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'Use foreign aid funds for scholarships': report

7 Sep 2012, 17:23

Published: 07 Sep 2012 17:23 GMT+02:00

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"Offering scholarships to students from developing countries fits perfectly with the stated aims of Swedish foreign aid," Fredrik Segerfeldt, a libertarian Swedish commentator and author of the report, told The Local.

"It's a very concrete way to 'contribute to creating the conditions for poor people to improve their standard of living'."

Since the 2011 introduction of tuition fees for non-European students wishing to attend Swedish universities, enrollment of non-European students has dropped by 79 percent, according to figures from Sweden's National Agency for Higher Education (Högskolverket).

Moreover, developing countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Cameroon were among the countries which experiences the largest drop in the number of foreign students who come to Sweden to study.

Richard Stenelo, head of external relations at Lund University, also noted a drop in applicants from other countries in Africa and Latin America following 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 Sveriges Radio (SR) recently.

Close to 100 million kronor ($15 million) has been set aside by the Swedish government for scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition fees for non-European students, and according to the higher education agency, about 40 percent (831 students) of tuition-paying students received scholarships last year that covered some or all of their tuition fees.

Nevertheless, the precipitous fall in non-European student enrollments has prompted several Swedish universities to urge the government to boost the level of scholarship funding.

With tuition fees averaging 120,000 kronor ($18,000), the universities fear that only wealthy, rather than the most talented, students will study in Sweden.

According to Segerfeldt's proposal, put forward in a recent paper published by the liberal Swedish think tank Timbro, Sweden could cover tuition fees for nearly 13,000 students from developing countries by devoting about 3.3 percent of the country's foreign aid budget to scholarships.

The total sum, 1.2 billion kronor, would provide about 90,000 kronor per student, which would cover most of the average fees currently required by non-European students.

Adding an addition 400 million kronor to the sum, according to Segerfeldt, would also cover living costs for 13,000 foreign students on par with the nearly 28,000 kronor per year that Swedish students are eligible for in the form of student grants (studiebidrag).

In Segerfeldt's view, the scholarships offered to students from developing countries are already a form of foreign aid.

"As a libertarian, I'm against the whole concept for foreign aid, but as Sweden remains committed to its one percent foreign aid goal, at least using the money in the form of scholarships is a way to protect against the money disappearing due to corruption," he said.

Story continues below…

He added there are other benefits to maintaining a rich and diverse population of foreign students in Sweden.

"We can hope that many of these talented and educated students remain in Sweden," he said.

"That would be good for the Swedish business community and something which remains in line with Sweden's development aid goals."

David Landes

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Your comments about this article

17:45 September 7, 2012 by calebian22
Since foreign aid is a bit iffy at best regarding it's use in the foreign land, this is a great way to aid that country while actually having Sweden benefit from giving the aid. Hopefully this will be taken seriously.
20:06 September 7, 2012 by Scepticion
A good, sensible suggestion. Alas, it's not from the government, so rather likely the report will end up in a drawer.
20:29 September 7, 2012 by Puffin
@Scepticion - why? He has said in interviews that he is a supporter of the current Conservative-led government
00:07 September 8, 2012 by muscle
They just had to IMPROVE THE SELECTION process ONLY!!. I dont understand what is the point of enforcing fee structure and then introducing scholarships and keep increasing them!!!! Just improve the selection criteria at the universities... it could have been done with the free education as well!!!
07:29 September 8, 2012 by prince T
Good thinking @muscle. We bring in wrong foreign students most of the time. Bring in people dat they know really deserve the aid. Or even help our engineering industries.
09:49 September 8, 2012 by frenchviking
This would be better than blindly sending money that disapears, probably or most likely benefitting the wrong people in the end...

And it would support swedish universities development and local businesses...

But i agree that studying at university should be free, student accomodation should be cheap and abvailable. It exists in france.

Maybe this should be sorted first before donating money abroad...
12:28 September 8, 2012 by eddie123
well well well... i taught Swedes wanted to stop offering free education. so why bother with offering more scholarships? doesn't that amount to wasting tax payers money? yes it does. so, this fellow wants the government to take foreign aid and spend same on scholarships. the whole time, he has forgotten that most of Sweden's foreign aid is already being spent by SIDA in Stockholm. the truth in all this is - study programmes are being scraped and sooner than later, Swedish universities will be compelled to downside (cut jobs etc). it will be Swedes that will be affected. already, enrollment figures have tanked and there is no economic sense in having six students on a study programmes. to top it all, stopping free education has not lower anyone's tax burden. we still pay the same taxes. what the heck.
18:11 September 8, 2012 by nlidukdese
With all due respect, this is not development assistance, especially not if one hopes, as Segerfeldt does, that 'many of these talented and educated students remain in Sweden'.

