Sweden considers U-turn over cancelled university exam

Sweden considers U-turn over cancelled university exam
In a normal year, 100,000 students sit what is known as the SweSAT. Photo: Yvonne Åsell/SvD/TT
Sweden earlier announced the cancellation for the second time this year of an exam used by thousands of students as a way to enter university – but the government has said it may now go ahead after all.

If the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (SweSAT, or högskoleprovet) does go ahead, it would be in a more limited form than usual.

The exam is not compulsory, but students can use their results to get into university. The spring sitting was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and earlier in August the autumn sitting was cancelled too, with the Education Minister saying there would likely be two exams in spring 2021 instead.

Now after pressure from opposition parties, the government has said it will allow it to take place this autumn in a limited format.

This means it would be possible for people who have not previously taken the exam to sit it in autumn after all. Usually around 100,000 people sit the exam each year, around 40 percent of them doing so for the first time.

“The government, together with the responsible authorities, has been working intensively so that we can offer the högskoleprov as quickly as possible,” Universities Minister Matilda Ernkrans said.

Asked how many people would be able to sit the exam under the changed rules, she said the decision would be left to the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR) which organises the test.

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“The SweSAT is a way for people to achieve their dreams, it's an important second chance,” she said, but added: “We have to remember that we're in the middle of a pandemic. Peoples' lives and health must come first.”

The decision to cancel the autumn exam was initially taken after the UHR and 21 universities involved in offering the test said it would not be possible to organise without a risk of spreading infection. The reason is that the test must be taken by thousands of students at the same time, meaning that ensuring social distancing would require around four times more staff and venues as usual.

Three of Sweden's opposition parties, the Moderates, Liberals and Christian Democrats, have argued that the exam should take place anyway. 

But after Thursday's decision, organisers are concerned that there is too little time to arrange the tests for autumn.

UHR's general director Karin Röding told the TT newswire that heads of universities which arrange the test foresaw “significant difficulties” in carrying out the exam in autumn, even in a limited format.

“We discussed limits [on numbers of applicants] over the summer, but as for whether the universities think they can carry out the test in autumn, I'll have to get back to you,” she said.

“If the test is to have any bearing on the spring term in 2021, the test has to be done at the latest by October 25th. There are venues that have to be booked, staff that have to be hired and to want to carry out the test.”

Vocabulary

to cancel – att ställa in

venue – (en) lokal

second chance – (en) andra chans

limited – begränsad

difficulty – (en) svårighet


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