Sweden mulls application fees for foreign students

Students from outside the European Union (EU) may soon be required to pay 1000 kronor ($143) just to apply for admission to Swedish colleges and universities.

According to a proposal from the Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services (Verket för högskoleservice – VHS), the fee would be in place in time for students applying for admission for the 2011 academic year, reports the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

In addition to applicants from within the EU, exchange students would also be exempt from any eventual fee.

The proposed fee comes following years of increasing numbers of applications from foreign students wishing to study in Sweden.

This autumn, Swedish universities received 114,900 applications from non-European students. Of the total, around 18,000 eligible students were offered admission.

The rising tide of applications has resulted in increased administrative costs for many universities and agencies, and VHS believes that introducing the application fee will lead to more serious and thoughtful applications and deter less motivated applicants.

VHS plans to hand over its proposal to the government on Monday for consideration.

In tasking the agency to explore the matter, the government had said it hoped to implement application fees in time for the 2010 academic year. But VHS said that trying to move so quickly would risk a total breakdown in the application system for both Swedish and foreign students.

“That could result in chaos because a large number of the applications would have to be dealt with manually. But even if it starts in 2011, we need to know by October at the latest in order to get the application and payment systems in place,” VHS director Anita Johansson told DN.

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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)