The elite university, one of Sweden’s oldest, had reserved thirty out of 300 places on its law course for students with both parents born outside Sweden.
Both the district court and the appeal court have convicted the university of racial discrimination. The Chancellor of Justice, representing the university, appealed to the Supreme Court.
The case is the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to make a ruling on ethnic quotas. The court’s decision will set a precedent not only for universities but for the employment market and society as a whole, says Centrum för Rättvisa. a non-profit public interest law organization, which is handling the girls’ case.
“The case is about everyone being treated equally. Uppsala University has acknowledged that this is about ethnic discrimination. Now it will be decided whether it is permitted to reserve places for particular groups to increase diversity,” said Gunnar Strömmer of Centrum för Rättvisa in a statement.
Swedish law allows positive discrimination in universities when there is “strong justification.” The preamble to the law states that discrimination can be allowed in cases where, for example, a man and a woman have equal merits; the woman can be given the place if the course is male-dominated.
The court of appeal ruled that setting a quota for a whole group, such as in the Uppsala case, cannot be allowed. The court also ruled that ethnic background is not a valid criteria when selecting students.