NORDIC: Chinese students deterred by fee costs

A survey of Chinese students' attitudes to study in Nordic countries if they were to be charged full tuition fees has found that the region is low on their priority lists. But this attitude might alter quickly if these students were given scholarships or grants.

The study of 310 students was undertaken during the Northern summer by the Nordic Center at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Most of the respondents were planning to complete their masters degree abroad, and the majority indicated that they wanted to go to the United States, citing quality reasons.

Students were asked to name their top three destination countries. The eight top scorers were, in order of preference: the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, France, Australia, Japan and Sweden.

The survey noted that during 2010, almost one million Chinese students studied abroad, a 24% increase from the year before. The goal of the survey was to find the answer to the question: "Will Fudan students still want to study in Nordic universities when they have to start paying tuition fees?"

The general view was that Nordic countries are interesting but very expensive.

Currently universities in Denmark charge non-European students tuition fees of EUR6,000 to EUR16,000 (US$8,000 to $21,000) a year. Universities in Sweden recently started to charge between EUR8,900 and EUR17,800 for most courses, but more for medicine and veterinary science. Universities in Norway and Iceland charge no fees, while only a few Finnish universities are piloting fees.

Students were asked to rate the reasons for their preferences. The most prevalent were university rankings, financial support provided by the university and the level of tuition fees.

The level of fees was by far the most prevalent reason for not wanting to study abroad, followed by the cost of living.

When asked how they would pay for their studies, 42% said that they would receive financial support from their parents while 31% listed financial support from the host country.

Some 91% of those answering said they would go to a Nordic university provided they were given a scholarship or grant. Asked which Nordic country they would prefer to go to, Sweden was the first choice of the majority, and the reasons mentioned were 'clean and beautiful environment', 'interesting culture' and 'high quality of education'.

The advice of the authors of the report was to charge tuition fees: "Survey results suggest that Nordic universities should probably not build their marketing around free or cheap education.

"The majority of Chinese students who go to Nordic countries go there for other reasons. By charging tuition fees, Nordic universities could strengthen the belief that they offer high quality education."

Of the respondents, 16% had studied abroad in a total of 16 different countries. The average study period abroad was three months. The majority had studied in the US and Europe. Only three had studied in Scandinavia: two in Sweden and one in Finland.

Some 40% of those asked said they would return to China and find work there, while 25% said they would find work abroad in the country where they graduated.