University’s ethnic quotas declared unlawful

A quota-based admissions policy at Uppsala University was declared unlawful last week by Uppsala district court.

The two students who sued the university after they were denied a place on the law programme said they were satisfied with the decision, but the attorney general, Göran Lambertz, who represented the state, said he intended to appeal.

The new admission process has been on trial for two years and has served mainly the law programme. Ten percent of the places are reserved for students with non-Swedish ethnic background.

Josefin Midander and Cecilia Lönn, two students who applied for the programme, were declined a place – despite having the required grades – because they had the ‘wrong’ ethnic background. Both have parents who were born in Sweden.

Following the court’s decision, they will each receive 75,000 crowns.

“We are very happy that the court ruled that it is against the law to use such quotas,” said Josefin Midander to DN.

But she emphasized that she agrees that universities must increase their ethnic diversity.

“There are other legal ways of doing this,” she said.

The court ruled that the two students were discriminated against by the admissions procedure and that the objective of promoting ethnic diversity within the faculty did not justify it.

But while Göran Lambertz said he would take the case to the appeal court, he said he was not particularly suprised by the decision.

“I knew it was a matter of interpretation at a point where the law is not very clear,” he said. “I think that the university has acted in accordance with the law,” said Lambertz.

According to Upsala Nya Tidning, the law faculty at the university will reconsider the future of the quota-based admission process.

“We haven’t made an official decision yet,” said Hans Eklund, the head of the faculty, who pointed out the benefits of quotas in attracting a broader cross-section of the population.

“Other efforts are also important. We are working with high schools, but the results are faster with the existing system. It is important to have student diversity.”

The discrimination ombudsman (DO) agreed with the court’s decision but their representative, Bilge Tekin, said that special treatment for those who are under-represented in society was nevertheless required.

“We see the need of introducing measures, for a certain period of time, that will help minorities get the same opportunities,” said Tekin.

Sources: Upsala Nya Tidning, Aftonbladet, Göteborgs-Posten