Swedish university guilty of discrimination

Uppsala University broke Sweden's discrimination laws when it set aside 30 places on its law course for applicants whose parents were born abroad.

That was the verdict delivered on Wednesday by the Svea Court of Appeal, which upheld the district court judgement from January.

Before the autumn term in 2003, Uppsala University conducted a trial in which a group of applicants to the law programme were considered on “alternative selection criteria”. The aim was to increase ethnic diversity.

The trial meant that 30 out of 300 places were reserved for applicants with foreign-born parents.

Two women with Swedish parents had better grades than all of the 30 who were accepted, but they were not offered a place on the course. They sued the university for illegal discrimination and in January were each awarded 75,000 kronor compensation by Uppsala district court.

A central question in the case was how the law on the equal treatment of students in high school should be interpreted when “a justifiable reason for special treatment can be considered to exist”.

The district court’s view was that an under-represented group could be given precedence when applicants have equal merits – which was clearly not the case in this instance.

The appeal court agreed and said that there were no grounds for using ethic origin as a selection criteria for a limited group of applicants to a course.

TT/The Local