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Sweden axes further education places

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21:54 CET+01:00

Sweden's universities are slashing the number of study places available. The news signals an end to the expansion of the Swedish higher education sector which has thrived in the last fifteen years with the number of students doubling from 165,000 in 1988 to 340,000 in 2003.

In fields like Teaching, Nursing or Civil Engineering places have already been cut. As DN reported, there were 9% fewer places available this semester at Sweden's teacher-training colleges and 5% fewer places available for students wanting to study civil engineering.

Responding to the news, Dagens Industri warned ominously: "Sweden risks having a shortage of qualified teachers in the future."

The cuts are, according to both DN and Dagens Industri, a result of shrinking resources. Parliament has limited the amount of funding universities and other institutes of higher education get for the number of qualified students. Many universities have accordingly decided to concentrate the money they have on students who've already begun their studies, instead of going further in the red

"In the past universities have examined more students than they can afford to," Lennart Ståhle from the National Agency for Higher Education told Dagens Industri. "Now they're trying to balance their books."

With qualified teachers already in demand, it seems short-sighted that the Government cannot find resources to recruit more teachers. Especially when the National Agency for Education's annual report for 2004 attacked the lack of competence among both teachers and head teachers.

The report noted that currently only 1 in 2 head teachers have taken the state-approved "head teachers" training program whilst 1 in 3 teachers teach in a subject they are not qualified to teach. The figures are worse when it comes to independent schools with 35% of teachers not qualified.

As both DN and SvD pointed out, the shortage of university places will particularly hit the glut of teenagers currently filling up the high schools. And with recent studies by the National Agency for Education showing that school pupils are performing better and better, this will be seen as highly demotivating.

"This is going to mean it takes longer for young people to get in to college," said Stig Forneng, a researcher at the National Agency for Education. "Some age groups are going to have to wait a long time for their education."

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Högskoleverket, Dagens Industri

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