Foreign student numbers plummet in Sweden

Fewer than 1,300 non-European students have paid the new tuition fees required for them to study at Swedish universities, according to higher education officials. In the 2009-10 academic year, there were more than 16,000 non-European university students in Sweden.

Foreign student numbers plummet in Sweden

“It looks like the drop in students from outside the EU may be quite steep. It is now up to all good forces in the country to come up with a good scholarship programme that could make Sweden an attractive place for higher education again,” said head of the agency Lars Haikola in a statement on Tuesday.

The deadline to pay the fees lapsed on June 15th. According to the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket), only 1,280 students had paid their fees by then.

Previously free, 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, from the 2011 autumn term.

Since the decision to introduce fees was taken, experts have warned that Swedish universities will see a significant drop in interest from abroad.

And already in May, figures from the Swedish Agency for Higher Education (VHS) showed that the number of international admissions to Swedish universities had dropped by two thirds compared to last year.

Fresh figures from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) also show that 6,277 people applied for a student visa in Sweden during the first 6 months of 2010.

So far this year the number of applicants has only reached 3,747.

In the 2009-10 academic year, more than 16,000 non-European university students studied in Sweden. Although the figures aren’t strictly comparable, as the larger number comprises all places of higher education in Sweden and both the autumn and spring term, they point to a significant drop, according to the agency.

According to Torbjörn Lindqvist, analyst at the National Agency for Higher Education, it has been hard to foresee what impact the new tuition fees would have on applicants, despite the warnings.

“I think that it was expected that there would be a drop, we had seen that from other countries introducing similar schemes, but how large it would be no one could say in advance,” he told The Local.

What practical effects this will have on Swedish universities, and just how large the actual drop in foreign students will be, still remains to be seen.

“Many universities will find themselves with less students than they had expected and some might have a problem filling their courses,” said Lindqvist.

The government has initiated two scholarship programmes that will cover the fees for about 300 applicants, according to Lindquist. But sadly that will not cover everyone.

“I think the expectations are that the Swedish higher education will hold such a high international standard that students will come anyway,” Lindquist told The Local.

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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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