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The (new) costs of studying in Sweden July 8, 2010

Posted by danifarias in Public Interest.
Tags: , , , ,

I chose to study in Sweden for many reasons, but one of the strongest ones was the fact that education is good and free – well, at least it used to be like this.

Some rumors were floating around, saying that Non-EU students would have to pay for tuition fees; last year, this resolution was approved by the swedish government. Starting 2011, residents from outside the European Union will have to pay an application fee, and if accepted, will also have to pay for their studies. For more info, check  the Studera.nu FAQ.

It’s still not clear if the application fee will be reimbursable (it seems it won’t), but the price has already been set: 900sek (roughly 90 euros or 120 dollars). A Sveriges Radio article announced the prices for Uppsala University: the smallest fee is around 10.500 dollars, but may get to 23.500 dollars a year for the most expensive courses, without taking cost of living in account.  Lund University has also announced its fees, all around the same ammount. I still haven’t seen anything about Chalmers or KTH‘s fees.

I’m really relieved for having applied last year; everyone that starts studying before july 2011 won’t need to pay tuition fees till the end of their courses. :)

The swedish fees are equivalent to the fees charged by other european universities; really high for free movers like me. For an american, this prices are ridiculously low when compared to USA’s universities; but for a brazilian or an african, the cost will most likely turn studying in Sweden impossible, even the application fee is really high.

It was also previously announced that the scholarship opportunities will increase, being backed up by the income generated by the fees. There aren’t any news about this yet, though.

It’s a big discussion – one of the main principles of a Master’s course in english is to turn studies global, with students bringing their own experiences from all over the world. Right now there are many african, asian and south american students in the swedish universities, but I believe this number will decrease abruptly in a nearby future. Even students from the US or other richer countries are speaking against this change – if they’re forced to pay, many would rather choose an renowned english, french or german university, where the idiom barrier is non-existant or easier to overcome (you may certainly have a friend that knows a bit of german or french, but finding someone with swedish skills outside sweden is way harder…).

Another point of debate is the quality of the universities – the bigger the prices, smaller the competition for a place, worse students being approved and so on. And finally…well, why are only the non-EU students being forced to pay, and not all the non-Swedish ones?

Some swedish citizens are against the new rules; after all, free education is one of the main pillares of the wellfare state. However, many dislike the fact that immigrants are flooding the country and studying in good universities that are mantained with their tax money. Truth is that the foreign immigrants also pay taxes, help the economy and inject foreign money in the country…

It seems the last european country that offers free education for non-EU students is Norway (but the cost of living there makes up for that).Finland also has some free courses, but they’re already testing changes to the system and some courses are already charging fees. I know Germany is also an option, but there are many restrictions; asides from those, almost all the popular student destinations are already charging fees.

For us, south americans, the best option to pursue studies abroad right now is to look for a local university that is an Erasmus Mundus partner, and keep searching for all the scholarships, exchange programs and opportunities that may appear. If your home university is not an EM partner (my case), everything gets way more difficult.

Let us wait for the new swedish scholarship programs; I hope it’s gonna be something fair, as they’re leading us to believe.



1. Andrei Neculau - July 8, 2010

I read your post, and having been in touch with the admission to Swedish HE, I can say this:

1. Fees are only for non-EU, since EU citizens are supposed to treated as equals to Swedes. Thus, if the fees were to apply to EU people as well, the same fees would apply to Swedes, and the Swedish state is still in favor of free education (at least for its nation).

2. Unfortunately I do not have the right numbers for “cost per student in Sweden” i.e. how much does the Swedish state spend for the education of one student per year, but you can check how the situation is in the US http://www.epodunk.com/top10/per_pupil/
Say on avg. 7000$/student/year, say roughly 50000 SEK/student/year in Sweden. A regular non-EU student that comes is supposed to have 70000 SEK in a bank account per year. Many (I won’t mention nationalities) do not spend that money each month. They have their ways around, legal or illegal, and sometimes disturbing the others that expect a normal and civilized life in Sweden. But even if you spend 70000 SEK every year, how much do you think turns back to the Swedish state through taxes?!
Surely not enough as to “gain” from foreign students..

