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Swedish unis suffer drop in foreign admissions

TT/Rebecca Martin · 5 May 2011, 16:57

Published: 05 May 2011 16:57 GMT+02:00

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“The number of international applicants dropped by 45 percent and the admissions by 50 percent compared to last year,” Cecilia Marklund of the Uppsala university admissions office told The Local.

And Uppsala isn't alone among Swedish universities suffering a drop in admissions by foreign admissions.

Fresh figures from the Swedish Agency for Higher Education (VHS) show that the number of international admissions to Swedish universities has dropped by two thirds compared to last year.

This year 6,903 students have been admitted to the international masters programmes compared to 19,588 last year.

According to the Uppsala University international co-ordinator Kay Svensson, the drop in applicants is in direct consequence of the new fees system and the university is now working on a long-term plan for actively attracting international students to Uppsala.

“We never had to do that before because students came to us and we simply chose from the applicants we had," Svensson said.

From the 2011 autumn term, fees at Swedish universities will range from a minimum of 100,000 kronor ($16,000) per annum to around 230,000 kronor, depending on the programme and school.

The drop in applications is a concern, but Svensson is confident that it will not affect the university in the long term.

“Uppsala is ranked within the top 100 universities in the world and we believe we have what it takes to draw students from all over the globe,“ Svensson told The Local.

In the wake of the new fees, officials at Uppsala's international office, have noticed in increase in students from outside of Europe seeking to study at the university via exchange programmes, rather then through direct enrollment, as exchange students aren't subject to Sweden's new fees.

“We have definitely seen an increase in interest from places like Asia and Turkey and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a connection,” Cecilia Arefalk, Uppsala's exchange programme coordinator, told The Local.

Story continues below…

According to Andreas Sandberg from VHS, the introduction of tuition fees may have caused fewer students to consider coming to Sweden to pursue higher education, but he pointed out that there has also been a significant drop in frivolous applications.

“Looking at the figures from 2010 and comparing these to 2011 it becomes clear that there are much fewer applications by people who lack the right qualifications following the introduction of fees,” he told The Local.

However, according to Sandberg it won't be until mid-June, after the deadline for the payment of the tuition fees has passed, that a clear picture of how many international students actually will arrive to study at Swedish institutions of higher learning.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:43 May 5, 2011 by Twiceshy
Living in Sweden isn't cheap, the career prospects are small, the weather is unattractive for most people, and now they add expensive fees for studying.

I am not surprised at all that the number of applicants dropped by 50%. Now let's see how many people show up and actually pay the fees. I wouldn't be surprised if it's less than 20% of the ones who got accepted. If true, this means the number of non-EU students will drop to one tenth of what it used to be.
18:12 May 5, 2011 by star10
unless with special circumstances, nobody would pay so much money to study in Sweden due to the obvious reasons Twiceshy mentioned. Getting jobs after graduation is much easier in English speaking countries and life is much cheaper (including the tuition fee). Of course, Swedes don't have the moral obligation to offer free education. But the problem for Sweden will be it will lose potentially briliant minds who could actually contribute to Sweden through their research and work. Sweden should consider offering attractive scholarships for exceptionally outstanding students and there should be many scholarships to make a difference.
18:32 May 5, 2011 by ChrisEdmSkiBum
Oh! Really? Who´d have thought? Sometimes I believe 5 year olds would be just as good politicians.... Free candy for everyone! Why don´t you start right now? It´ll probably be helpful for Sweden´s future, economy and reputation...
18:59 May 5, 2011 by just a question
Probably the next problem will be that a lot of Universities and Högskolor will start firing teachers. No students, no teachers. So in some years a lot of small universities will dissapear and there will be only left the elitist, important universities, where only the elite will study.

Game over.
19:19 May 5, 2011 by odinmp5
this means that the swedish embassies all over the world will have to treat better the law abiding ciitzens willing to pay tuition and unkeep, and at the same time fulfilling the absurd requirements they ask. sadly human nature dictates you have to value things according to what you pay for them.

my dear swedish friends, this is very good news , tuition will be a strong filter.
19:44 May 5, 2011 by darky
This is just the beginning. Expect the worse people .
20:33 May 5, 2011 by StockholmSam
Aside from Chalmers and possibly Handels, the only thing that made the typical Swedish university attractive to anyone outside of Sweden was the free admission. Academically, they are acceptable but their reputations do not make graduates competitive in the workplace when compared to so many schools in the rest of Europe, North America and Asia. Why pay to come to U of Stockholm or Linköping U when one could pay the same amount to attend a school local to where they might work, which is a huge advantage in the labor market? The free admission WAS the only reason.

