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Foreign applications to Swedish unis rebound

Oliver Gee · 19 Jan 2012, 13:14

Published: 19 Jan 2012 13:14 GMT+01:00

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“There has been a total increase of 20 percent of foreign applicants for next semester’s masters programs,” Kaj Svensson, Uppsala University’s International Coordinator, told The Local.

While final figures have yet to be tallied, Svensson estimates that about 80 percent of the increase comes from applicants outside of Europe.

According to Svensson, the higher numbers are due in part to better marketing and recruitment efforts.

Foreign students have also shown a renewed interest in masters programmes at Lund University, where early figures have shown that foreign applications have risen by 20-25 percent this year.

“It’s going in the right direction,” said Richard Stenelo, Lund University’s director of external relations, to Sydsvenskan newspaper.

Overall, applications to masters programmes in Sweden have risen by 24 percent to 31,223 applicants, according to the paper.

The rise comes a year after applications to master's programmes in Sweden fell by 73 percent and the number of people who applied for international courses dropped by 86 percent compared with the previous year.

Last year's drop in applications from foreign students was attributed to the introduction of tuition fees for applicants from outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

Officials are encouraged by the preliminary indications of a recovery in foreign applicants, but admit it's too early to say for sure how many non-European students will end up studying in Sweden.

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

“We want to get up to the same levels we had before the fees when we had 600 new students from outside of Europe each year,” Stenelo told Sydsvenskan.

At Lund, applications from poorer countries such as Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are down 35 to 45 percent in the wake of the introduction of tuition fees.

And while scholarships were also introduced to help offset the tuition fees for students with limited financial means, the head of Lund, Per Eriksson, claims the government needs to do more.

"Our main criticism against this is that the government hasn't really put a lot into scholarship money. That puts our international competitiveness at risk of missing out on top students simply because they don't come from well-to-do families," Eriksson told Sydsvenskan.

Another obstacle to attracting foreign students from poorer countries is the relatively high university application fees.

Story continues below…

“We have an application fee of 900 kronor ($132), which is very comparable with universities in the UK and Netherlands for example, but a major cost for some,” said Joachim Ekström, Uppsala University’s external relations manager, to The Local.

“We have potential students in countries such as South Korea or Sudan who are looking for scholarship opportunities, excellent students sometimes, but they don’t end up applying.”

The price tag can simply be too much, according to Ekström, who noted that such a sum could be equivalent to a monthly wage in some countries.

“We have many students who pull out before the application fee deadline. It’s a real shame to think of the great students we miss out on due to low finances.”

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:21 January 19, 2012 by StockholmSam
Applications are one thing. The real proof will come when we see figures for actual enrollment of non-EU students.
14:28 January 19, 2012 by Abe L
The real proof takes years to compile, the real interesting numbers are those of which students graduate in a program in time and then get employed in Sweden compared to those who are here just to leech of the tax payers for free education.

There is also no mention of what programs are chosen by international students. Meaning they could all graduate as theoretical artists with no chance of getting a payed job whatsoever.
14:51 January 19, 2012 by Sting
One can only hope so to justify the decisions made in recent times vis a vis the tuition fees, but I sense denial here.
14:52 January 19, 2012 by phil23456
Why would any country educate students from different countries for free? I am in Australia and we have hundreds of thousands of overseas students but they are all full fee paying.

I am a social person but Sweden makes no sense to me, why not educate Swedish people with Swedish taxes?
15:21 January 19, 2012 by faisy07
There are different angles for every one. As a national of developing world i can say main hindrance for us is fee. We can not pay such high fees and other problem is Swedish. We can speak very good English so if some one wana pay such high fees then he or she would prefer USA, UK or Australia because as compared to Sweden fee is less and main language barrier is not there and we get all kinds of jobs there but in Sweden you con not get professional job.
15:36 January 19, 2012 by Mats Nilsson

Reason for free education for foreigners is = relevance. Sweden is trying to tell the world there is a country named Sweden, spreading culture and at the same time spread the fame of the Swedish universities in the world.

Noone would give a sh.t to Swedish only university. Look at Catholic schools, who gives a sh.t about them?

So it's all about being relevant in the world, so people can know Sweden more than just blonde girls.
16:42 January 19, 2012 by riose
@Mats Nilsson

Idea: Sweden could be more relevant by paying a holiday in Sweden to everybody who wants to come!

