SWEDEN: International students shun tuition fees

The number of international students studying in Sweden will fall more than 75% next academic year, following the introduction of tuition fees, according to new figures on the number of advance payments made.

Foreign student numbers will drop by 26,900 this year to 6,300 in 20011-12. Among non-European Economic Area (EAA) students the fall is even more dramatic, with only 1,280 international students compared with 16,600 in 2009-10, the last year of comparable figures.

This is despite the fact that 5,000 non-EEA students were offered a study place at a Swedish university.

Peter Honeth, the Education Secretary, told University World News: "The number of international students in Sweden has increased rapidly over the last few years...not just by being free of charge."

But Daniel Guhr of Illuminating Consulting Group said that while a drop in fee-paying non-EEA students in Sweden was to be expected, the order of magnitude of the decline was troubling.

"There are hundreds of universities worldwide which enrol more international fee-paying students than all of Sweden combined. Evidence-based changes have to be introduced, based on how Swedish universities attract fee paying students, the portfolio of programmes offered, and how admission is processed," he said.

When Swedish universities introduced tuition fees for students from outside Europe, the number of international applicants fell from 132,000 in 2010 to 15,000 in 2011.

Just over 10,000 of the students were offered a study place, approximately half of them non-EEA students who would have to pay tuition fees.

When the 15 June deadline for paying the fees passed, only 1,280 students from outside Europe had either paid the first installment or had secured a grant from either the university offering them a place or the Swedish institute, which is providing a number of such grants.

At Stockholm University 67 students paid the fees, of whom 13 got a grant from the university and 14 from the Swedish Institute.

Out of the 32 other Swedish higher learning institutions accepting one or more fee-paying international students, seven have fewer than five such students. Lund University has 209, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm 144, Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg 121, Uppsala University 108 and Umea University 55.

Currently there are nearly 40,000 foreign students studying in Sweden, around 20,000 of them from outside Europe. They will have to complete their degree studies in Sweden before 31 December 2018. After that they will have to pay tuition fees.

However, doctoral students from outside EEA will not have to pay fees.

International students have had a major impact on Swedish universities over the past decade. There were 41,900 in 2009-10, three times as many as there were a decade earlier. Foreign students accounted for 25% of new entrants to Swedish universities 2009-10 and 7.1% of all registered women and 13.1% of all men were foreign-born.

Several Swedish universities have worked hard to recruit fee-paying students, and they are now adapting to the new situation.

Karin Granevi, Head of International Mobility at Stockholm University, said in a press release: "The numbers show that Stockholm University has attractive courses that international students are willing to pay for. These are coming from 24 different countries all over the world, with most coming from the United States, China and Russia."