Postgrad foreigners dominate in Sweden

Master's programmes offered at universities in Sweden are often dominated by foreign students. And many have no Swedish participants at all, a new report from the National Agency for Higher Education shows.

Postgrad foreigners dominate in Sweden

Sweden is a signatory to the so-called Bologna Process which aims to standardize higher education across the European Union. In the autumn of 2007 many Swedish universities launched two-year master’s programmes in line with the new directives.

The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education on Thursday published a report which shows that Swedish students are outnumbered on many of the courses and in some cases completely absent.

“This is natural. The two-year master’s programmes are new to Sweden and most are conducted in English. The pattern is the same across the EU,” said Lena Eriksson at the agency to The Local.

Asked whether this was considered a problem Eriksson replied.

“I don’t really see why it would be. Maybe in the cases where there are no Swedish students at all.”

“But this is an issue for the seats of learning to address. Our task is to monitor developments and report on them.”

The two-year master’s programmes are often offered side-by-side with the old Swedish “magister” (basically an additional year on top of a three-year bachelor’s degree).

Taken as a whole the figures indicate that the same total number of students are pursuing “magister” and “master’s” courses – around 10,000 per annum.

The agency reports however that many of Sweden’s universities are allocating an increasing amount of resources to the new master’s programmes.

At the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, master’s programmes accepted a total of 1,300 students for the 2007/2008 academic year while the institute’s “magister” programmes attracted only 163.

The agency’s figures show that foreign students dominate both the “magister” courses (54 percent) and master’s programmes (61 percent).

With so many of the master’s and “magister” programmes conducted in English, The Local asked Lena Eriksson if there was a danger that the national language would disappear from higher education in Sweden.

“No. I don’t think that there is a risk of that. We are talking about advanced courses here. Most of the tertiary education is still conducted in Swedish and dominated by Swedish students.”


Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year

It is looking increasingly unlikely that 'högskoleprovet' – an exam used by thousands of students every year as a way to enter Swedish university will go ahead – despite a government U-turn.

Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year
In a normal year, 100,000 students sit what is known as the SweSAT or 'högskoleprovet'. Photo: Malin Hoelstad/SvD/SCANPIX

The Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (SweSAT, or högskoleprovet) is normally held twice a year, but was cancelled in spring and then later in autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic. But after pressure from opposition parties, the government last week said it would pave the way for the test to take place on its usual date in October in a limited format, open only to people who had not previously sat it.

Usually around 100,000 people sit the exam each year, around 40 percent of them doing so for the first time. The exam is not compulsory, but many people use its results to get into university, and it is seen as a crucial second chance for those who are not able to get accepted based on grades alone.

But any hope lit by the government's announcement last week was quickly extinguished this week, when university principals said it would still not be possible to organise a coronavirus-safe sitting. In the end it is up to the exam organisers to decide whether or not to hold it, so the government holds limited sway.

“They [the university principals] do not want to take responsibility for conducting the exam during the autumn, but would rather spend time and resources on conducting two tests as safely as possible in spring,” Karin Röding, director-general of the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

“I have no reason to have another opinion,” she added.

“It appears to be the case that you are going to have to wait another few months before an exam can be carried out in an infection-safe way,” confirmed Sweden's Minister of Higher Education, Matilda Ernkrans.

Meanwhile the political pressure eased on the Social Democrat-Green coalition government to ensure the test could be held before the deadline for applying to the spring semester of university, when the Liberal party joined the centre-left in voting no to pushing for an autumn sitting. Last week there was a majority for a yes vote on the Swedish parliament's education committee, consisting of right-wing parties Moderates, Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and the Liberals, but after the latter switched sides the committee voted no.

The Mdoerates blamed the government for not acting sooner to help the exam go ahead, by for example allocating more money and investigating the possibility of using more venues.

“There is one person who is to blame. That's Matilda Ernkrans,” said the party's education spokesperson Kristina Axén Olin. “The government has handled it really poorly and now it is thought to be too late and impossible.”

Ernkrans argued that she and the government had done everything they could, including making sure that test results from previous years will be valid for eight years rather than the usual five, as well as allocating extra funding to make it possible to hold more than one exam next spring.

Swedish vocabulary

cancel – ställa in

test/exam – (ett) prov

second chance – (en) andra chans

government – (en) regering

semester – (en) termin (note the false friend – the Swedish word semester means holiday)