3. Swedish institutions had in their sight to have as many students as possible, since they received money from the state for each student they have. Thus do not believe for a second that they would deny low-educated students. As long as there are enough places (stretching them to the maximum possible), s/he will get admitted. And this happened, while the quality of education would only get lower – 1 professor to 10 students is beyond doubt of better quality than 1 professor to 50 students. And the quality of the students is distributed more or less the same, I would say, if you do not consider scholarships. If you do consider them, you will surely have a better ratio good vs less-good students.

I, for one, understand very well your situation, as I was non-EU a few years ago. But I do have to say, after living in Sweden, that the measure is a necessity. Both for the Swedish nation, and for the good students that want a high quality education.

Last, but not least, I would like to put a rhetoric question – as a student that I am interested in my education, since it affects directly my own character and my own professional future, how could I be on the same side with students that argue that they will choose other countries that have tuition fees BUT have better weather, or less of a language barrier (9 in 10 Swedes speak more than good English), etc?
Or students that think that the Swedish economy will go down because of fewer foreign students.

One needs to be insane to think that a state like Sweden is taking such a foolish decision. Although I only perceive the surface of the problem, I am still in tune with the Swedish state for engaging in tuition fees. If I weren’t in tune, I would be careful when giving such a strong negative message against this decision.

danifarias - July 8, 2010

1. Brazil also offers free, high quality education on its public universities for students of other countries. There’s usually a quota for students from abroad in some Master’s programs, but once you’re accepted you’ll only need to be responsible for your living expenses, just like in Sweden. This is valid for students from any country that has agreements with Brazil (almost all of the EU is included).
Of course I can’t compare our reality with the swedish one; as the courses are held in portuguese, there’s not much interest from foreigners (many people from Africa, South America and Portugal apply for those places, though.). But this is a 3rd world country that struggles to educate their own citizens – and still welcomes foreigners anyway.

2. I wonder how EU students are more profitable in this aspect than non-EU, then. They pay the same amount taxes as we do, right? Certainly this is not the reason. The “nationality” problem seems to be a way stronger reason though, and that’s pretty much sad. “We don’t like X, so let’s kick half of the alphabet away because of that.”.

3. Even if there are 50 places in a class, the statistics you generated lead me to believe that competition was very high. My course accepted 14 students this year, out of hundreds.
Choosing 14 students out of, dunno, 20, or 50 out of 80, will give them a way smaller number of options. If you’re a good non-EU without money, you’re automatically out (some won’t even apply for scholarships, as even the application fee is very expensive). If you’re a bad student with money though, or just a bad EU guy, at least you’ll have a chance.

Of course I understand that they wouldn’t be making such a move without a strong reason, and I also can’t take people that use climate as a reason to choose where to study seriously.
But I can totally understand people that have money giving up on studying on Sweden to study in a better university somewhere else, and the great disappointment that the move caused over here, where the total cost would be way too high to even consider trying (it was very high already without tuition fees, now it just turned impossible).

My view was negative because for a south american there’s no way of seeing the situation from a good angle. I’m really, really glad I have applied for this term, or else I’d have to give up on all my plans – and that’s what happened for tons of people that were dreaming about it, it felt like a bucket of cold water in the head.

What everyone hopes is that the tuition fees profit will also be used to greatly expand the scholarships, giving the south americans and africans a chance to study abroad once again.

2. love sweden - July 8, 2010

you say why not all non swedish – read and learn, there is a european law, you can not charge any cost to other europeans that you dont charge ur own nationalities, hence dor a swede u pay in UK as a UK person would

danifarias - July 8, 2010

I know that. People complain because it feels like non-EU will be charged to support not only swedish students, but other foreigners too.

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