‘Don’t bin non-European college applications’

Sweden's higher education agency has slammed a recommendation by the Association of Swedish Higher Education that schools reject applications from non-European students without review.

Colleges and universities in Sweden which toss applications in the bin without judging their merits are breaking the law, the National Agency for Higher Education claims.

“We view this matter very seriously and have reacted as quickly as we could,” said the National Agency’s lead attorney Eva Westberg to the Upsala Nya Tidning newspaper.

The Association of Swedish Higher Education recently recommended that institutions of higher learning reject applicants from outside the EU and EEA without review.

The EEA, or European Economic Area, includes all 27 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

The association, which promotes cooperation among Swedish colleges and universities, made the recommendation to its 42 member institutions in response to concerns over building pressure on the university admissions system following a steep increase in the number of foreign applications.

The association, which has been roundly criticized by the Swedish association of student unions (Sveriges Förenade studentkårer) for its actions, believes that the entire admissions system may break down without the measure.

The National Agency for Higher Education has launched a supervisory commission and universities must immediately report which laws they are using to support their decision to reject foreign applicants before the autumn term.

The discrimination and justice ombudsmen have been informed of the situation because the National Agency for Higher Education believes the recommendation may violate Sweden’s laws protecting the equal treatment of students.

Tossing out applications without review may amount to committing professional misconduct, writes the newspaper.


Swedish PM pledges to ban profit making at free schools

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has pledged to stop companies withdrawing profits from schools, in what is likely to be one of the Social Democrats' main campaigning issues in the coming election campaign.

Swedish PM pledges to ban profit making at free schools

The proposal, one of three measures announced to “take back democratic control over the school system”, was launched on the first day of the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland.

On Sunday evening, Andersson is set to give the first big speech of the festival, with Ulf Kristersson, leader of the centre-right Moderate party, and Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar scheduled to make their speeches on Monday, and Sweden’s other party leaders taking slots on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  

“Schools in Sweden should focus on knowledge, not on the pursuit of profit,” Andersson said, as she made the pledge, stressing that her party aimed not only to ban withdrawing profits, but also “to make sure that all the possible loopholes are closed”. 

Free schools, she complained, siphon off billions of kronor in tax money every year at the same time as free schools increase divisions in society. 

Banning profits from schools is an obvious campaigning issue for the Social Democrats. The latest poll by Gothenburg University’s SOM Institute found that fully 67 percent of voters support such a ban.

The only issue is that the Centre Party, whose support the Social Democrats will need to form a government, is likely to block a future Social Democrat government from implementing it, something Andersson was willing to acknowledge.

“What I know is that there’s a very strong support for this among the Swedish people, but not in the Swedish parliament,” she said. 

The Social Democrats have campaigned on the issue in past elections, pledging to stoppa vinstjakten, or “stop the pursuit of profit in schools”, or, in the run-up to the 2018 election, only to see the policy blocked in the January Agreement the party did to win the support of the Centre Party and the Liberal party.  

On Sunday, Andersson would not give any details on whether companies listed on Swedish or international stockmarkets would be prevented from operating schools, saying she was leaving such details to an inquiry into reforming Sweden’s free school system the government launched on June 30th.  

In the press conference, Andersson criticised the inflated grades given out by free schools, which are dismissed by critics as glädjebetyg, literally “happy grades”.

“We end up having pupils who graduate with good marks who then realise that their school has let them down,” she said. 

At the press conference, Andersson also reiterated the Social Democrats call to ban the establishment of new religious free schools, and announced plans for a national schools choice system, stripping free schools of the ability to run their own queue systems.