There is only 1 problem: Who pays the bill?

Same thing with the unis. They ain't cheap.
18:01 January 19, 2012 by Mats Nilsson

In university world, relevance and fame means everything.

If Sweden only have Swedish students, noone will buy any publication/book/article Swedish Universities produce or show interest, in other words noone will give a sh.t about Swedish universities. If you want to be respected and recognized globally, you have to spread your culture and fame. It's best done via exchange programs, joint research and core of university: students.

Don't compare Sweden with USA, UK, Australia, Ireland or New Zeland. English is the world language now, people will choose these over any other country. You also have higher chance of finding job after studies in English based countries.

There is absolutely nothing attractive about Sweden compared to these, free education was the only attraction. Yes you save costs from universities, and spend where? afganishtan, somali and food for swedish prisons. Or maybe your terrible hospitals and joke health system?
20:28 January 19, 2012 by Dazzler
Someone is obviously mad and jealous. Why so angry?
21:31 January 19, 2012 by Dr3ad
The result for the new tuition fee:

1. Courses and Programmes will be shut down for not having enough students.

2. Professors will be fired for the same reason.

3. The government will cut the educational budget even more.

4. Swedish educational system becomes an entropic system.
22:03 January 19, 2012 by muscle
I really hope, whatever approach is taken, free or non-free education, the students should come here. I wish to see my university, from where I graduated, flourish. Withing this duration of paid program, the university lost not only students, but also teachers!!!! (well teachers left for other unis or organizations)!!

My university is ranked 6th in the journal of school of software engineering in the world, I hope it becomes number one!
22:10 January 19, 2012 by apo_99
I'm an EU student doing my Masters in Karolinska Institutet. The educational level of this university (at least in my field) is just exceptional. One of the main reasons why I chose to apply there was, of course, the free tuition fees. My Masters costs normally 400.000 SEK for students outside EU area. 400.000 SEK!

Do you think that this amount is cheap? Or does it promote the "equal" opportunities for education? If I had to pay I would definitely have chosen an adequate degree in UK or in Germany that would cost much less!
23:35 January 19, 2012 by colombianska_tjej
I am a colombian student at KI, also taking a Master. Guess what, without a scholarship, I would have never had the chance of studying in such a recognised university, and get knowledge that in my country is very limited.

So if that is with a scholarship, when it was still for free, what do you think it would have happened if I had just tought on applying now? I just couldn't even dream about it, because i am too poor even for the application fee, not even think on the tuition fee. And there are plenty of students, in Colombia and other developing countries, who have a lot of talents that are wasted basically due to poverty.

And I am not saying that we all should come to Sweden and leech the tax payers, I am the first one that would love to have a job and do my share. But that is also a problem, if you don't speak swedish you cannot get a job according to your career.

So, I think that if Sweden wants to improve their student population and the chances on beneffiting from it, then they should let the education be for free (or for a not so incredibly expensive fee), and work more on the teaching of swedish to the foreign students. Also, students should be allowed to stay for some time to find a job in Sweden. In that way, getting a job would be a little bit more easy, and all the money that is invested on the education will be recovered when the qualified students go and work for swedish companies.

Yes, i know it is not so easy, but just my 2 cents.
07:31 January 20, 2012 by Snork
I am a prospective student from Russia.

First of all, 31,223 applicants this year compared to 25,094 in 2011 is a growth. However, if you take a look at 2010 with 91,788 applicants, conclusion is obvious. For sure tuition fee has a great impact on the amount of students, but why education should be free? Scholarship is a good solution. Students with good grades from previous education still have a chance to get education for free.

Second thing, is a Swedish language. Master students have almost 2 years to learn Swedish. It is not the Russian language, where you have all entire alphabet in Cyrillic. I do not understand how people can get a job without the language. How they will integrate into the Swedish society without the language?

I think that, if you are moving somewhere you have to learn a local language and follow rules and ways of living of that country.
10:02 January 20, 2012 by Camorin
While it is not unproblematic to offer free education to students from outside the EU, how fair is it for developed countries like Australia, UK, US and New Zealand to run their universities by charging a hell lot of money on students who are coming from the developed world? It is one thing if they were charged a little bit higher but the whole idea is to run a university by ripping off students from other countries and use that money to educate their own.

