“We think it is a great initiative,” Kay Svensson, International Coordinator at Uppsala University, told The Local.
In 2011, tuition fees were introduced for students from countries outside of the EES and Switzerland who wanted to study at Swedish universities.
At the time, education ministry officials explained they wanted Swedish universities to compete globally based on the quality of the education rather than free tuition.
The higher education fees, which went into effect for the 2011 autumn term, ranged from 100,000 kronor ($16,000) per annum to around 230,000 kronor, depending on the programme and school.
At the same time, a scholarship scheme was put into effect to make it possible for students from less affluent countries to be able to study in Sweden.
However, in order to boost the numbers of applications from non-European students, the government has included a proposal in the 2013 budget to increase the number of scholarships aimed at students from developing countries as defined the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD.
The funds available to finance the scholarships will be increased by 50 million kronor ($7.6 million) by 2013, bringing to 100 million kronor the amount of money set aside each year in the budget.
The scholarships will be awarded by the Swedish Institute and will be financed through the government’s aid subsidies.
An additional 60 million kronor will be made available for scholarships to be awarded for academic excellence to students from anywhere in the world.
These will be allocated to universities by the International Programme Office for Education and Training (Internationella programkontoret).
The government hopes the measure would result in more students from lower- and middle-income countries being able to benefit from a Swedish university education.
According to Svensson, the new funds will most likely mean an increase of students from developing countries coming to Uppsala University, which has experience a decrease in such students since fees were introduced.
“But it must be said that from some of the countries we have received more students since the scholarship scheme and the tuition fees were introduced,” Svensson said.
“Even with no tuition fees it was never free to study and live in Sweden.”
According to Svensson it is important for the university to attract a diverse group of scholars and students.
“For us to maintain the high level of research that we strive for, we need to have a diverse university environment. It works both ways, they get a quality education and we benefit from their different experiences and research outlook,” Svensson told The Local.