Young Swedes choose summer school

The summer vacation usually means a chance to earn some much needed cash for young people in Sweden, but for those that can’t get hired, going back to school may prove the most viable option.

Especially since it makes you eligible for continued student allowances.

“In many cases this is due to a lack of summer jobs. Taking a summer course becomes a way to have fun while doing something useful at the same time, “ Peter Citron of Växsjö university told TT.

The Swedish agency for higher education services (VHS) has noted a significant increase of applicants to the summer courses at universities countrywide.

Last week saw the deadline for applicants for the coming summer term, and according to news agency TT there is an increase of 17 percent since last year.

Courses on offer range from the more traditional to the obscure.

Students can choose to study the American TV channel HBO, behind TV-series such as Sopranos, in a course called “HBO and the contemporary TV-drama”.

Other courses on offer across Sweden are “Chemistry in the Kitchen”, “The Meaning of Life” or “The behavioural needs of zoo-animals”.

However, according to news agency TT, the number one on the list this year is “Harry Potter and his worlds” which received 900 applications.

Peter Citron of Växsjö sees this as a positive development as it could be a way to guide those into the academic world who otherwise never may enter it.

“As far as I know there are strict rules on quality and content, there is no need to question them,” Peter Citron told TT.

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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)