I don't see that as morally justifiable for a developed country.
17:16 January 20, 2012 by Sodemus
Well, I think the first step would be to recognize that right now the Swedish universities aren't as attractive as many American universities and therefore not implement application-/tuition fees that are equal to or higher than Ivy league universities, which is the case now. That doesn't make any sense. Decrease the tuition fees to about 4/5 of the American universities and we might see a resurgence in applications.
17:40 January 20, 2012 by Terri
I am studying for a masters, but am not in the fee-paying category. the feed-back I get from fellow students is that the fee is about the same as they would be paying in their home country - US or Canada
22:20 January 20, 2012 by GTO
I'm applying next year for masters(economics) as non EU student, but from Europe and hopefully will be accepted and get to stay after.

While prices are high for non EU people(~10k+ eur a year from what I've seen) it's not as crazy as UK/USA yet.
13:26 January 23, 2012 by Carys Egan-Wyer
@phil23456 and @riose

I came here to leech of the taxpayers for my masters programme last year.

Incidentally, I have brought with me (from outside of Sweden) hundreds of thousands of crowns to fund my living expenses.

Even if we don't pay fees, international students are a huge export for Sweden. As most of us can't really work here, we are all injecting a huge amount of cash into the Swedish economy, as well as creating jobs for teachers and a multitude of other service providers.

Don't be so short sighted!
13:06 January 29, 2012 by Just_Kidding
#14: I think that, if you are moving somewhere you have to learn a local language and follow rules and ways of living of that country.

1. People have to learn Swedish from scratch, while many foreigners learn English since childhood in their countries.

2. With English, one can work in USA (with 300 million population), Canada, UK, NZ, Australia, South Africa,.. With Swedish one can work in Sweden (or maybe Norway and Denmark) with very few job offers for non-Swedes....again a bad investment... Many people are better off if they stay in their own country or go and study medicine or dentistry in Turkey, Philippine, or some other cheap country and don't bring their parents money to the cold Sweden.
10:39 January 30, 2012 by harodani
As a fee-paying student coming from Venezuela, a middle income country, I can assure you it is EXPENSIVE for us to come here and pay it. I have been lucky enough that my family is able to support me financially but I know a lot of people who cannot.

I think Sweden is in its own right to charge the fees, but you see the difference between students from my year and students from the year before: diversity. I know a lot of people who enter in my programme on 2010 and the diversity of nationalities and knowledge is awesome. I think this is an aggregated value to education and research. On the other hand, on 2010, 40 students were accepted into my programme. On 2011, just 20 because there were not enough good applications to fill the empty seats.

I think the Swedish government should find a balance. Fees are too expensive and Sweden is not attractive enough. There should be also more scholarships for students coming from low-income countries.
15:17 February 1, 2012 by klubbnika

Even if you know the language, don't expect to be hired. Hiring in Sweden is done on connections mostly and you have a chance only in the areas with an extreme lack of applicants.
16:19 May 24, 2012 by lokalkille

You are so right. Language is just a minor part of the problem. The main problem is your background. Here is the sequence of getting jobs in Sweden

1) Ethnic Swedes (as Reinfeldt also confirmed)

2) Swedes of foreign background

3) Swedes of foreign background with darker skin shades

4) Europeans

5) Americans

6) Others

The easiest way of getting hired is if you are in IT especially if you are experienced hten it does not really matter where you are from.

And for people always complaining of students leeching with free education. I really do not understand why you complain so much. The free education does not increase your tax, it doies not stoop you from getting social amenities like electricity, water, good transportation, etc. You are just being selfish, that is ow I see it. And the irony of it is that many people aking these comments are foreigners who have at one time enjoyed the taxpayers money without contributing anything then, e.g. learning sfi, SAS, taking yrkes utbildning. etc.

Do you also know that non-EU students spend money on living in Sweden? Ypu buy food, clothes, take the bus, rent apartments, etc thereby creating income for house owners, creating jobs for janitors, creating income for food chains and people that work there. Foreign students also make it possible for teachers to get jobs at the universities, improving th profile of schools by the number of courses offered, the number of teacher and students they have.

I can talk more and more on this but...
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