Research and development in the higher education sector

Updated: 26 October 2023

Next update: 29 October 2024

Research and development (R&D) expenditure in the higher education sector
Research and development (R&D) expenditure in the higher education sector
NOK billion
Research and development (R&D) in the higher education sector
Research and development (R&D) in the higher education sector
20222021 - 2022
NOK milionChange in fixed prices, per cent
Type of cost
Labour costs16 293-1
Other current costs9 9948
Current costs, total26 2872
Land and buildings2 26713
Instruments and equipment595-19
Capital expenditures, total2 8624
Total costs29 1492
Scientific personnel (number)30 4831 083
Explanation of symbols

Selected tables and charts from this statistics

  • Funding of R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (NOK million)
    Funding of R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (NOK million)
    Funding, total14 25916 00118 70923 32226 33526 904
    General funds9 43910 88012 99216 69918 12518 435
    The Research Council of Norway2 5172 4712 7823 3513 9073 947
    Ministries etc9591 0531 1481 2191 5871 439
    Other national sources4494986397811 0901 424
    Abroad, not specified97117152205329267
    Explanation of symbols
  • Current R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (NOK million), by field of science and year
    Current R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (NOK million), by field of science and year
    Total13 38815 07017 24121 10023 64524 318
    Humanities and the arts1 3111 5331 5171 7581 9681 939
    Social sciences3 0573 5024 2695 4576 1826 634
    Natural sciences2 3802 6972 9813 6314 3204 270
    Engineering and technology1 8191 8571 8862 5922 8323 037
    Medical and Health sciences4 5915 2366 2327 2647 9337 906
    Agricultural sciences229245356399410531
    Explanation of symbols
  • R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (NOK million), by institution and type of cost
    R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (NOK million), by institution and type of cost
    Total costsLabour costsOther current costsInstruments and equipmentLand and buildings
    Total26 90415 5758 7436951 892
    Norwegian University of Science and Technology4 8662 9371 424172333
    University of Oslo4 5802 5231 372126559
    University of Bergen2 4961 43487584103
    UiT - The Arctic University of Norway1 8691 08560456123
    Norwegian University of Life Sciences1 741588465144544
    Oslo Metropolitan University1 131662429238
    University of Stavanger7674652581332
    Western Norway University of Applied Sciences684367292025
    University of South-Eastern Norway681382269822
    University of Agder6093502041244
    Nord University531293212719
    BI Norwegian Business School44131113000
    Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences43725617623
    NHH Norwegian School of Economics288166110012
    Other higher education institutions1 615794779934
    University Hospitals4 1672 9621 145600
    Explanation of symbols
  • R&D full-time equivalents in the higher education sector, by type of personnel
    R&D full-time equivalents in the higher education sector, by type of personnel
    20212022Annual change, per cent
    Total full-time equivalents (FTE)17 99418 0210.2
    Full-time equivalents (FTE), researchers14 64614 611-0.2
    Full-time equivalents (FTE), technical/administrative personnel3 3483 4101.9
    The table was corrected on 19 May 2023.
    Explanation of symbols
  • Researchers and academic personnel, head count in the higher education sector, by sex, last 5 years
    Researchers and academic personnel, head count in the higher education sector, by sex, last 5 years1
    Both sexes27 09327 84328 82129 40030 48331 015
    Males13 90413 99014 34314 61714 91114 944
    Females13 18913 85314 47814 78315 57216 071
    Female share, per cent495050505152
    1Figures for 2023 are preliminary. In the preliminary figures for 2023, the university hospitals, the Norwegian Defence University College and the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) are not included.
    Explanation of symbols

About the statistics

The statistics measures resources spent on research and development (R&D) in the higher education sector. It includes R&D expenditure, R&D personnel, and R&D full-time equivalents (FTE) in addition to funding, type of R&D, field of R&D and thematic and technology areas.

Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge – including knowledge of humankind, culture and society – and to devise new applications of available knowledge.

