Norway is to increase the maximum grant available to full-time students by almost 20 per cent to NKr80,000 (£6,200) a year -but there are strings attached.
Currently, students receive 30 per cent of their government support as a grant. The remainder is converted to a loan. In future, the whole grant will be paid out as a loan with 39 per cent converted to a grant only if the student reaches performance targets.
The changes were included in a package of "quality reforms" proposed by education minister Trond Giske. The package aims to improve the quality and to increase the efficiency of higher education. The changes will take effect from autumn 2002.
The country's degree structure will be simplified to three-year undergraduate and two-year postgraduate programmes.
To improve the flexibility of study programmes, the academic year will be divided into trimesters rather than semesters.
Mr Giske said universities would not be transformed into private enterprises, but the number of external university board members would be increased at the expense of staff representation.
Universities will be granted increased freedom in academic and financial affairs, and there are plans for abandoning uniform staff payment regulations.