One thing is certain, if international students stop coming, Swedish unis will have to start accepting local students who were not academically strong enough to gain admission in previous years in order to maintain student levels. This will result in a dumbing-down of the curriculum.
21:18 May 5, 2011 by here for the summer
This series of articles about the fact ( expected ) that less people will ask for anything if it goes from free to any cost are not as highly reported in the Swedish papers. I assume this and other differences between what the local thinks is important and what the Swedish language papers think is important has to do with the primarily ( expat or immigrant ) readership of this paper which is not in the native language. I read the Local to try and get a picture of what Swedes are reading and reporting but my Swedish speaking wife points out that the news is different in Swedish papers. Not sure the Local can or wants to change this but people reading these articles should be aware that this news is fit to the readership.
21:24 May 5, 2011 by Iraniboy
Well, this is a high number! I was expecting nothing!

I don't argue if it was bad or good but it has its own problems and advantages. The advantage is the lower expenditure of government and the disadvantage is that less teachers and administrative are needed consequently some staff are fired, less buying from stores,...
22:30 May 5, 2011 by Localer
I like it actually....see how many of these students actually finishes the studies ? most of them just use this free education as an excuse to come to Europe! .....
00:40 May 6, 2011 by planet.sweden
It's simply incredible to think that Sweden was offering free university tuition to anyone in the world who could catch a flight here. No wonder they were inundated, and from such sky high levels its not difficult to precipitate a 45 pct drop. Not before time I say, I pay taxes here, and don't see why I should be paying for every man jack and harry to get educated here. Common sense has finally prevailed.
03:09 May 6, 2011 by here for the summer
@stockholmsam . students from the EU have free admission to Swedish universities still where Swedish students also enjoy free admission to their respective universities. This only applies to students from other non EU countries. As the article noted many of these non eu students had support from their governments available which they are now using.


This doesn't affect PHD programs where most of the students are paid as teaching assistants. Sweden is still attractive to these students and the situation for them has not changed.
06:48 May 6, 2011 by Tdye
This year 6,903 students have been admitted to the international masters programs compared to 19,588 last year.

am I the only one that noticed that The number of international applicants dropped by way more than 50% its closer to 63%

and it isn't programmes but programs

$16,000 per annum <--- is tis per year? what is annum?

if its that per year thats really high

in the U.S more than half of the public colleges charge $9,000 per year for tuition and fees. thats going to cost a lot of extra tax revenue for Sweden.

not to mention all of the tourist type shopping i am sure most of them buy as well..seems like a bad idea on Sweden's part, I get charging students but almost double of what they can pay ( at least in the states) is way crazy
08:05 May 6, 2011 by comentatir
@12 planet.sweden

Agreed! But there are some points that needs to be criticised, dont you think?

First of all the fees are sky high! There is no scholarship system funded to support necessary amount of talented students.

But the bottom line is there is no free lunch! And besides the vast majority of the foreign students lacked the quality to contribute any academic research or Swedish industry. So good think that they wont show up next year.
08:20 May 6, 2011 by StockholmSam
@Here for the Summer, the article is not about EU students. The article is about international students who now have to pay for Swedish education. Those are the people to whom I was referring. Few of the students who come to Sweden to get a free education stay in Sweden. Going back to the US or Canada or Asia with a degree from Linköping U (while that is a good school) is not to their advantage, so if they have to pay for it now, then of course they won't come.
10:40 May 6, 2011 by rosakamichi
Top international student would not choose swedish university if they need to pay the fee. To top students, within rank 100 in the world is nothing.

Until one day Swedish universities get into top 30 then maybe students will come again....

Now they are attracting less competitive international students who have money to pay for the tuition fee... that's why the admission is drop because the schools don't have much choice anymore.
10:42 May 6, 2011 by gorgepir
The foreign master students coming to Sweden (with about 10% really good students) was the only thing keeping higher education programs alive. Meaning entire programs will have to be canceled since it is not economically viable to have a class for 6 people, and there will be no one (either a Swedish national or foreign) for companies to hire. This will also negatively affect PhD recruitment and research in universities, to some extent, as well.

