But this week Dagens Nyheter reported that the education minister, Thomas Östros, is planning to put forward a motion banning the use of such quotas in selecting students for Swedish schools and universities.
“I am resolutely against ethnicity quotas,” he told the paper. “[The concept] has no support among the population. Admissions must be based on experience and knowledge. There are better ways to increase diversity.”
He is unlikely to face much opposition from the country’s institutions – or from those who are supposed to be helped by such a system.
Since last autumn, higher education institutions have been able to allocate 10 per cent of their places “with an alternative selection”. But DN noted that only three courses in the country actually employ a quota system.
According to Barbro Melander, a lawyer at the National Agency for Higher Education, that is because the rules are unclear.
“Colleges don’t dare to use the option,” said Melander. “They are afraid of making a mistake.”
Uppsala University, whose law course uses a quota system, will be in the county court this autumn defending a case brought by a student who claims that despite having the requisite grades he was denied a place on the course because of the quotas.
And Ingrid Elam, the head of Malmö High School, told DN that none of the places on a Media and Communication course which were allocated to students with immigrant backgrounds have been taken.
“I don’t know why nobody has applied to the quota places,” she said. “One explanation could be that immigrant parents don’t think that a humanities education gets you a job.”
Lest anyone should think that foreigners in Sweden aren’t taking what they’re entitled to, Monday’s Svenska Dagbladet reported that the number of people from the new EU countries who are seeking work here has increased by 74% compared to last year.
Between May and August the Migration Board handled over 2,000 applications for work permits, with around 60% coming from Poland.
While such an increase is hardly surprising, it’s the first real evidence in the ‘social tourism’ debate that raged throughout the spring. The government “flirted with xenophobic forces”, as SvD put it, suggesting that the country should brace itself for a wave of benefit hunters, but various social agencies assured the public that ‘there’s no place like home’ applies even if home is Hungary or Latvia.
Nevertheless, Peter Fylking at the Migration Board told SvD that it’s still too early too draw any conclusions.
“There’s a big delay in this sort of thing,” he said. “My experience is that the man in the family often comes first to begin working, and then you can expect the wife and kids to join him after a while.”
Migration Minister Barbro Holmberg also said that it would take a few more months before the first real effects would be felt, but saw the threat rather differently.
“If other EU citizens get social benefits it’s not a problem in itself. Instead, the problems arise if they come as self-employed, but in practice are used as normal employees on, for example, building sites. That makes them very vulnerable.”