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'Avoid studying in large cities': minister

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'Avoid studying in large cities': minister
07:46 CEST+02:00
Sweden's housing minister suggested on Wednesday that students should avoid enrolling in universities in big cities where housing is scarce, drawing sharp criticism from a number of quarters.

“The housing market should be one of the variables when one chooses a course of study and a university city,” Christian Democrat housing minister Stefan Attefall told the Metro newspaper.

“The problem has been a fundamental one for a long time and has gotten worse. It's a failure for Swedish housing policy.”

Attefall advised students to consider universities located outside of Sweden's larger cities, where the demand for student housing far exceeds supply, when deciding where to enroll.

He also hinted that availability of student housing may become a factor in how the government distributes the number of available spaces for students at the country's universities.

The Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (Stockholms Handelskammare) issued a sharp rebuke of Attefall, arguing that a failed housing policy shouldn't affect the government's education policies.

“It would be extremely unfortunate if the government chose to punish higher education in Stockholm in this way,” the Chamber's head of policy, Fredrik Johansson, said in a statement.

Rather than hinder Stockholm's efforts to become an academic centre by urging students to study elsewhere, the government ought to instead ease restrictions on subletting and the setting of rents, Johansson argued.

Student groups also took issue with Attefall's comments, urging him to take appropriate action.

“We're tired of municipalities and the government blaming each other over the issue of student housing,” Lars Niska, a vice chair with the Uppsala Student Union, said in a statement.

“As the responsible minister, Stefan Attefall needs to make an effort to address the structural barriers for building housing in Sweden.”

According to Niska, there are already signs that students are choosing not to enroll at Uppsala University due to concerns about the lack of housing, something he called “a real shame”.

The Social Democrat group at Stockholm City Hall also criticised Attefall for his “alarmingly anti-Stockholm” stance.

“The housing minister urges students to apply elsewhere and threatens to take away spots at universities in Stockholm," said Social Democrat city council member Tomas Rudin, in a statement.

"When the government speaks so clearly, it ends up weakening Stockholm as a knowledge-based city."

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