University students who stay put earn more: study

Swedish students who remain at the same institution for their entire educational career appear to earn higher salaries that those who switch universities several times, according to a new study.

University students who stay put earn more: study
Students hard at work in the Stockholm University library

“It seems that those who often switch between different institutions tend to have a longer transition period into the labour market. It might be that many of them are pickier and spend more time browsing the job market as well,” Håkan Regnér, an economist The Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations (Saco), a white collar labour group, told TT.

Around a third of Swedish students change universities over the course of their educational careers. A quarter attend two institutions and around 8 percent attend three or more institutions. These moves appear to hurt their job prospects immediately following graduation.

Students who initially enrolled at in Swedish universities between 1995-1997 and attended more than one institution had around 5 percent lower salaries in 2005 than students who attended a single institution.

In 2005, for example, a “stayer” would have earned an average of 252,300 kronor ($33,000) per annum while a “mover” would have earned 233,000 kronor ($30,000).

According to Saco, the differences may be due to the fact that students who switch universities have to retake certain courses since the educational tracks can vary between institutions.

Employers may also look down on switching institutions, according to Regnér.

The study found that earnings differences between those who change universities and those who remain at a single institution decrease significantly over time.

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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)