Foreign students to pay university fees

University fees for foreign students studying in Sweden will be introduced in the autumn of 2011, the Swedish government announced on Friday morning.

Foreign students to pay university fees

The government will present its proposition to parliament later on Friday, university and higher education minister Tobias Krantz told reporters.

“We want to compete in the international education market on the quality of Sweden’s education system, rather than simply because Sweden’s education is free of charge,” Krantz said.

“Sweden is one of the easiest countries in the world to apply for a university place, with a large number of foreign students and high number of online courses – but many of these don’t complete their studies.”

Krantz conceded that numbers may fall initially.

“In the short term it is reasonable to expect that numbers will fall, but Sweden is a knowledge nation, we have strong English skills and many courses are held in English; I am convinced that in the longer term we will continue to attract large numbers of foreign students to Sweden,” Krantz said.

The minister confirmed that the government was not at this stage able to specify the level of the new fees but noted as a basic principle that the fees should cover the costs of education provision.

“We will come back with information over how high the charge will be, I can not state how high it is today. It will vary depending on education and place of learning,” Krantz said.

Speaking to The Local last May, Anders Steinwall at the education ministry said each university would be able to decide its own fees, but added that the estimated average would amount to 70,000 to 80,000 kronor ($9,500 to $11,000) per year.

The government also announced that two scholarship systems will be introduced.

The first scholarship system, worth 30 million kronor ($4 million) per annum, will be directed at students in the 12 countries with which Sweden holds long-term aid agreements.

The second, amount to 60 million kronor per annum from 2012, will be available for exceptional students.

The fees will be introduced for students from countries outside of the EU/EEA area.

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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)