Thousands of Swedish university courses still open for late applications

The number of available spots at Swedish universities has been increased due to the coronavirus pandemic – and despite a record intake of students, thousands of places remain open to latecomers.

Thousands of Swedish university courses still open for late applications
Many of the courses will be held in English. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Thousands of students received their admission letters last week. Almost 452,000 people had applied to start a university course this autumn, more than 50,000 people more than last year, reports the TT newswire.

Around 180,000 of the applicants got their first pick of course, compared to 175,000 last year. Around 45,000 were admitted to their second choice and around 23,000 to their third choice.

You can study for a full degree in Sweden, but it is also common to just take one semester's worth of modules – either because you need them to be accepted to another degree course, or simply for fun, or as a way of taking a short break from a job market that's been hit hard by the pandemic.

Around 11,000 university courses are currently open for late applications, and several have been added fairly recently. That includes degrees, short and basic modules, and more advanced studies.

Almost 3,500 of them will be taught in English, according to when The Local looked.

Non-EU students normally have to pay tuition fees in Sweden, but there are exceptions. For example, if you have a permanent Swedish residence permit or a temporary residence permit that was granted on the basis of something other than studies, you are just like Swedish students not required to pay tuition fees.

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Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year

It is looking increasingly unlikely that 'högskoleprovet' – an exam used by thousands of students every year as a way to enter Swedish university will go ahead – despite a government U-turn.

Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year
In a normal year, 100,000 students sit what is known as the SweSAT or 'högskoleprovet'. Photo: Malin Hoelstad/SvD/SCANPIX

The Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (SweSAT, or högskoleprovet) is normally held twice a year, but was cancelled in spring and then later in autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic. But after pressure from opposition parties, the government last week said it would pave the way for the test to take place on its usual date in October in a limited format, open only to people who had not previously sat it.

Usually around 100,000 people sit the exam each year, around 40 percent of them doing so for the first time. The exam is not compulsory, but many people use its results to get into university, and it is seen as a crucial second chance for those who are not able to get accepted based on grades alone.

But any hope lit by the government's announcement last week was quickly extinguished this week, when university principals said it would still not be possible to organise a coronavirus-safe sitting. In the end it is up to the exam organisers to decide whether or not to hold it, so the government holds limited sway.

“They [the university principals] do not want to take responsibility for conducting the exam during the autumn, but would rather spend time and resources on conducting two tests as safely as possible in spring,” Karin Röding, director-general of the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

“I have no reason to have another opinion,” she added.

“It appears to be the case that you are going to have to wait another few months before an exam can be carried out in an infection-safe way,” confirmed Sweden's Minister of Higher Education, Matilda Ernkrans.

Meanwhile the political pressure eased on the Social Democrat-Green coalition government to ensure the test could be held before the deadline for applying to the spring semester of university, when the Liberal party joined the centre-left in voting no to pushing for an autumn sitting. Last week there was a majority for a yes vote on the Swedish parliament's education committee, consisting of right-wing parties Moderates, Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and the Liberals, but after the latter switched sides the committee voted no.

The Mdoerates blamed the government for not acting sooner to help the exam go ahead, by for example allocating more money and investigating the possibility of using more venues.

“There is one person who is to blame. That's Matilda Ernkrans,” said the party's education spokesperson Kristina Axén Olin. “The government has handled it really poorly and now it is thought to be too late and impossible.”

Ernkrans argued that she and the government had done everything they could, including making sure that test results from previous years will be valid for eight years rather than the usual five, as well as allocating extra funding to make it possible to hold more than one exam next spring.

Swedish vocabulary

cancel – ställa in

test/exam – (ett) prov

second chance – (en) andra chans

government – (en) regering

semester – (en) termin (note the false friend – the Swedish word semester means holiday)