In June, the Swedish government launched a suggestion on separate admission for students with tuition fee liability, something that the Swedish National Union for Students has called “unacceptable”. But Peter Honeth, the close companion to the Minister for Education Jan Björklund, thinks it will attract international students to Swedish universities.
How did you come up with this idea at the department?
– Well, there has been a great request among the seats of learning to arrange this kind of change for international students.
– In fact, that’s something you have to ask them. However, the image that I have is that it could facilitate in the recruitment process of international students and by that also strengthen Sweden’s, and the respective seats of learning’s, competitiveness in getting good international students.
But why would that attract more students?
– The international students will get to know earlier if they’re accepted and the seats of learning can also plan more easily for the amount of students they can accept from non-European students versus Swedish and European students. Today, it is very difficult to make such a plan since you never know exactly how many students will be paying respectively how many students will not be paying because they’re accepted at the same time.
Are Swedish students affected by this suggestion?
– The situation today is that if more paying students are accepted there will be less space for non-paying students. This suggestion implies that it will be possible to plan for how many paying students versus non-paying students can be accepted. Since the financing is completely different it also means that they don’t compete for the same spots.
But one of the main arguments when the study fees were introduced in 2011 was that Sweden should attract international students with quality rather than free education – isn’t then important to guarantee that paying students compete with the same qualifications?
– Absolutely. However, our perception is that it will rather increase the chances of competing for good students.
Because the process of admission will be easier?
– Yes, better arranged and easier to plan.
But have you not considered a separate process of admission for European non-paying students if you are aiming at an increased international competitiveness?
– No, this is exclusively connected to the fact that there are two different types of financing.
Ok, but wouldn’t a Swedish person who also is a citizen of a non-European country be able to pay to get accepted to a program that this person has failed to get accepted to through the other process of admission?
– Hmmm, well, I can’t eliminate the fact that you can cheat the system in some way but fundamentally I don’t think that problem exists.
Critics of this suggestion imply that it is more relevant to go over migration and administrative time limits to facilitate for international students…
– Well, that is something we are also going over but I can’t give any specific information about what we are trying to do in this case. Yet, that is also something that can contribute in facilitating the process of admission.
You don’t think that this could lead to Swedish students also seeing the opportunity to buy a spot at the university. The argument that those who pay don’t cost the state anything must be applicable on Swedish people too.
– No, honestly I think that risk is non-existent. There is no support at all for introducing fees for Swedish or European students, not within any party and neither in the whole of this debate. Thus no, I would say the risk is non-existent.
In what time perspective?
– In a time that is possible to survey.
That’s good to hear.
So, what is going to happen with the suggestion now?
– The aim is to report it in the coming budget proposal but I can’t tell you exactly what it will look like.
But fees for international students are here to stay?
– Yes, there are no signs that the fees will be taken away. It was a large and broad majority who agreed to introduce the fees and it is rather the case that the universities to a great extent support the fee but need help to administrate it.
Text: Annika Skogar
Translation: Mia Söllwander