Foreign exchange students lose dibs on earmarked apartments in Sweden

Foreign exchange students lose dibs on earmarked apartments in Sweden
The coronavirus crisis may make it harder for foreign students to move to Sweden. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Swedish universities predict an increase in domestic students next semester, but a decrease in new foreign students. And the competition for housing is expected to be fierce.

Another 1,300 university places have been allocated by the government to students in fields with a skills shortage, such as teaching and nursing courses, in addition to a previously announced 1,300 new places.

But the decision means that the competition for accommodation may be even tougher than normal.

In 2018, 410,228 students were registered at Swedish universities, around 4,700 more than the previous year. There are 96,990 student rooms or student apartments available all across Sweden.

Around 5,000 rooms or apartments are usually earmarked for foreign exchange students and guest researchers. But according to a new government decision, universities will be able to rent these out to any students next semester, to compensate for an expected decrease in the number of international students.

“If universities had been forced to cancel apartment contracts it would have damaged internationalisation in the long run. With this solution we avoid a situation in autumn where student apartments are left empty when there is a shortage of student housing in most university towns,” said Matilda Ernkrans, minister for higher education and research, in a statement.

In the 2018-2019 academic year more than one in four new students in Sweden were foreign students. That year Swedish universities admitted 23,800 new students from abroad, of which 12,800 were exchange students.

That number is expected to drop this autumn, as a result of coronavirus restrictions on overseas travel.

Until this week an entry ban has made it impossible for new foreign students from outside the EU to travel directly to Sweden, and distance teaching at many universities makes it hard for non-EU students to keep their student permit.

According to Studentbostadsföretagen, an industry organisation for student accommodation in Sweden, the number of foreign exchange students and guest researchers may drop by anything from 30 to 70 percent. It is still unclear how many foreigners who have applied to study in Sweden will actually be able to enroll.

“Many have applied, but we'll have to see if they turn up in August. If there's distance teaching this coming autumn, foreign students may have a hard time with their residence permit, and there may be travel restrictions,” Stina Olén, chief executive of Studentbostadsföretagen, told Swedish news agency TT. 

The new rules for foreign exchange student accommodation will apply for a year from August 1st.


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