Swedes leave Danes in pain

August 10, 2001

Swedish medical students attending Danish universities are giving Denmark's education and health ministers a headache.

Although Denmark lacks doctors, Copenhagen, Aarhus and South Denmark universities enrolled 25 per cent more Swedish medical students this year than last year, so they have 166 Swedes among their 1,119 new medical students. Last year they had 133 Swedes out of 1,066 places, the year before that 98 out of 1,014.

More than half the Swedish medical students go back home to practise after their studies. This leaves Denmark with a high bill - about Dkr 50,000 (£4,125) a student a year - and a staffing headache.

"It's very important that we keep foreign doctors in the Danish health system," health minister Arne Rolighed said. "We need every one of them so we can offer Danish patients the best possible treatment."

Norwegians and Swedes, who face tougher entrance requirements at home because there are fewer places, can apply to study in Denmark through a pan-Nordic agreement, which means Danish students face increased competition for places. About 1,000 medical student applications were rejected this year.

Danish complaints about the situation to Sweden and Norway earlier this year led to a fairer system for translating university entrance exam marks, and fewer Swedes.

Margrethe Vestager, the Danish minister of education, said: "Copenhagen University would have accepted 160-170 new Swedish medical students if we hadn't made the changes. In fact, only 101 were accepted."

A similar problem with Norway in 1996-97 was resolved when Denmark gave Norway a quota of 61 medicine places. That pill cannot be used with EU member Sweden, which is guaranteed free access to higher education. But Sweden is adding 100 medical study places, which should lead to fewer Swedish applications next year.

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