The big news amongst the international student community in Sweden the past few days, aside from the snow, has been the decision to charge tuition. Beginning in the fall of 2011, students coming to Sweden from non-EU countries (like the US for example) will no longer be doing so on the Swedish tax-payers krona.
The idea is that the tuition charged should cover the cost of the education which, as of right now, has not been defined. It is thought to be between 60,000 and 80,000 SEK per year (depending on which source you want to use The Local or SVD) but the individual universities will have the final say. To help pick up a bit of the slack, two different scholarship funds have been formed.
I’m pumped. I have never understood the Swedish attitude towards foreign students. Students who come to this country, work for an education, then leave. Let’s me start off by saying that I know school in Sweden isn’t free. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free education. There is rent to pay, books to buy, student fees. There is no tuition though, and that makes the education damn appealing. Instead, Swedish taxes pay for it. I’m not a fan of the high taxes in this country (Sweden had the second highest tax burden in the world just a couple of years ago), but if I get to choose where my tax money goes, education is at the top of the list.
That being said, I also believe there is a sort of social contract that goes along with that education. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, international students receiving their education are often not allowed to fulfill that social contract.
Sweden is notorious for making it difficult to get a job for international students after they graduate. Recent legislation has attempted to ease the restrictions, but a quick look at any Swedish newspaper for the past six months will reveal the continued difficulties for international students looking for work in Sweden.
It’s a shame; students make a choice to come here, to study here, to live here. It only stands that some of them might actually want to work here. Let them. They have the same education offered to Swedes; they might have even managed to get a MVG without a re-test. But so it goes. Which is what makes the current system so asinine.
A system which is tuition free due to tax-payer monies forcing the beneficiaries of those monies to leave the country. Never getting a single öre of ROI. The move to charging tuition is one way of solving this problem. Now, the risk the Swedish government takes by paying for these students is minimized. Paying for the education of others, who never get the chance to put that education to use in this country, is not economically feasible. It just isn’t.
Some people are arguing that this will hurt the Swedish school system. Which to be honest, seems to speak quite poorly of the system as it stands suggesting that the only reason people come to study here is because it is free. They argue that with required tuition, qualified students will go elsewhere and that quality will suffer. You know, like other university systems that charge tuition. Like the US for example. Worthless universities in that country.
While I’m sure there will be a drop in applications in the short-term (the education minister said as much), I’m also sure that the international reputation of Swedish innovation will continue to attract students despite the tuition. I would also argue that charging tuition will raise the standard of students and the quality of student life in general as suddenly those who are applying will be those who truly want to be in the country.
All that being said, if you’re thinking of studying here, get your ass in gear. You have until the fall of 2011. Hurry up. Seriously. If you start your program before the fall of 2011 you will be grandfathered in.
The three big universities are Lund, Stockholm, and Uppsala. Also, check out Study in Sweden, a great website that has already put together a clear and concise FAQ about tuition in Swedish universities.
Welcome to Sweden. And tuition.
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