The university was taken to court by two women who were rejected from the programme in 2003, even though they had better marks than all 30 immigrant applicants. The pair had previously won their case in the district court and court of appeal.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the university discriminated against both women, awarding them 75,000 kronor in compensation. The state will also pay costs of 41,000 kronor.
The Supreme Court ruled that setting quotas is acceptable as long as applicants are treated equally. In this case, the immigrant applicants should have needed at least the same marks as the other applicants. The court ruled that in this case the non-Swedish applicants were “strongly” favoured in a manner which cannot be supported by law.
Chancellor of Justice Göran Lambertz, who defended the case on behalft of the state, said the verdict leaves no room for doubt over what is legal.
"The Supreme Court has been very clear about it and we can only accept it. I don't want to speculate whether the outcome could affect areas outside the education sector. I need first to analyse the ruling.”
Gunnar Strömmer, legal expert at Centrum för Rättvisa, a non-profit public interest law organization, states that the ruling “leaves no doubt – these kinds of ethnic quotas are not allowed”.
“My interpretation is that all kinds of quotas are illegal – even gender quotas where one does not look at an individual's merits but rather allocates places to a certain group. This was also said by the district court and the appeal court,” said Strömmer.