NIFU’s roots stretch back to the mid-1950s. It was initially established as a division within the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities (Norges allmennvitenskapelige forskningsråd). Over many years’ of activity in this field the institute gained significant expertise investigating questions relating to research and higher education at the national and international levels, conducting surveys and research into most branches of the field of education and research. Most of the publications from this period is in Norwegian. The names of NIFU's predecessors were as follows:

  • NAVFs utredningsstab 1954-1961 (NAVF's Research Staff)
  • NAVFs utredningsavdeling 1961-1969 (NAVF's Research Department)
  • NAVFs utredningsinstitutt 1969-1993 (NAVF's Research Institute)
  • Utredningsinstituttet for forskning og høyere utdanning (1993-1996)

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