Non-Europeans to pay for Swedish universities

studentsSweden’s famously free tertiary level education may no longer be free for all, with foreigners outside of the EU soon having to pay tuition fees, according to suggestions from the government.

Higher education minister Lars Leijonborg told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper that the government is now in agreement that students from outside the EU, excluding Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein (the EEA countries), should pay to study at state universities in the country.

“Our primary argument is that it is unwise of a country not to benefit from a payment system which obviously exists. Why should these students pay money to American or British universities, but not to Swedish [ones]?” Leijonborg explained to SvD.

Fees might be based on the costs incurred by the individual universities themselves but a stipend system might be introduced to help students lacking sufficient funds to pay tuition.

A bill which includes the proposal is to be presented in the autumn on how university-level international exchanges can be increased and the new system would be implemented on January 1st, 2010, at the latest.

Presently about 13,000 foreign students study at Swedish universities on their own initiative rather than as a part of an organized exchange programme, many of them are Asian men pursuing technical degrees.

But Elin Rosenberg, chair of the Swedish association of student unions fears that it might be a precursor leading to the introduction of fees for Swedish students as well. It might also discourage foreigners from choosing Sweden as their preferred place of study.

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