University of Stavanger sees a 78% rise in applicants for its Bachelor's program in Energy and Petroleum technology

– The trend is reversed. We are very happy, sais Øystein Arild, head of department

Karianne Skjæveland
Communication Manager
April 27, 2023

The University of Stavanger, a core member of Energy Transition Norway, has experienced a 78% increase in the number of students applying for the Bachelor's program in Energy and Petroleum technology compared to last year.

Foto: Øystein Arild, head of the Department of Energy and Petroleum Engineering, University of Stavanger (Credit: UiS)

Given the impending retirement of many petroleum engineers, combined with the urgent need to develop a new generation of engineers for the emerging fields of hydrogen, batteries, and offshore wind, these positive numbers have long been awaited.

– We are very happy, says Øystein Arild, head of the Department of Energy and Petroleum Engineering, and explains why:

– We are heading towards a green shift where Norway wants to maintain its position as a major energy nation.

Arild has been seriously worried about the discrepancy between the demand and supply of engineers in “the new oil” as a man from Stavanger would call it, and refers to the report Menon Economics delivered on behalf of NITO just before the end of last year, stating that we will need 6.000 engineers for offshore wind, batteries, and hydrogen by 2030.

Despite the growing interest in green technology, we will still need to produce oil and gas until at least 2050. According to Arild, there are about 18,000 petroleum engineers in the industry as of today. Up to 10,000 of them might retire during the 2020s.

The NITO report warned that we haven’t lacked this many engineers in seven ears, and that the shortage of competence could become even greater beyond 2030 if action is not taken immediately. To address this challenge, the administration at UiS made a significant change to their Bachelor's in Petroleum Studies two years ago. They expanded the program's focus to include energy studies, renaming it Energy and Petroleum Studies.

Fresh numbers from Samordna opptak, the public admission service for higher education in Norway, show that there are 115 students or 3.8 applicants per available study place this year. In 2019, the number of applicants was at a record low of 49.  

Diversified study program tailored for the transition

By removing a few petroleum-related courses and replacing them with modules such as Energy Technology, where students can specialize in geothermal or energy systems, or take more petroleum-related courses in the 5th semester, Arild wanted to reshape a study program that catered both to the industry’s need and to the interest of students.

– Our idea in changing the program to be less specialized towards petroleum was that the people who will enter the industry may work with petroleum at the beginning of their career, while at the same time having the opportunity to get into new business opportunities as companies evolve over time, he explains.

– We see that the industry is still working with petroleum, but that they are shifting their activities gradually towards green areas. We believe that with our program, students will be better equipped to join in on that change than wht they were before, says Øystein Arild.

Arild thinks that the oil industry has a responsibility to educate students about the long-term commitment required for petroleum engineering education. They should highlight the fact that pursuing a career in petroleum engineering is a long-term investment. Additionally, there should be greater efforts to generate interest in STEM subjects among high school students.

Petroleum Engineering degree: A long-term investment

Sofie Hylland Pettersen, a member of Energy Transition Norway’s Young Professional Board since the fall of 2023, agrees with Arild.

As a child welfare professional who chose to step out of the healthcare system and into the energy industry, she is a representative of the increasing trend of young adults returning to the petroleum industry.

She thinks the general picture among young adults is that choosing petroleum is too risky.

– It's not like there's a divisive line between old knowledge and new knowledge. The new knowledge is integrated into the old one. The bachelor program in Energy and Petroleum technology focuses primarily on petroleum while also targeting energy, says Hylland Pettersen.

She sees it's a strength to have that knowledge from both sides, as the petroleum industry and the emerging energy fields require a broad range of skill sets, and a diverse talent pool is necessary for innovation.

Hylland Pettersen agrees that to attract more students to the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, they need to get a clearer idea about what these subjects can lead to, and she thinks that the wrapping is important.

When she was going to school, she felt heavily influenced to go in the direction of health subjects instead of STEM even though she’s always felt more drawn to hard science.

Why? Because everyone warned her about how hard it would be.

– I loved math growing up. But as long as teachers and role models keep filling your head with ideas like “this will be difficult, this will be tough”, you’re going to lose your motivation, says Hylland Pettersen.

Her advice to the energy industry is clear: Give the students understandable examples of what kind of projects they can work on in the future, and what already has been done by engineers with a similar academic background.

Energy and Petroleum student Sofie Hylland Pettersen loved math growing up, but was discouraged from choosing STEM in high school as adults said it was "too difficult".

Political debate matter

The increasing number of applications for petroleum studies at the University of Stavanger is a positive sign. To ensure a sustainable future for Norway's energy industry, universities, and the industry need to collaborate in promoting STEM education and attracting more students to energy and technology fields. However, politicians also play a significant role here, as political stances do affect students’ perception of petroleum studies.

Arild believes that the uncertainty surrounding the oil and gas industry, with the possibility of a clean stop by 2035 as advocated by the MDG party, may discourage students from pursuing an education in this field after the current oil and gas boom fades again.

He emphasizes that there are still licenses for Johan Sverdrup and Ekofisk until 2050 and beyond.

Info for companies

See full document