Sweden turns its mind to fees

August 6, 2004

Sweden's long-term status as a tuition fee-free zone may be about to change as universities struggle to finance their activities.

Lars Bergman, president of Stockholm School of Economics, said the university may introduce student fees.

Undergraduates at the highly rated semi-independent School of Economics - the first Swedish university to be fully accredited by the European Quality Improvement System - receive free tuition - as do students at Sweden's state-funded universities.

But Mr Bergman believes they should contribute Skr20,000-Skr35,000 (£1,400-£2,500) a year towards their education.

"A lot of our graduates go on to earn top salaries once they're out in the labour market," Mr Bergman told Dagens Industri the leading business newspaper. "I don't think it's too much to ask students to share the burden of paying for their education with the taxpayer."

Thomas Lavelle, a senior lecturer in the department of modern languages and humanities, said many staff at SSE support the case for fees.

"Unfortunately, the state funding and endowments we receive don't really cover the work we're trying to do. Fees would certainly help us to maintain our tradition of small-group teaching and increase the amount of student-staff contact time," he said.

Golnaz Hashemzadeh, president of the student union at SSE, is opposed to fees. "It's a question of access. It should be based on grades and qualifications. It would be a dreadful shame if talented students were put off studying by the introduction of fees."

If SSE introduces fees, it is unlikely in the short term to affect state universities. But the success of such a move would make the Government rethink university funding.

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