Enrollment of non-European students in Swedish universities declined drastically following the introduction of tuition fees last year, with engineering students from Asia being among those most affected by the change.
Despite a slight upswing in the number of non-EU students last year there are still far fewer today than in 2010, before the introduction of tuition fees.
Among masters students – the biggest group of non-EU students in Sweden – the drop has been dramatic. Around 4,300 are expected to enroll in Swedish universities this fall, compared to 17,000 two years ago, reports Sveriges Radio (SR).
At the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, the number of new non-EU students enrolled at the school dropped from 1,000 to 300, a trend that concerns Professor Eva Malmström Jonsson
“If it becomes to European, [students] won’t get the preparation they need to be active in the global labour market,” she told SR.
The reduction in students from countries outside of Europe has prompted some universities to appeal to the government to provide more funding for scholarships that can help people cover costly tuition fees.
“If we are to compete over the best students we need to have a good scholarship programme. Other countries do,” Maissa Al-Adhami of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm told Sveriges Radio (SR).
In May this year, an analysis of Swedish university admissions statistics by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) found that the total number of new foreign student enrollments dropped by a third between 2010 and 2011.
Much of the decline, however, consisted of “freemovers” – students who choose to come to Sweden on their own accord, rather than as part of an organized exchange programme – from non-European countries.
“Nearly the entire drop can be attributed to fewer freemovers choosing to study in Sweden,” the agency’s Torbjörn Lindqvist told The Local at the time.
With tuition fees averaging 120,000 kronor ($18,000) there is also a concern that Swedish universities will attract the wealthiest, rather than the most talented, overseas students.
Richard Stenelo, head of external relations at Lund University, has noticed a drop in applicants from countries in Africa and Latin America since 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 SR.
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