Foreign student numbers jump despite tuition fees
It was the first time that the number of incoming students had risen since the introduction of tuition fees in 2011 and amounted to 25,400 students, or 7% of the entire student population, according to a study published by the Swedish Higher Education Authority, or UKÄ.
The 3,686 tuition fee-paying students from outside the EU/EEA studied at 29 higher education institutions in Sweden in 2014-15. There was a growth of 800 fee-paying students from the previous year.
When the tuition fee was introduced the recruitment of students from outside the EU/EEA decreased by 80%, as reported by University World News at the time.
Then in 2013 the government enforced a budgetary cut of SEK539 million (US$62 million) on 32 higher education institutions that had received fee-paying foreign students in 2008. The aim was to reduce the budget in proportion to the lower number of study places they had in 2013, because foreign student numbers had fallen since 2011.
By 2014 six of the 29 universities and university colleges that were accepting tuition fee-paying students had tuition fee incomes that were greater than the 2013 government budget cut (Lund University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Uppsala University, Jönköping University and Linnæus University).
Richard Stenelo, international director and deputy executive director of the division of external relations at Lund University, told University World News: “We do have less funding every year, and for Lund University this cut [which remains in place] is SEK41.5 million but the income per year is now around SEK70 million. So for Lund University it is already ‘profitable’.”
Since the introduction of tuition fees, applications by non-EU/EAA students for a masters degree have increased by 25%, while applications for a bachelor degree or a separate course have decreased by 40%.
The tuition fees mostly vary between SEK80,000 and SEK140,000 (€8,610 and €15,070) but some institutions charge higher fees, such as the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm which charges SEK285,000 (€30,670), and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm which charges €26,000 for courses in architecture.
Half of the fee-paying students are attending four Swedish universities: Lund University (578), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (503), Chalmers University of Technology (308) and Uppsala University (301), while the other half is distributed among 25 universities and university colleges.
The students came from 107 countries, 25% from China and 500 from India. The number from India has quadrupled since 2011.
The Swedish government provides around SEK250 million in funding for scholarships and grants for foreign students.
Although only 1% on average of the total Swedish higher education budget is accounted for by tuition fees, some institutions like Chalmers University of Technology and Blekinge Institute of Technology reported income of 4-5% of their total budgets.
Stenelo of Lund University said maintaining the diversity of the student body at his university is their biggest challenge in relation to fees, because not everyone can afford them and they need to ensure they provide a ‘global classroom’ experience.
“We see less African students now, for instance, compared to before,” he said.
Niklas Tranaeus, marketing manager at the Talent Mobility Unit of the Swedish Institute in Stockholm, told University World News: “It is clear that Swedish universities – both older established ones and newer ones – that have invested in international marketing and recruitment are recruiting more international students. But to succeed in the long run, it is also important that international recruitment is well aligned with a university's overall international strategy.”