No more free education for non-Europeans

No more free education for non-Europeans
Photo: Sippeangelo & Wrote
Sweden is to start charging tuition to non-European university students, according to comments by higher education minister Lars Leijonborg in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Today, Sweden is one of the few countries in the world which does not charge tuition to students from other countries.

The Social Democratic government examined how a tuition system would look, but never put forward a legislative proposal on the matter.

Leijonborg has thus far avoided taking a stand on the controversial question, but now says that the government is in total agreement on charging fees to university students coming from countries other than the EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

“Our primary argument is that it is unwise of a country not to benefit from a payment system which obviously exists. Why should these students pay money to American or British universities, but not to Swedish [ones]?” Leijonborg explained to SvD.

The fees will be based on the costs incurred by the universities themselves. At the same time, a system of stipends will be implemented for students lacking sufficient funds to pay tuition.

The proposal is included in a bill to be presented in the autumn on how university-level international exchanges can be increased.

The new tuition system would be implemented on January 1st, 2010, at the latest.

Elin Rosenberg, chair of the Swedish association of student unions (Sveriges Förenade studentkårer), is very critical of the proposal.

She fears that, in the long run, it could lead to fees for Swedish students as well.

Free education is one of the primary reasons that students choose Sweden. A study carried out last year by Sweden’s National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) and the Swedish Institute found that many may choose not to pursue their studies in Sweden if fees are introduced.

Around 13,000 foreign students study at Swedish universities and colleges as “free-movers” who choose to come to Sweden on their own initiative rather than as a part of an organized exchange program.

Most of them are Asian men who are pursuing technical degrees.

According to the study, 86 percent of students would recommend studying in Sweden to others. If the education cost money, however, only 37 percent would recommend Sweden.