How to take the next step in your Norwegian career

No-one ever said getting an Executive MBA was easy. But those who have it under their belt all agree they’ve never looked back.

How to take the next step in your Norwegian career
Photo: IgorTishenko/Depositphotos

When Vicky Samuelsen planned her move from Texas to Norway in 2014, she was dismayed to find the company she worked for didn’t have an office in Europe.

“It was a shame I couldn’t transfer because I had a good job,” she says, referring to her role at multinational mining, metals and petroleum company BHP Billiton.

But taking some time out to plan her next step proved to be the best decision Vicky could have made. It gave her time to think objectively about where to go next with her career, and inspired her to apply to study for an Executive MBA.

The intensive 18-month program, where students combine full-time jobs with part-time studies, prepares students with backgrounds in all disciplines for new management and leadership positions in the business world. With topics like Financial Management, Value Creation, and Global Context, it supplements existing experience with hard and soft skills that can bolster any application for a senior role.

Enhance your career with an Executive MBA

Broadening her skillset appealed to Vicky, who intended to step away from oil and gas when she moved to Stavanger in southwest Norway. However, her research revealed many MBA students in Norway were in her industry. So she sought out a more diverse cohort, which she found at Stockholm School of Economics (SSE).

“The diversity just wasn’t there at the schools in Norway. I knew that going to SSE there would be more variety,” she says

“What I didn’t realise was that meeting entrepreneurs, bankers and for example, people in tech, would inspire me to believe I could do something else.”

It was while working on group projects that Vicky came to realise her skills were indeed transferable. Throughout the year, she also gained experience at several different companies in various industries, giving her even more confidence to start afresh.

Since graduating, Vicky has gone on to start her own company exporting sustainably sourced Norwegian seafood and using blockchain technology to ensure its provenance.

“I don’t think I would have started my own business if I hadn’t done the MBA,” Vicky confesses, adding the course gave her the confidence and extra skills she needed to take the leap.

Since graduating in September 2017, she uses her MBA every day, whether it’s drawing on her new knowledge in finance to liaise with investors, or engaging with the network she formed at SSE.

“If I have any questions I can easily reach out to my classmates. Everyone has different backgrounds and is very supportive. We keep in touch often through several channels like Slack and WhatsApp,” she says.

The diverse mix of students on the course was also a highlight for Vicky’s fellow SSE graduate, NSHK Scholarship recipient Jan Anders Syltern.

In his class of around 50 students, there were people from 17 different countries — many from Sweden, but also from other parts of Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

“It was very good for the learning process, we had great discussions because we all have different experiences and come from different cultures. It was really valuable,” says Jan Anders, who himself hails from Norway.

Like Vicky, he enjoyed the group work and found it an effective way to test his new learnings while honing his organisational and soft skills.

“There’s one thing thinking you know how to do something, but getting everyone onboard is something totally different,” he says. “It’s a long process and I didn’t have the understanding or patience to do it before. For me, this is where I use what I learned on my MBA every day.”

Learn more about studying at Stockholm School of Economics

He admits that at first he didn’t realise the impact the MBA would have on his career. Since graduating in 2016, he credits it with landing him a role as the Regional Manager of Norwegian engineering firm Multiconsult, where he manages 200 engineers.

“Before the MBA I thought it wouldn’t help me get much further in my career, but I didn’t realise how much I would get out of it,” he says, adding he gained a lot both professionally and personally from the course.

The MBA has made him both a more competent and patient leader, but Jan Anders says the programme is so much more than its syllabus.

“It’s an experience you’ll have with you for the rest of your life. It’s much more than a degree, it will change most people in a very positive way.”

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Stockholm School of Economics.


English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.