“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.
“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.”