Brain drain hurts a country, and supporting it with Swedish aid money would be cynical, to say the least.

I'd much rather see Sweden's aid money being used to help create opportunities in developing countries. Support and improve universities there instead of luring the best talent out of the country and hoping they'll never come back.

And to anticipate the inevitable comment: yes, money should also be spent on improving universities in Sweden. But not from Sweden's aid budget.
19:20 September 8, 2012 by hanif
i heard from a friend of mine that sweden is famous for introducing stupid laws. i am not sure to what extend this authentic because just hearing from a friend is not a reliable source but thinking over few examples as below i guess he was right.

1. Sweden offered free education for years and many foreign students took benefit of it but in 2010 Denmark introduced green card scheme and plenty of students moved to Denmark after completing masters. Sweden created skilled students and Denmark snatched them all. although most of them are not working professionally but at least helping Denmark economy by paying taxes.

2. Sweden has very flexible rules for uneducated asylum seekers e.g Afghanis, Somalians and allow them social benefits, quick permanent residency while most of students after graduating from Sweden go back to their countries because it is not so easy for them to get into the market even in IT and telecom sector.

They say they require skilled people to help grow their economy but they have very stupid rules for skilled people graduating from swedish universities.

They are actually very diplomatic like typical Swedish girl :) . They don't do what they really say and they don't say what they want to do.
19:21 September 8, 2012 by johan rebel
They should start by abolishing that 1% rule. First deciding how much money to spend and then trying to figure out what to waste it on is as inane as it is insane.
21:03 September 8, 2012 by frenchviking
Johan, i fully agree... Sounds like the old budget system for the public sector... Must make sure to use it up to have at least the same amount next year!

Waste of money...
00:10 September 9, 2012 by prince T
Look at @johanskit and ffrencskit with thier shallow thinkin. What they do not know is that the swedes are even leavin the country. I could not believe that they will have anything to say against intelligent arguements above. u guys are blinded by ur paranoa. Shame on u. No students in engineerin schools again, the economy in shambles, most of d work force will retire soon. Hail the Great Sweden of the world
08:54 September 9, 2012 by frenchviking
Don't you think that there is something that does not fit???

I mean we are in some sort of economical crisis in europe, qualified people, includind engineers are without jobs in the southern states such as greece and spain, but it is so hard to recruit qualified people in sweden, including engineers.

I am really shocked that eu citizens do not use the best advantage of the eu which is that we are allowed to live and work anywhere in the eu. There are jobs in the eu for qualified people. But it feels like people are too scared of living their native villages...

Re prince T, yes sweden needs more people, and badly. Because sweden has grown significantly in the past few years and specially because the burden from people that are fed by the system has increased faster and much more than the extra resources from people who feed the system... There are several reasons behind this, such as people retiring, but a big reason is that imigration is not targetted based on needs in terms of skills for the job market. As a result immigrants or refugies come in and can never find a job. Which makes it herder for them to integrate and leads to the difficulties we all know.
11:15 September 9, 2012 by Navras
As a foreign student, I would surely support this kind of plan for needy students coming from developing country.

While Studying in Sweden, I felt that there are few Good Swedish students and majority of them are limited to IT, Software areas; but they merely aim to get a job; lacking focus on core research.

Well I come from India, has been offered a job in Sweden, just before the completion of my masters in one of the Swedish software companies but I really don't find it a relevant work suiting my research interests.

I want to start my own venture and India is the right country to get started:)

Hence I decide to move back to India with in few months, where I can avail my knowledge and expertise more productively. Practically there are very very few research jobs in Swedish industry. Academia doctorate program is very focused and specialized with an aim to suck govt funds.

I am thankful to Sweden for giving free good quality education.

I would like to suggest few steps to add accountability in the system:

1. Sweden should introduce some kind of grading system to assess incoming applicants on basis of their bachelor education, university ranking, Gpa and other parameters viz motivation letter, publication, bachelor thesis, good references.

2. In order to retain top students, you also have to offer them internship/job. Swedish govt puts in enormous amount of money into research but the money doesn't serve true purpose. University-Industry partnership is one the biggest missing link in Swedish education. There are few deserving genuine students who don't get enough industrial opportunity of internship; later end up moving to Germany, Netherlands. In USA, the private sector comes up to guide and fund research; absorbing the deserving students into their labor pool

3 Lastly there should be more of PHD funded application from private sectors.

Many Govt PHD program barely serve the purpose of true research. A research should be weighted by its due advantages. There are many university where PHD and Post doc students lack basic knowledge of science. Research has become a profession in this country and most of crappy papers end up getting published merely to extract funds from govt later end up being cited by none other than the author itself.
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