”The Student Fees Have Been a Botched Work”

”The Student Fees Have Been a Botched Work”

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Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research. Photo: Press.

Sweden needs to be more international and increase its contact with the rest of the world. That is the opinion of Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research.

By Jacob Andersson   Translated by Carl-William Ersgård

Helene Hellmark Knutsson is convinced that Swedish higher education will improve with increased internationalisation. Thus, she has launched an investigation to present a national strategy for how that will look.

“Internationalisation is about increased collaborations with universities in other countries, more foreign researchers and doctoral students in Sweden, and more Swedish students abroad”, Helene Hellmark Knutsson says.

Appointed to lead the investigation is Agneta Bladh, chairperson at the Swedish Research Council. In January 2018, she is to present goals and a strategies, with the final investigation to be concluded in October 2018 at the latest.

“For Swedish students, it is about discovering the importance of experiences from other countries. This is something that must happen”, Helene Hellmark Knutsson says.

European goal of 20 %
In Sweden, fourteen percent of students graduating in 2014/15 had studied abroad during their education, which is far too few according to Helene Hellmark Knutsson. The EU has a goal that by 2020, twenty percent of all students graduating in Europe will have done at least part of their studies abroad.

Among social studies and teacher students, the number of students studying abroad is the lowest. Only around four percent of these students have done part of their studies abroad.

Among the students going abroad from Sweden 2014/15, women made up 59 percent. Among the students coming to Sweden that same period, men made up 62 percent. But the investigation has not been tasked with figuring out how the selection to foreign programmes are to take socio-economic background, gender and ethnicity into account.

Critical of student fees
Among the foreign exchange students in Sweden from another country, two problems are mentioned that the investigation will look into. One of these is the student fees that were introduced in 2011.

“The student fees have been a botched work, with dramatic consequences”, Helene Hellmark Knutsson says.

She hopes that there, in the future, will be a possibility for Swedish universities to pay for students coming to Sweden partly or fully out of their allocations. Helene Hellmark Knusson holds that the way student fees currently work, they serve as an obstacle for increased internationalisation, a standpoint that is strengthened by the fact that applications from foreign students dropped by eighty percent the same year that fees were implemented. After that, however, applications have been on the rise again.

She is also critical of the so called self-cost principle which makes it possible for Swedish universities to individually set the student fees for foreign students in Sweden. For example, Lund University has higher fees than Malmö University, which Lundagård has reported on before. What is included in the student fees is something that also needs clarification. 

The application process at the Swedish Migration Agency causes problems
The second problem faced by foreign students are the long application process for a residence permit at the Swedish Migration Agency. According to Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, this has led to several students having to discontinue their studies.

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