‘Foreign student places under threat’: agency

New admissions regulations for Swedish universities set to be introduced in the autumn are likely to mean fewer places available for foreign students and could be in breach of EU law, according to the National Agency for Higher Education.

'Foreign student places under threat': agency

“There is a high probability that fewer places will be on offer to foreign students,” Alexandra Sjöstrand, an investigator at the agency, told The Local on Friday.

In practice the changes mean that there will be four new sub-groups within the group of applicants admitted on their high-school grades: Swedish grades, Swedish grades supplemented with further study, foreign grades, and (Swedish) Folk High School grades.

Previously, all the various non-Swedish standard grade systems were translated into an equivalent Swedish grade for consideration. Students, both Swedish and non-Swedish, will still be able to apply through the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (Högskoleprovet) or through the alternative application category, which has been increased to 30 percent of places under the new regulations.

Sjöstrand confirmed that the agency has told the government that the new regulations could be discriminatory against other EU citizens and thus in breach of EU law.

“We looked through the existing legislation and there could be a problem. But this is something that would have to be tried in court. We have made it perfectly clear that it should be looked at,” she said.

The new rules come into force in the autumn as part of the government’s aim to encourage Swedish high-school children to favour certain subjects. Maths and modern languages, for example, will now be awarded separate bonus points.

“It is possible that the government could argue to the EU that the bonus points lack a comparable system internationally. The bonus system is adapted to the Swedish system,” Sjöstrand said.

According to Sjöstrand, the government has agreed to allow those holding Swedish (and Finno-Swedish) International/European Baccalaureate (IB/EB) grades to qualify through the Swedish grades category.

The agency said that those with IB/EB grades issued by other countries would qualify for consideration within the Swedish grade category.

The changes therefore mean that anyone with high-school qualifications from an alternative grades system – such as the UK A-Level system and the US high school diploma or GED systems, will be limited to the foreign grades category.

“This does not necessarily mean fewer places, as they are allocated according to the number of qualified students applying, but in subjects less popular with foreign students there is a high probability that assigned places will decline,” Alexandra Sjöstrand told The Local.

The Local has made attempts to contact the Minister for Higher Education and Research, Tobias Krantz, but was told that he was unavailable for comment.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.