Almost a quarter of youths with a non-Norwegian background picked high- earning degree courses compared to just 10% of Norwegians, a new study shows.
“In general, youth with non-Western immigrant background, both first-generation and second-generation, emerge as being more ambitious than the ethnic Norwegian students: they are more likely to proceed directly from upper secondary to higher education than their ethnic Norwegian counterparts, and they enrol in prestigious education programmes more frequently” said the author, Liv Anne Storen.
Prestigious professions, which Ms Storen defined as law, business and economics, make up the top three highest earning sectors in Norway. Coming on top of recent fears about immigration policy failing, the report adds to the debate on Norway’s immigrant population.
“The parents of immigrant students, many of whom will have lacked the opportunity to take higher education (and often upper secondary education) in their land of origin, appear to encourage their children to make full use of the possibility provided for free education in Norway,” concluded the researcher. Norwegian university education is free, with students also having access to government-backed loans during their studies.
The study revealed that out of nearly 24,000 students who enrolled for a degree course in the years 2002 and 2003, 1,369 were first- and second-generation immigrants. Of that number, 14% of first-generation immigrants (defined as non-Western migrants to Norway) were enrolled on a prestigious course, whilst 23% of second-generation immigrants (children born in Norway to first-generation immigrants) did the same.
Ms Storen followed the students in 1999 and 2000 as they entered their last two years of secondary school. By controlling for variables such as parental education levels, she discovered that immigrant families tend to have fewer parents who have been to university. Proportionately more children from these families go to university than Norwegian children, however.
Just 10% of Norwegians in the group studied who went to university enrolled on prominent courses, although this accounted for 2,297 students; more than the entire immigrant cohort. Interestingly, students with an immigrant background were also more likely to pick a science or engineering related degree.
She also found that teacher training “is not a preferred course” amongst students from immigrant families. She highlighted the importance of having multicultural teachers “in schools that are increasingly multicultural in terms of students.” This finding comes as more and more Norwegians become uneasy about what they see as a widening cultural divide.
Female students from both Norwegian and foreign backgrounds were ahead of their male peers in picking prestigious subjects, a trend similar to other Western countries such as Germany and the UK.
Commenting on the study, Norwegian student Ingvild Vetrhus said, “I think that studying in a different country where they speak a different language could make a person feel less confident about achieving good results, therefore they try harder to succeed. So I suppose foreign students may be more motivated but not necessarily more ambitious.”
“Many foreign students feel like they have a lot to prove and I think it’s like that in most countries, not just Norway,” she concludes.
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