SWEDEN: Universities call for fee delay

Top university academics have called on the Swedish government to delay plans to introduce fees for foreign students.

The pro-rectors of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Lunds University and Gothenburg University made the call in an article in the Swedish newspaper Göteborgsposten. Introduction of fees would put universities at risk of losing out in their international networks and worldwide contacts which had taken years to establish, they wrote.

"Look to Denmark which lost 90% of its international students when introducing fees without a proper preparation by the universities," the pro-rectors declared. "Many courses in English at masters level will have to be cut because that is where the foreign students are, and Swedish students will prefer other courses."

The loss of foreign students would affect Swedish students because they would lose the international experiences gained from studying with others from abroad. As well, the courses were often unique in covering multidisciplinary fields of climate research, public health, environmental technology and others, they said.

The government said it would not provide additional grants if foreign students do not come. The reduction in the budget for 2011, the university leaders said, was estimated at SEK 500 million (EUR48 million or US$72 million) and fees from foreign student were expected to compensate for this loss.

"Follow Finland," the leaders said. The Finns are now trying out an experiment with fees for foreign students at some universities to gather data on how the system would work so institutions would have time to prepare.

"Slow down now and follow Finland's example, that is our proposal," said the pro-rectors. "That will give the institutions a chance to prepare and take responsibility, defend the fruits of internationalisation harvested through hard work and also develop our own grant schemes for foreign students from our own donations and funds."