universitet) and "college" (högskola) from abuse following recent revelations that two fake universities have set up shop in Sweden. "/> universitet) and "college" (högskola) from abuse following recent revelations that two fake universities have set up shop in Sweden. " />


‘Clamp down on fake universities’: Agency

The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) has appealed to the government to protect the terms "university" (universitet) and "college" (högskola) from abuse following recent revelations that two fake universities have set up shop in Sweden.

In a written submission to the Department of Education, the agency bemoans the fact that any company, foundation, organization or individual can freely apply the terms universitet, högskola, university and college to a new educational entity without seeking official permission.

“The problem with the system we have today is that anyone can call just about anything a university,” Erik Johansson of the higher education agency told The Local.

The agency has suggested replicating the situation in Norway, where legitimate colleges and universities have their titles protected by law.

“The two fake Universities which exist in Sweden today, Alhuraa University and the Scandinavian University of Science and Technology are on the verge of breakdown because of all the bad publicity they’ve received in the press,” said Johansson.

“But I don’t think it should come down to the media, I think we need a strong law.”

Both universities offer academic degrees up to doctoral level but neither are registered academic establishments in Sweden.

Unless Sweden takes a hard line it risk becoming any easy target for fake universities, the agency argues.

“We’ll be like a tax haven, except in the field of education. There are signs that we could have the same development as in the United States, where states like California and Hawaii have become a target for fake universities.”

Johansson is particularly scathing in his criticism of Alhuraa, a “university” based in the Stockholm region claiming to be a branch of an organization of the same name in the Netherlands.

“Alhuraa University is targeting the Iraqi diaspora which means that they’re making money off people who have been through a lot already, which in my opinion is very cynical.”

The second fake school, the Scandinavian University of Science and Technology (SUST), “targets an English-speaking group”. It is only accessible via the internet, and has a post office box registered to an address in Angered, a suburb of Gothenburg.

But were Sweden to follow Norway’s example and tighten its laws in this area, fake universities would not be the only organizations to feel the heat.

“If we were to completely copy their legislation it would mean Swedish colleges [högskolor] would no longer be allowed to call themselves universities in their English marketing,” said Johansson.

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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)