The real mistake (to me) with this decision, is that companies will start outsourcing/going out of business due to loss of workforce, which will make even less tax and continue on this downward spiral. Had the fees been much lower (like other mainland European countries) there might have been a shot.

Those that are for this new change are probably no where near a university to see how much it has negatively affected them. You will find that out soon when companies start moving out of Sweden due to no workforce.
14:01 May 6, 2011 by jackx123
@ stockholm sam

I have never heard so much BS in my life. Being a graduate myself from Linkoping in Applied physics and MBA from LBS, old McK paid equal importance to both degrees and yes i did spend 4 years working there. Moreover they spend considerable time assessing your analytical skills which can pretty much be obtained from any recognized university of which there are 5/6 in sweden.

I also got a job offer from Shell straight after physics, so unless you have an educated story to come up with spare the powder dude.
14:15 May 6, 2011 by jan.petras
Hahaha. No workforce in Sweden?!


It's already difficult to get a job in Sweden, less work-force would be awesome. I could get a job more easily. Stop talking crap. Sweden won't have insufficient workforce. Have you looked at the unemployment rate?
15:00 May 6, 2011 by gorgepir

You are talking about a different workforce. I am talking about high tech industries, work that actually needs university education to be able to get. Without a master program who will make it there? Not talking about jobs that don't require university education.

I think that is a pretty straightforward argument. Hard to see why you missed it. I guess you are probably just frustrated with not finding a job. Try getting a master degree, I don't know anybody who has one and doesn't have a well paying job.
15:15 May 6, 2011 by IranianBoy

why don't you give a proposal to EU parliament to make a fence around Europe?!


The budget for outside EU students until last year was 500 million kronor each year. if 5 million swedes pay taxes, it would be 100 kronor for each of them each year. this year the budget has dropped to 30 million kronor for scholarships for outside EU students. so you personally have saved 93 kronor this year. good for you man :)

To every one else: the facts in this news has been written for you in a way that you think the numbers have dropped by 50%. But these numbers are about Uppsala University. not all swedish universities in general. the real numbers are here:


"he number of applications from outside the EU, Nordic countries and Switzerland fell from 132,000 last year to 31,400 this year, of which only 5,662 of them have paid the registration fee of 900 kronor, according to the Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services"

It means that the number of applicants have dropped by 77% and the number of admitted has dropped by 65%.

Now there is a very dirty fact in these numbers. the fact is that the number of applicants who paid the application fee ( 5662 according to the old news after the international deadline) and the number of students who got an admission (6903 according to today's news) are equal!!! this means that the universities had to accept ALL of the applicants who had payed the application fee! because they don't have enough students.

Now for those who think that this new law will bring excellency to their country's universities: last year only 15% of applicants were admitted (20000 out of 131000). this year almost 100% of the applicants who were qualified and paid the application fee! Congratulations!!
16:12 May 6, 2011 by ccb

Programmes is the correct spelling in UK, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and Caribbean English.

Per annum means per year.


I agree with gorgepir, although unemployment may be somewhat high, Sweden like many other countries have a deficit of highly educated tech individuals, but Sweden seems to have a larger portion of tech companies and many of them hire a significant amount of foreign students and extra-EU nationals, look at Ericsson for example. In my specialisation courses at KTH there was one Swede in a class of only 11 students. Looking around the department out of the 25+ PhD students only 4 are Swedish and almost all the others were previous non-EU Master's students. Most of the PhD projects are funded by Swedish tech companies who need to outsource some of their R&D requirements. I sent out two job applications, two, because I was unsure if I was willing to stay here or not, I got offers from both companies since not many people here studied what I did. Maybe my experiences are isolated I don't know. However, that is what I have encountered.

