also has a vibrant nightlife, with many pubs and bars open all week and all night.
Universities in Kristiansand
Kristiansand (sometimes called Kristiansand S to avoid confusion with Kristiansund in western Norway) is the fifth largest city in Norway by population. Located on the south coast, the city is a favorite summer holiday destination for Norwegians, with the sea and surrounding fjords perfect for enjoying Norwegian coastal culture. You may also enjoy the Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park east of the city, its active music scene or its many festivals such as the Protestfestival (to address apathy and indifference in politics), the Bragdøya Blues Festival and the International Children’s Film Festival.
Previously important as a military stronghold, Kristiansand is now known as the business capital of southern Norway, and has a large urban area populated by factories (nickel, ice-cream and beer and soft drinks), a refining plant, shipbuilding and repair facilities, and an industrial area known as the Korsvik. It is also an important transport and communications node, connected to continental Europe by air, sea and rail. Despite this, you’ll never be far from a forest in Kristiansand, with popular activities being swimming, fishing, sailing, golfing and enjoying the archipelago near the city called Skjærgården, or Markens Gate, a mainly pedestrianized shopping street.
The University of Adger (UiA) is just east of the town center and relocated from its old military camp campus into a new building in 2001. UiA teaches many subjects, but only a few are taught in English, despite most of Kristiansand’s citizens being fluent English speakers. Other universities in Kristiansand include the Noroff University College, music education at Musikkens hus (House of Music) and several small, private higher education schools including a Christian journalism school and the regional branch of BI Norwegian Business School.
See where Norway’s capital, Oslo, ranks in the QS Best Student Cities >