SOS2603 – Nordic welfare society - contemporary perspectives

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Course content

This course gives an introduction to the Nordic social and welfare state models. How do we assess current challenges and crises? Are the very foundations for democracy changing? Why, how and to what extent have the Nordic models been reformed and transformed?

Empirically, the course will be focusing on work, family, immigration, labour relations, economic policies, pensions, schooling and gender equality.

Theoretically, the course is informed by comparative welfare state research and political economy. We will focus on contemporary debates on the sustainability of Nordic welfare state models in the context of challenges such as the ongoing pandemic, ageing, flows of immigrants and asylum seekers, financial internationalization, climate crisis and relations to the EU single market.

  • What are the historical roots of the Nordic states, and how did their political and welfare systems develop in the 20th century?
  • What social conflict lines, alliances and compromises created the post-war context of highly organized civil societies (centralized labour unions and employers associations, strong organizations of farmers and fishermen), linked to the state in patterns of democratic corporatism.
  • How is work and family life reconciled in the setting of the Nordic welfare state?
  • What policy reforms have been agreed on in order to respond to present challenges?
  • Are the ambitions of gender equality and universalist welfare provisions sustainable in the future?

Learning aims

The Nordic countries are often associated with successful policies for growth and equality. Their social structures maintain high trust and the state secures generous welfare and safety for all citizens. But a closer look at popular debates reveal diverging judgments: For some “the Nordic Model” represents a formula for success where economic growth, democratic rule, norms of equality, social welfare, a highly skilled labor force, gender equality, and high quality of living have been successfully combined. For others, it represents overblown paternalistic, homogenous – quasi-socialist – welfare states which tax their citizens far too much. Others again, argue that Nordic politicians have given up on many of the ideals of the model as they have introduced neo-liberal reforms. Reflecting on both the history and the contemporary challenges of the region, the aim of the course is that the students should be able to critically assess various idealized accounts of Nordic peculiarities. The course will provide students with information and knowledge that enables them to discuss the similarities and differences between the Nordic countries and contrast their experience with that of other European countries.

Learning outcome


  • historically and theoretically based knowledge about the basic features of the Nordic welfare state model
  • learn to assess the implications of this societal model for gender relations, economic development and social integration


  • skills in using sociological concepts and theories to analyse cases within the Nordic welfare states and make a qualified judgment of what kind of policy and reform options are available and feasible.
  • the capacity to relate cases to specific institutional settings and to elaborate ways in which other societies may or may not learn from or adopt specific aspects of the Nordic models.
  • Ability to seek knowledge from different social contexts and sources in order to discuss whether the Nordics are as exceptional as often claimed in media and scholarly reports

General competence

  • Understand and discuss the limitations and advantages of using the concept of a regional “model” in social science, and of using comparisons in the study of how such models change
  • awareness of the highly complex relationship between empirical research and moral reasoning in these lines of inquiry


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


  • Lectures


  • Home exam (4 hours)

Digital written exam

The exam consists of two parts. Part one account for one-third of the grade and part two for two-thirds of the grade, respectively. In order to receive a passing grade on the exam, candidates must complete and pass both parts.

Resitting an exam

As of autumn 2018, the examination model for this course has changed. Students who wish to resit the exam, must complete the current examination model.

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English.You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language