Norway’s first folk high school opened in 1864, and today there are 77 folk high schools located throughout the country. Approximately 6,000 students attend folk high schools each year, mostly young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who have completed their upper secondary education. A number of folk high schools also offer short-term courses for seniors and four provide special programmes for persons with disabilities.
The folk high schools provide housing, and living on the premises is an important part of the overall educational programme. Teaching programmes view students in a holistic perspective, and are designed to encourage them to develop individually, socially and academically. All schools are small, with typical enrolment ranging between 60-100 students.
Folk high schools do not grant degrees or conduct formal examinations. Students completing a folk high school programme receive a diploma, but the school confers no formal qualifications vis-à-vis the public education system. Major subjects include music, performing arts, outdoor life, mass media, computer education, crafts, international solidarity, sports and more, and all students are also required to attend elective classes. In addition, each school has a set of compulsory classes.
Most of the folk high schools are owned and run by private organizations and foundations, but ten are under the ownership of county or municipal authorities. There are no tuition costs, but students are required to cover their own living expenses and to pay for excursions, student activities and study materials. Student loans and stipends are available through the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund.
Folk high schools are very popular in Norway, especially as a transitional year for those seeking a break between upper secondary and higher education, or those taking some time off to consider their future educational and employment opportunities.