The fact of the matter is, Sweden SHOULD charge tuition fees, had I been charged adequate tuition fees (circa 6000 euros per annum like most other European countries) I still would have come because the specialisation courses I pursued were quite good. However at twice those fees, I don't think I would have at all.
16:30 May 6, 2011 by IranianBoy
BTW the number of admitted has dropped by 65%. but the number of people who will actually attend will be known in 4 months. i believe it will drop by around 90% as the budget has dropped by 93%. the rest will be the ones who have to pay tuition and won't come! they had simply applied in the hope of getting a scholarship.

now think each of these students spent about 6000 kronor in sweden each month and all of this money came from outside sweden and from their home countries. this means that 1 billion and 3 hundred million kronor will not come to sweden's market from outside! ( 6000 kronor each person each month * 18000 drop in students who will attend * 12 months )

not to mention the number of teachers and employees who will lose their jobs for the lack of 18000 students.
17:23 May 6, 2011 by glamelixir
I can't believe that there are people who believe that this was a bad idea. C'mon, get real. In the long run it will benefit everyone. Hopefully even University level will become better.

And as some pointed out before, many people are coming here just to enter Europe and travel around, not even to study for real.
19:20 May 6, 2011 by jomamas
Offering free education to foreigners is ridiculous.

Sweden will not reap the benefits.

Education is expensive, the students should be expected to pay somewhat.
20:46 May 6, 2011 by fatandhappy
I don't think this article is differentiating between foreign and non-eu. The drop is much more pronounced than the article states with non-eu.
21:56 May 6, 2011 by satya srinivas
It is not to point out ...how do we survive here......... How far Sweden is training students with master minds and good potential strategy to face challenges in future technologies..
01:56 May 7, 2011 by muscle
The Research and development departments, of many global organizations in Sweden are being dominated by foreign students, who completed there M.Sc. here in Sweden. According to a recent presentation by skatteverket and migrationsverket in our university, majority of new and innovative businesses were setup by foreigners in Sweden.

I don't think the latter case will be affected. But with the decrease in international students, I think the former case would receive a high impact. I would right now speak just for the IT sector, as an example, consider global software development. If these Research and Development centers are later moved to India, China, Pakistan etc. (China and India is already gaining international IT sector's attention), it will have a massive impact on Sweden.

But then again, if a huge number of scholarships are offered by different organizations, which they have already started, the impact of Fee would be drastically reduced. However, Högskolas may still suffer, and may close few of their departments.
08:49 May 7, 2011 by just a question
There are a lot of immigrants in Sweden with masters and without job.

It's not the same a master in humanities than a master in biology.

People with technical backgrounds have an easy time to find a job (although is complicated if you don't speak the language)

Do Sweden need teachers for example? yes. Are there a lot of immigrants that have the knowledge? yes. Instead of using them, they don't validate their licenses for example.
15:53 May 7, 2011 by prince T
6000 is a very high number, i thought it would be less than 1000. If i were a foreigner, i will also consider good value for money:

Job prospect --- little or no chance in sweden

weather condition -- not good

rating on world stage --- swedish unis not among the best 50 in the world

We want to save money by introducing fees but in the process we are sacrificing brains that could be production and even better the economy.

The reason why Sweden will not benefit from training foreigners is because they will not get any job in Sweden. I have two friend who are doing well professionally in Canada and Norway but were trained in Sweden. They told me they would never have gotten same jobs if they were living in Sweden.

Please Sweden wake up and dont let all the racist with shallow brains blow it for us.
16:48 May 7, 2011 by LeoKinmann
I have been in contact with lots of would-be international students from Asia, mostly China. All of them told me they applied in hope of getting a scholarship. In fact there is no real scholarship in the sense that it pays monthly for the students lodging or food, but only deductions of the fee by 25%, 50%, 75% and, 100% if you are really good compared to your peers. Compared to the international students who got here summer 2010, the deal just got much worse. Lots of the Asian students told me that if they don't get at least 50% scholarship then they wont come, because simply living here is too expensive anyway. I wonder how the real numbers are in late August. Must be even fewer than the numbers reported above.
23:45 May 7, 2011 by jamesblish
I've lived in three english-speaking countries and I've not found any of them any cheaper to live in than Sweden. On the contrary, actually. Or maybe you people think that Stockholm=Sweden?
07:05 May 8, 2011 by Descartes
I'm sure if my German shepherd had applied and paid a fee of 900 SEK, he would have got admitted. Moreover, after admission, if he paid 15000 SEK, it wouldn't embarrass the Swedish lecturers to give him lectures. Though, I want you to know I wouldn't be surprised> my German shepherd has more skills and intelligence, understands English better and knows more math theories than some of the students and lecturers in Swedish Universities.
11:41 May 8, 2011 by Amardeep Mehta
The biggest problem I will say here is to find job after Graduation. So, if one has to pay and he is not certain about the future then why will he think about the idea to study in Sweden!
13:29 May 8, 2011 by skatty
@iranianBoy # 23

You mean students buy Swedish product (which in this case is knowledge) 6000 Kr a month.

