Sweden may end free education for non-EU learners

February 17, 2006

Non-European Union students studying in Sweden will face fees of 80,000 kronor (£6,000) a year if recommendations from a parliamentary committee are accepted.

The committee - which includes key educationists, politicians and student representatives selected by parliament as well as MPs - has been asked to assess the viability of tuition fees.

But the Swedish National Union of Students is outraged that parliament is considering allowing universities to introduce tuition fees for non-EU students.

"This could lead to fees for Swedish students," union president Niclas Sigholm said.

Tobias Smedberg, a former union president who was a student representative on the committee, said: "Education is no longer seen as for the good of society in general but something that benefits the individual. As a result, people are beginning to consider whether university education should be funded by the taxpayer."

Although the committee proposed that 120 million kronor be made available in scholarships for non-EU students to encourage them to study in Sweden, the union said that fees were the wrong way to go.

"We believe in the traditional Nordic model of free education for all, funded by the state," Mr Sigholm said.

According to Mr Sigholm, there is a strong case against student fees. "The administrative costs alone would be considerable. Universities would also have to increase the amount of marketing directed at foreign students, and student accommodation (particularly hard to find in Sweden's cities), would also need to be guaranteed for foreign students."

The union said that the proposed figure would make Sweden one of the most expensive places to study in Europe. "We've spoken to foreign students from Pakistan and India already here, and they told us they could never afford such fees," Mr Sigholm said.

The Government said that universities would make greater provision for foreign students if they were allowed to charge fees.

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