Quizzes offer Swedish scholarships as prizes

Sweden aims to rebuild faltering overseas student numbers

August 8, 2013

Source: Alamy

Golden chance: for non-EU students

Swedish universities are using quizzes, competitions and other unusual strategies to help address a shortfall in overseas students caused by the introduction of tuition fees.

When annual tuition fees upward of Skr80,000 (£7,930) were brought in for 2011-12, it led to a 79 per cent decline in new students from outside the European Union.

Particularly badly hit were two-year master’s degrees in the English language that several universities had been developing as part of internationalisation strategies.

Two years ago, the Swedish Institute and seven leading universities joined forces with a Stockholm-based company called Student Competitions to respond to the challenge.

A programme of springtime competitions was launched in Brazil, China and Malaysia, with winners being given a chance to spend time in Sweden visiting companies and universities.

The Brazilian contest required applicants to complete a quiz about “connections and collaborations between Sweden and Brazil” and a quiz about Sweden itself, and to write a personal statement in which they were urged to “pick a Swedish innovation and tell us how it could improve your life in Brazil”. Two winners spent a week exploring the “land of the Nobel Prize, Skype, the three-point safety belt, Spotify and Tetra Pak”.

More focused scholarship competitions, requiring applicants to demonstrate a knowledge of particular disciplines, have now been rolled out in five countries.

The scholarship contests attracted around 10,000 entries last year worldwide (and 5,500 from India alone) and offered 10 winners a free place on a master’s programme at one of a number of institutions across Sweden.

For Gustav Borgefalk, co-founder of Student Competitions, the initiative represents “Sweden’s secret weapon in the war for talent” and provides “a different way of certifying skills and finding golden nuggets. As students compete, they learn about the programmes and about the nation.”

Over and above the 10 guaranteed scholarship places – a number that is expected to double for the next academic year – there is also an indirect impact. Anyone taking part in one of the challenges is given a waiver on application fees to Swedish universities, which has led to a rise in entrants opting to study there. Some participants have secured scholarships from other sources.

Cecilia Hillman, project manager for international student recruitment at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, said she wanted to increase Chalmers’ proportion of non-EU students “both for the quality and environment of the university and to build an international cadre for research”. She observed that such competitions were an important “part of the marketing mix”.

While scholarship competitions in India, China and Brazil offer one student from each country a place at Chalmers, many others who performed well have decided to study there. Ms Hillman estimates that the total may have been 25 students in all (or 10 per cent of the total non-EU cohort) last year.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (1)

Ms. Hillman and others looking to help increase student numbers should visit the following website: www.scholarrelief.com On that website, students showcase their talent and obtain funding by leveraging their social networks. The website encourages students to offer donors creative incentives in exchange for donations. ScholarRelief students can raise money without going into debt and can demonstrate their communication skills and talent to universities and donors!

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show