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Sweden bans university affirmative action

TT/The Local · 18 Mar 2010, 14:14

Published: 18 Mar 2010 14:14 GMT+01:00

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In a communication to parliament, the government stated that university admissions regulations will be changed to reflect only academic merits.

The Minister for Higher Education and Research, Tobias Krantz, underlined the importance of the principle that all individuals be treated equally regardless of their gender.

To exclude motivated and higher qualified women in the university admissions process is naive, Krantz said.

The background to the decision lies in cases such as one involving a group of students at Lund University who were awarded compensation in February for having been denied places to study psychology due to their gender.

The university settled out of court with the 24 women, who were each awarded 35,000 kronor ($5,000) in damages.

Story continues below…

In a similar case, the Svea Court of Appeal ruled in December that it was illegal for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala to prioritize men for its veterinary education programme.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:03 March 18, 2010 by Audrian
If there gender bias in education in Sweden? We can not know before we analyse education statistics, i.e, categorise number of educated persons by sex, age and type of education. If there is no sign of imbalance in each category, then we can be assured that government policy is indeed a fair policy.
15:46 March 18, 2010 by calebian22
Sounds like a great change. I wonder how long it will be before, acceptance based soley on merit starts to favor one gender over another, however.
16:18 March 18, 2010 by Greg in Canada
Affirmative action is just a form of reverse discrimination. Good for the Swedes for finally realizing it.
16:19 March 18, 2010 by nikow
Audrian, it's complicated. There are statiscics - lots in Sweden - but they cannot take account of what people want or are naturally good at. If women don't want to study maths, we shouldn't worry if they are under-represented. But how can we tell what they want from what they grow up learning they should want? Statistics can't answer that.

For me the big problem is what proportion of women get into senior posts. I think Sweden is probably pretty good (haven't looked at the data in detail) but it's probably 50%+ women as first year students and 20%- women at professor level.
16:25 March 18, 2010 by glamelixir
@calebian22 Totally agree.

First thought I have, and I can be totally wrong about this, but wouldn't a solution be to accept an equal amount of male and female students? Or even proportional to existing population?

In my class in University we were 44, from those only 2 were male. My degree was licenciat in Public Relations.

Marketing also had a higher percent of female students.
16:31 March 18, 2010 by xavidx
if 50 females apply for a course and 5 males apploy for the same course. Who cares? Whoever has the best grades or whatever the credentials are gets in.
17:04 March 18, 2010 by Puffin

First thought I have, and I can be totally wrong about this, but wouldn't a solution be to accept an equal amount of male and female students? Or even proportional to existing population?

This is what has now been made illegal - Universities were attempting to rectify gender imbalances but in the case mentioned it meant that some applicants were discarded just for being women..........

One woman had applied to vet school and had incurred substantial student loans to study sciences etc and then found that her application was never even considered because she was a woman
19:07 March 18, 2010 by Greg in Canada
'One woman had applied to vet school ...........her application was never even considered because she was a woman '

Are you sure it wasn't because of low marks? Or was the vet school in Saudi Arabia? We have all kinds of female vet students in Canada without affirmative action quotas, maybe even over 50%, so I find what you're saying very difficult to believe, assuming you're referring to a Swedish vetrinarian school?
20:29 March 18, 2010 by Audrian
Re Nikow

The present social setting discourages girls from studying science. Recently I met a girl who was top in her class in mathematics in secondary school. She told me that she was planning to study economics in the university for the reason that science is not for girls. "it is too difficult", she said. To study economics she needs maths, but the maths requirement is much below the capability of this girl.

If girls are disproportionately under represented in the science field, the policy should assist girls to study science. This should start from primary school. This policy should not prevent individual choices. If you do not do that some of the best brains will be wasted for nothing.
21:03 March 18, 2010 by mikmak
@Greg, the affirmative action in the vet case was to favor men since there is a larger proportion of women studying to become vets in Sweden.
22:30 March 18, 2010 by eagleh
I think if there is any imbalance in the admission it is against men. In many vacancy announcements they clearly mention that we prefer to get weman in order to have balance gender in the department, but no announce have ever mentioned that they prefer to get men. There is no obstacle for weman to apply for any vacancy.
23:21 March 18, 2010 by Greg in Canada

Duh. I should have read that more closely.
00:26 March 19, 2010 by dsc
The pendulum swings . . .
09:08 March 19, 2010 by americanska
Funny how the change was only made after a bunch of women were affected negatively by it.

How many times were men denied places in Engineering and Business because of THEIR gender.
10:15 March 19, 2010 by CarlBlack
@ Audrian: I don't see your point with the story about the girl. It was her opinion that maths are too difficult. If she is not brave enough, that's her problem. She had equal opportunity to be accepted as any boy. If she was as good as you say, she would be accepted. The reason why she did not apply is probably rather simple: she knew that as economist she would make more money, but she wanted some better looking excuse. Do we need to encourage such people extra?

Fortunately your twisted kind of thinking is exactly what is now left by the government.
10:27 March 19, 2010 by eddie123
very soon, it would not be merit based on grades but who can afford to pay for an education that will get admitted. this is very much the case in the UK and USA. examination (grades) is not the true test of one's knowledge. merit can take up 75 percent and 25 percent should go to other considerations - affirmative action, geographic spread etc.
10:30 March 19, 2010 by Curious Expat
Affirmative action was abolished for university admission now. Ok. I agree.

For my better understanding of the background of this, I'd like to know when affirmative action was introduced for universities (by the Swedish government presumably). What were the arguments then? What has changed in the meantime so that now it is withdrawn?

Might anyone have a good link for example to an archived newspaper article about the 'history'?

I have a suspicion that I might find that affirmative action was introduced to avoid discrimination against women. However, it was phrased in law in a gender-neutral way. Now it seems that men profit from it for university subjects traditionally dominated by women. This is not accepted and the rule abolished.

Or was it different? Just curious if my suspicion is right.
13:13 March 19, 2010 by americanska
Equal opportunity = goverment staying out of it.

Affermative action is a terrible thing.

@eddie123 - are you really saying that 25% of a person's ability should be based on geographical area or gender.
09:42 March 20, 2010 by tillerman
Equal opportunity = everyone getting a equal chance when their applications are considered and that equitable and clear standards for selection be in place and followed. Gender, race, ethnicity, etc. should not harm or help in the process.

Affirmative action = Giving someone preference over other just because of gender, race, ethnicity even when the standards are not met.
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