The 6000 Kr is the payment for accommodation, literature, clothes and other necessities but not for teacher and the use of facilities (University), which is paid by tuition.

I think you are considering that 6000 Kr/month comes directly in the country, and that 6000 Kr is not available anymore without the foreign students. Don't forget that accommodation, literature, clothes and … have a price and what actually should be considered is if there is any other buyer for these products when there is not foreign students; I think there is, especially in big cities many local students are looking for rooms. Now, the other question is if it worth to sell knowledge with or without a price (tuition). In this case, it would worth for the foreign student to come and get a degree in Sweden; otherwise, it should be a compression between different universities to consider the best price.

In here, I just consider money matters, and not anything else, because you just considered money, (of course students usually consider different matters and not just money for their education; like quality, cultural, linguistic, environmental, historical matters and …).

Now, if Sweden believes that their Universities worth and are in the same level of the most famous Universities in EU, then there should not be any problem to get enough non-EU students with a reasonable tuition compared with other Universities after more than a decade of existence of international programs in different Swedish Universities; otherwise, the conclusion would be the only reason that Sweden could get a large number international students has been the cheapness of the education and not the other qualities!
16:12 May 9, 2011 by ccb
@Skatty I think you are missing something vital in economics, money from outside a country is worth quite a bit compared to that which circulates inside the country. The way trade works is that you have to sell something to an outside nation to be able to buy something from an outside. That is the law of foreign exchange and it is what drives any economy that doesn't produce every single thing it consumes inside its own borders. Foreign students brought quite a bit of that with them. I know I have. Money that can be used to quench Sweden's global spending needs.

Another thing is that due to Sweden's education system structure the incremental cost is for providing 'free' tuition to all students is not terribly high compared with other more capitalistic systems. A university with 15 000 students of which 1000 are from non-EU countries still has to provide facilities for 14 000 Swedes and other European students. There may be a need for a few more administrative staff members and maybe a few professors, however the bulk of the tax payer's money still goes towards EU students, where of course it should. Even the offer of courses in English is no significant challenge since Swedes are well versed in English and most, if not all members of teaching and administrative staff are highly capable of communicating in both English and Swedish so no highly selective extra staff recruitment would be necessary to accomodate incoming non-EU students. Historically most countries who have offered free tuition to non-nationals have done so because the balance books favoured such a move. No one should be fooled into thinking it was done out of pure goodwill. It was just something that could be done easily and cost-effectively with great benefits since more international students boasted study environment along with international ratings, brought in foreign money and knowledge at minimal cost. However, in recent years the balance sheets haven't been looking so favourable I am sure, so many moved towards fees that would in most cases cover extra administrative and material cost. However, none towards the absurdly high fees sought by the Swedish institutions. So maybe Sweden has some other plans on the way. Who knows.
16:36 May 9, 2011 by farooqkifayat
Revive the free education again it was so much fun . The experience in Sweden. Many more should have it.
10:12 May 17, 2011 by rocktheworld
the tax supports Swedish education systems, the tax is still that high, the tuition fee has been charged, where the money goes, who knows. improving the education system???? bullshit .....they can never ever know know they want to have the equal right in Sweden, sucks.!
14:25 May 18, 2011 by kapilnarwal
First, Sweden is not a dream destination for most student especially when they have Germany and UK in options. Living in this country is very expensive then this country has very little to offer when it comes to career opportunities. Getting a job in this system is almost impossible. Taxes are too high in Sweden. Then getting a working permit and latter a permanent residency in this country is just impossible. So, even after paying so much fee one finds very limited scopes in Sweden.

I'm looking for a PhD in Sweden and still doubtful about my decision.


22:32 May 19, 2011 by Elina Smith
Unfortunately Swedish language is also an hindrance that students are reluctant to come to sweden. Here this link may students give some more information to study in Sweden even after high fees:

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