It can be difficult to distinguish R&D from other related activities. In the higher education sector, it is particularly challenging to draw the line between education, teaching, and specialized medical treatment, for example at university hospitals. Important criteria that must be met for the activity to be considered R&D are that it contains something new, is creative, has uncertainty related to the result, is systematic and can be transferred and / or reproduced.

Definition of the main variables

Type of R&D

  • Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.
  • Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective.
  • Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.

Sources of funding

  • General university funds (GUF)
  • Business enterprise sector
  • Norwegian Research Council
  • Ministries etc.
    • Ministries
    • County municipalities and municipalities
  • Other national sources
  • EU institutions
  • Other foreign sources

The R&D activity in the higher education sector is divided into the following fields of R&D:

  • Humanities and the arts
  • Social sciences
  • Natural sciences
  • Engineering and technology
  • Medicine and health sciences
  • Agriculture sciences

R&D personnel

All personnel directly involved in research and development (R&D), both researchers and technical and other support staff.

R&D full-time equivalent (FTE)

The work performed by the R&D personnel during one year is converted into full-time equivalents.

Not relevant

Research and development in the higher education sector

29 October 2024

Division for R&D, Technology and Business Dynamics Statistics

National level, main variables by region and county

Statistics Norway conducts a total survey for the sector every two years (odd-numbered years) and prepares main figures for intermediate years (even-numbered years). The statistics are published in October of the year following the end of the statistical year (t + 10 months). Figures for R&D staff (heads) are updated annually (t + 10 months).

The statistics are reported to OECD and Eurostat.

Collected and revised data are stored securely by Statistics Norway in compliance with applicable legislation on data processing.

Statistics Norway can grant access to the source data (de-identified or anonymised microdata) on which the statistics are based, for researchers and public authorities for the purposes of preparing statistical results and analyses. Access can be granted upon application and subject to conditions. Refer to the details about this at Access to data from Statistics Norway.

The purpose of the R&D surveys is to map the national R&D activity in the business enterprise sector, the higher education sector and the institute sector <!--StartFragment -->The institute sector comprises research institutes subject to guidelines for government basic grants, and other R&D performing institutions in the public sector, including health trusts without university hospital functions and private, non-profit hospitals.<!--EndFragment -->.

The first R&D statistical surveys in Norway were conducted in the late 1950s. An important background was that the Norwegian research councils needed systematic information about research personnel, research recruitment needs and comparisons of investment in research between Norway and other countries. The Norwegian Research Council for General Sciences (NAVF) and the Norwegian Research Council for Technical and Natural Sciences (NTNF) participated early in the work on R&D statistics in line with the OECD's initiative. The other Nordic countries also participated early in the work. Over the years, the Nordic countries have worked closely together on these statistics. 1963 is considered the year in which international R&D statistics were established, and Norway has participated since the beginning. In 1993, the five research councils were merged, and the official R&D statistics for Norway have since been prepared by Statistics Norway and the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) in agreement with the Research Council of Norway.

From the 1960s until 2022, NIFU and its predecessors was responsible for conducting the surveys for the institute sector and the higher education sector. Statistics Norway has conducted the survey for the business enterprise sector since 1991. As of 2022, Statistics Norway conducts the R&D surveys for all three R&D performing sectors. The surveys and results are prepared according to guidelines made by the OECD in the so-called "Frascati manual"(

Key users are ministries, the Research Council of Norway, research environments, health trusts, educational institutions, and journalists. The survey is an important part of the knowledge base for research policy, and the results are used in evaluations, research, and analysis. OECD and Eurostat also use the results in international comparisons.

No external users have access to statistics before they are released at 8 a.m. on after at least three months’ advance notice in the release calendar. This is one of the most important principles in Statistics Norway for ensuring the equal treatment of users.

The national R&D figures equal the sum of the figures for three sectors:

  • higher education sector
  • institute sector
  • business enterprise sector

Note that university hospitals are part of the higher education sector, and that health trusts without a university hospital function and private, non-profit hospitals are part of the institute sector.

