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Student expresses regret over massacre threat

A 33-year-old man arrested in connection with a massacre threat at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm on Monday has expressed "deep regret" over his actions.

Student expresses regret over massacre threat

A school was closed in southern Sweden on Tuesday as a wave of copycat threats swept the country.

“He had really not expected this much attention. He has no explanation other than an expression of deep regret,” the man’s defence counsel Ralph Ekman told news website SvD.se.

The student’s reasons for issuing the threats on an internet forum on Sunday night remained a mystery on Tuesday.

In recent years, the man has studied at Linköping University and is currently enrolled at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, but he has never attended KTH.

“I have no answer as to why the threat was directed against KTH,” Ekman said, adding that his client had assured him that the threat was not serious.

Swedish police sought the help of the FBI to trace the 33-year-old from the threatening post he published on the popular US-based internet forum 4chan.org. In his post he had explained that his girlfriend had recently broken up with him and that he wanted to die.

“On Monday I plan to take my gun … to the school and shoot as many people as I can before the police come and shoot me,” he wrote.

The poster also reportedly referred to recent school massacres in Finland.

“You’ll see. I will beat that Finnish bastard’s record, since Swedish police do not exactly seem to be the fastest at getting to the scene.”

Sweden was hit by a wave of copycat threats on Monday and Tuesday in what experts described as a typical pattern for this type of offence.

A school in Västervik was closed as a precautionary measure after threats of a shooting were forwarded by mail on Monday. The decision was taken to keep the school closed on Tuesday as police had been unable to determine the threat’s source.

In northern Sweden a 14-year-old boy took dynamite and a detonator to a school in Ramsele, and a 16-year-old in Piteå admitted to threatening to take a gun to school on Tuesday. Both were released after preliminary police interviews.

Later on Monday evening, a boy threatened to use a rifle to kill pupils and staff at a school in Borås in western Sweden. The school remained open under police surveillance on Tuesday.

“This type of crime has a contagion effect which is evidently greater than with other offences,” said psychiatrist Ulf Åsgård to the Aftonbladet newspaper.

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KTH

‘Ageing Sweden needs foreign students to stay’

When foreign students in Sweden finish their studies, they face a race against the clock - ten days - to find work and get employment visas. Almost four in five want to stay and work but just 17 percent succeed, reports AFP.

'Ageing Sweden needs foreign students to stay'
Students in northern Sweden. File photo: TT

During Chinese engineering student Zhao Shuqi's years at Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), she has experienced an abrupt change in policy that has introduced fees for students from nations outside the EU. Zhao began her studies at KTH before fees were introduced in 2011, but since then she has paid a total of 290,000 kronor ($44,000), with the help of her parents and part-time jobs.

That's about ten years of income for the average urban resident in China, and what's more, once she has got her diploma, she is likely to be asked to leave the country, unless she does something about it.

"I must find a job before I graduate, or else I cannot stay," she said.

Since introducing fees Swedish universities have struggled to attract foreign students, and critics now warn its visa system pushes highly qualified graduates out of the country. Until 2011, Sweden was one of the few countries in the world to offer free university places to all foreign students, attracting nearly 8,000 in the final year of the scheme. But when fees were introduced for non-EU nationals enrolments dropped by 80 percent to 1,600 with the greatest fall-off among African and Asian students.

Sweden still offers stipends for particularly qualified post-graduate students from non-EU countries. But not enough to fill the empty seats left in lecture halls, like at KTH, which is one of Scandinavia's most prestigious centres of higher learning and receives 5,000 applications per year for foreign bursaries but can only offer 60 funded places.

KTH's president, Peter Gudmundson, said that foreign graduates have contributed to Sweden's industrial development and are seen as ambassadors for the country.

"It's quite common that they take jobs in Swedish companies outside Sweden," he told AFP.

But taking up jobs in Sweden is somewhat harder, unless students are recruited before graduation. In a recent op-ed article in the daily Dagens Nyheter, KTH president Gudmundson argued for a review of the fees decision and better visa arrangements.

His counterpart at Gothenburg University, Pam Fredman, co-authored the article and said that Sweden makes it too hard for students who have lived in the country for several years to get visas, and that Sweden needs better links between education and industry.

Carl Bennet, the head of a large investment fund, is one of several business leaders who has spoken out about the problem.

"We must create a basis for them to stay and work in Sweden," he said.

When foreign students finish their studies they face a race against the clock to find work and get employment visas before their student visas expire — just 10 days after graduation. Despite 76 percent of students saying they want to stay in the country and work after graduation, a mere 17 percent succeed, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group.

Apart from the cost of funding foreign students' studies, the decision to impose fees was necessary, said Tobias Krantz, the minister for higher education at the time and now head of education at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. The reason: large numbers of non-paying students distorted the education market.

"Swedish higher education must compete in the global market," he said, adding that overseas students should look to Sweden because they want to benefit from "a high level of education, not because the university entrance is free of charge".

Krantz believes Sweden can become a top destination for foreign students once again "if Swedish universities take on that challenge and they are given the right incentives to do so". With an ageing population and growing skills shortages, particularly in healthcare and IT, the government will come under increasing pressure from industry to tackle the graduate visa issue, however.

"In the future Sweden needs more, especially high-skilled, people to come to work here in order to preserve and maintain Swedish welfare," said Krantz. 

Ariane Picard/AFP/at

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