SWEDEN: Protests against government reward system

Plans for a new system of evaluating quality which would allocate extra funding to universities according to their students' performance has generated an outcry from the University Chancellor of Sweden, rectors and student unions. But Higher Education Minister Tobias Krantz is standing firm and wants parliament to approve his proposals before the summer.

Under the reform the evaluation of quality would be based on performance indicators, including linking students' results to rewards in the budgetary system when additional resources were allocated to the universities.

Krantz, who wants the changes introduced in time for the start of the next budgetary year, is aiming to improve standards at Swedish higher education institutions.

He said the introduction of fees for students outside the European Union/EEA would release SEK 500-600 million (EUR55-66 million or US$68-82 million) from 2012, and that this money should be made available for the top performing universities for their own priorities.
But the proposals have provoked strong protests from all levels of the university community including rectors, students - and the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, which would be responsible for implementing the new law.

Sweden's University Chancellor Anders Flodström, who is head of the National Agency, has written a six-page examination of how the government's plan deviates from the proposal developed by the agency.

Flodström is supported by the rectors and student unions at Lund and Göteborg universities, who argue in a letter that the proposal is contradictory to the Bologna agreement and not in line with the work undertaken by the agency in collaboration with higher education institutions.

With a general election due to be held in the autumn, the issue is likely to engage the political parties and observers are waiting with interest to see how members of parliament will react to the planned reform.