Statistics Norway reports R&D statistics for Norway to the OECD and Eurostat, but with a somewhat different sector division than for national use. The OECD's sector division consists of:

  • higher education sector
  • government sector
  • business enterprise sector
  • private non-profit sector (PNP)

The higher education sector corresponds to the Norwegian higher education sector.

The government sector comprises the Norwegian institute sector except private research institutes which mainly serve the business enterprise sector. The business-oriented research institutes include industry specific research institutes and contract institutes, which in the international reporting belong to the business enterprise sector.

The business enterprise sector includes the business enterprises, i.e. companies with at least 10 employees (5 employees in odd-numbered years), in addition research institutes that mainly serve the business enterprise sector are included.,.

The PNP sector (private non-profit) performs little R&D in Norway and is therefore merged with the government sector in the international R&D statistics. The same applies to the PNP sector in many other countries.

The statistics are developed, produced and disseminated pursuant to Act no. 32 of 21 June 2019 relating to official statistics and Statistics Norway (the Statistics Act).

Regulation (EU) 2019/2152 of the European Parliament and of the Council on European business enterprise statistics.

The R&D survey of the higher education sector covers institutions of the following types that have R&D activity of a certain scope:

  • universities
  • specialised state university colleges
  • specialised private university colleges
  • state university colleges
  • art university colleges
  • other university colleges
  • university hospitals


The survey unit is the individual department or other similar basic unit at the educational institutions. For the university hospitals, the unit is the individual health trust.


The R&D statistics is based on a total survey.

The most important data sources for the R&D statistics in the higher education sector are surveys to the units (department/centre) in the sector, as well as administrative data such as accounting data and data from major research funders. The survey measures R&D expenditure, funding of the R&D activity, as well as the distribution of type and field of R&D. The R&D survey to educational institutions also includes questions about thematic and technology areas. The university hospitals are covered through a separate survey to the health trusts, which is compiled with the results from the educational institutions.

Response burden

Time spent filling out the form is not calculated.

Editing is defined here as checking, examining and amending data. There are several built-in controls in the electronic questionnaire. All forms undergo on-receipt controls (whether the questionnaire have been filled out, obvious errors, etc.). Furthermore, they are checked in more detail against e.g. accounting data, information obtained from external funding sources, previous surveys, and annual reports. Errors, misunderstandings and deficiencies in the reporting are followed up with the respondent.


The Research Personnel Register is an important basis for calculating the R&D resources in the higher education sector. Each position / position category in this register is associated with a position fraction, average wage, and share of R&D, which Statistics Norway use to estimate the wage expenditures for R&D from the institutions' general university funds and R&D full-time equivalents (FTE).

The position fraction is derived from data Statistics Norway receives from the Database for Statistics on Higher Education / Norwegian Directorate for Higher education and Skills. Furthermore, Statistics Norway calculates an average salary per position category and educational institution based on income statistics for the people in the Research Personnel Register.

The share of R&D for positions in the educational institutions is based on time use surveys among the scientific personnel at universities and university colleges conducted approximately every five years The most recent survey was conducted by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU). Read the report about the time use survey 2021 here (, only in Norwegian).

For intermediate years, i.e. for even-numbered years, Statistics Norway does not conduct a survey. Instead, we calculate key figures for the sector. These figures are based on information from the Database for Statistics on Higher Education / The Directorate for Higher Education and Competence on R&D personnel, accounting figures from the institutions and the Research Council of Norway, as well as data from Statsbygg on building and construction expenditure.

The main figures include total R&D expenditure by type of expenditure (wage, operating expenditure, scientific equipment, and construction), as well as R&D full-time equivalents and researcher full-time equivalents.

Fixed prices

The respondents report R&D expenditure in current prices. Statistics Norway publishes the figures for R&D expenditure in current prices. For total R&D expenditure, we also calculate figures in fixed prices. A new deflator <!--StartFragment -->A deflator is an indicator used to convert a series of numbers from current prices (prices of the year) to a series of numbers of fixed prices.<!--EndFragment -->.has been used to calculate R&D expenditure at fixed prices for 2013 and the entire period back to 1970. The base year is 2015. The new deflator is based on the price index for production in the industry Scientific research and development in the national accounts. See table 09170 in the statistics bank. Under Contents, choose the variable "Output at basic value. Annual change in prices (per cent)". Under Industry, choose Industries (A38), then choose Scientific research and development in the list below. This is a weighted cost index - an average index for the various types of expenditure. The same deflator is used for all the R&D performing sectors.

