Surgical strike on Polish places

November 9, 2006

Places to study medicine are so scarce in Sweden that hundreds of students are paying 500,000 Swedish kronor (£36,000) to train to be a doctor in Poland instead.

Both the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and the National Agency for Higher Education have warned the Government about an acute lack of places to read medicine. The agency recommended last year that an additional 320 places were necessary to meet the demand for qualified medical staff.

The Government's response was to allocate an extra 64 extra places for next academic year, increasing the number from 1,080 to 1,144.

A recent study by the Swedish National Board of Student Aid, which handles student loans, reveals that last year 1,429 Swedes elected to study medicine abroad compared with 247 ten years ago. The figure is set to increase next autumn, the board predicted.

In the past, most students who opted to study medicine abroad went to Denmark where, as in Sweden, there are no tuition fees. But the Danes have put a stop to the influx, prioritising home students and forcing Swedish students to look elsewhere.

Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, the number of Swedes studying medicine there quadrupled. Last year, 265 Swedes studied medicine in Poland, while 634 studied in Denmark.

The cost of a Polish degree is not cheap, with all first-years paying e12,000 (£8,000). The next five years of the degree cost e8,000 each, bringing the total cost to 500,000 Swedish kronor. The maximum figure that a Swedish student can receive in loans and grants each year is 133,840 kronor. This only just covers the annual cost of tuition, leaving students to pay for accommodation and other living expenses.

Jessica McMillion, whose father teaches at Stockholm University, is in her third year at university in Warsaw. Ms McMillion chose to study in Poland because she wanted the opportunity to live there - it is her mother's country of origin.

Her father, Alan McMillion, said: "There are mostly Swedes and Norwegians in her classes, but everything is taught in English."

Under Swedish law, doctors educated in the EU are entitled to practice if they can demonstrate the language skills needed to work in a Swedish-speaking environment.

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