Foreign students turn their backs on Sweden

The number of overseas students enrolled on international Masters degree programmes in Sweden has declined by 58 percent, since the government introduced fees for non-EU students last year, a new report shows.

Foreign students turn their backs on Sweden

For other international courses the number of enrollments has fallen by 64 percent, according to the statistics published by the Agency for Higher Education Services (Verket för högskoleservice – VHS) on Thursday.

A total of 8,075 people have been offered places on international Masters degree programmes at Swedish universities ahead of the autumn term 2011, while a further 1,944 have been accepted to other international courses.

“It is difficult to see what this means as we don’t yet know how many will pay in their fees and sign up to the courses,” Andreas Sandberg at VHS told The Local on Friday.

“What we can say is that the number of applications has declined – by 73 and 86 percent respectively – and the number of those offered places has declined,” he said.

Sandberg explained that one of the purposes of introducing the fees was to cut the number of frivolous applications.

“That the proportion of those accepted to places indicates that the purpose has been achieved,” he said, adding that it was too early to draw any conclusions on whether this meant a higher standard of student was applying.

“We have to wait on the statistics of those who have actually paid their fees and signed up,” he said.

The effect of the introduction of the fees on applications from non-EU and EES students was expected, VHS said, citing the experience from Denmark and the Netherlands after having taken a similar step.

Fees at Swedish universities will from the autumn 2011 range from a minimum of 100,000 kronor ($16,000) per annum to around 230,000 at top seats of learning such as Lund University.

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Swedish unis in foreign student scholarship plea

With foreign student enrollment down after the introduction of tuition fees, Swedish universities are urging the government to provide more scholarships to help attract non-European students to Sweden.

Swedish unis in foreign student scholarship plea

Enrollment of non-European students in Swedish universities declined drastically following the introduction of tuition fees last year, with engineering students from Asia being among those most affected by the change.

Despite a slight upswing in the number of non-EU students last year there are still far fewer today than in 2010, before the introduction of tuition fees.

Among masters students – the biggest group of non-EU students in Sweden – the drop has been dramatic. Around 4,300 are expected to enroll in Swedish universities this fall, compared to 17,000 two years ago, reports Sveriges Radio (SR).

At the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, the number of new non-EU students enrolled at the school dropped from 1,000 to 300, a trend that concerns Professor Eva Malmström Jonsson

“If it becomes to European, [students] won’t get the preparation they need to be active in the global labour market,” she told SR.

The reduction in students from countries outside of Europe has prompted some universities to appeal to the government to provide more funding for scholarships that can help people cover costly tuition fees.

“If we are to compete over the best students we need to have a good scholarship programme. Other countries do,” Maissa Al-Adhami of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm told Sveriges Radio (SR).

In May this year, an analysis of Swedish university admissions statistics by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) found that the total number of new foreign student enrollments dropped by a third between 2010 and 2011.

Much of the decline, however, consisted of “freemovers” – students who choose to come to Sweden on their own accord, rather than as part of an organized exchange programme – from non-European countries.

“Nearly the entire drop can be attributed to fewer freemovers choosing to study in Sweden,” the agency’s Torbjörn Lindqvist told The Local at the time.

With tuition fees averaging 120,000 kronor ($18,000) there is also a concern that Swedish universities will attract the wealthiest, rather than the most talented, overseas students.

Richard Stenelo, head of external relations at Lund University, has noticed a drop in applicants from countries in Africa and Latin America since the introduction of tuition fees.

“It’s because we do not have enough scholarship funds and they cannot afford to study in Sweden,” Stenelo told SR.

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