Not relevant

Employees of Statistics Norway have a duty of confidentiality.

Statistics Norway does not publish figures if there is a risk of the respondent’s contribution being identified. This means that, as a general rule, figures are not published if fewer than three units form the basis of a cell in a table or if the contribution of one or two respondents constitutes a very large part of the cell total.

Statistics Norway can make exceptions to the general rule if deemed necessary to meet the requirements of the EEA agreement, if the respondent is a public authority, if the respondent has consented to this, or when the information disclosed is openly accessible to the public.

More information can be found on Statistics Norway’s website under Methods in official statistics, in the ‘Confidentiality’ section.

The results from the R&D statistics are published at an aggregate level so that individual units cannot be identified.

Norway has participated in international cooperation on R&D statistics since its establishment in 1963. From 1977, total surveys for the higher education sector in Norway have been conducted every two years (odd-numbered years). For intermediate years (even-numbered years), key figures are prepared. For the health trusts, annual R&D surveys were conducted from 2006 to 2017. Since then, the survey has been conducted every other year, as for the educational institutions. Organizational changes and changes in definitions and classifications imply that longer time series are not always meaningful for all indicators.

The district colleges (distriktshøgskoler) are included in the statistics from 1974. In 1994, they were merged with other small public and independent regional colleges into 26 state university colleges, and from 1995 these units were included in the R&D statistics. This means that the figures on R&D personnel in the sector include the state university colleges from 1995, while previously only the district colleges were included.

The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) also joined in 1995. Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Bergen Art Academy, Diakonhjemmet University College and the Norwegian Police University College were included in 1997, and in 2007 also Queen Maud University College and the Armed Forces School Center. In 2013, four new educational institutions were included in the R&D statistics: Haraldsplass Diaconal University College, Lovisenberg Diaconal University College, Norwegian School of Information Technology and Campus Kristiania. In 2019, the University College of Norwegian Correctional Service (KRUS) was included.

Some units have changed sector affiliation. In 1999, the Department of Cancer Research was classified as part of the higher education sector. Previously it was affiliated with the institute sector. In 2009, several units at the University of Bergen changed sector affiliation as Uni Research was classified as belonging to the institute sector. The R&D statistics for 2015 included the Labor Research Institute and Norwegian Institute for Research on Upbringing, Welfare and Aging (NOVA) at Oslo and Akershus University College (HiOA). NIBR and SIFO were merged with HiOA in 2016. The institution received university status in 2018 and is now called OsloMet - the metropolitan university.

Major organizational changes and mergers in the sector have led to a reduction in the number of educational institutions covered by the R&D survey from 48 to 32 institutions between 2015 and 2017. Per October 2023, the R&D statistics in the higher education sector include ten universities with associated centres and affiliated institutions, five specialised state university colleges and three specialised private university colleges, four private university colleges with state grants, five regional state university colleges and five other university colleges. The 32 educational institutions comprise almost 400 units / departments / centres. Six university hospitals are also included in this sector, see the section on coherence with other statistics above.

The concept of R&D can be difficult to delimit from related activity. The quality of the data on which the statistics are based depends on the judgment exercised by the persons answering the form, and on their understanding of the R&D concept and the unit's R&D activities. The questionnaire is followed by a guide with an overview of definitions. Furthermore, the quality is based on the controls performed and routines followed by Statistics Norway’s employees, e.g. by designing questionnaires, contact with the sector, use of available register data and knowledge of the R&D system.

The response rate is high. If large R&D performing units do not answer the questionnaire, the data is calculated based on other available information.

There have been no major revisions of the R&D statistics in the sector. See general principles for auditing in Statistics Norway here. See general principles for auditing in Statistics Norway here


Kaja Kathrine Wendt

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