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Nordic countries update mobility compensation agreement

Most countries regard high levels of inbound mobile students as a good thing, especially where they generate income from tuition fees. Though, increasingly, some find that there can be too much of a good thing. Among them is Austria, which feels flooded by German students, and Wallonia, which trains many thousands of French citizens in paramedical studies. In order to stem the tide, Austria has temporarily introduced quotas for EU students in medicine – which required the consent from the European Union (EU) Commission since it limits the free movement of people in the Union. Other countries are thinking about financial compensation schemes. Very few know that a scheme of this sort has been operated between the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) already since 1996.  At the end of October, a new agreement of this sort was signed by the education ministers of the five countries in Helsinki. The most important change: the per capita amount rises.

How does the compensation mechanism work? Let us assume that there are, in a given year, 5 000 Norwegian students studying in Demark, but only 3 000 Danes studying in Norway. In this case, Denmark receives a compensation amount for these 2 000 students. The new agreement, which will enter into force at the beginning of 2013, fixes the annual per capita amount. While the sum was originally symbolical (the equivalent of a few hundred euros), it will be 22 000 Danish kroner (EUR 2 950) in 2013, and 30 000 (EUR 4 020) in 2014. This is not yet covering full cost, but it is a steep increase on the amount charged in 1996.

Interestingly, the arrangement would be incompatible with the rules of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers, if the students were to pay the amount as a fee. This would violate the principle of equal treatment of citizens from the five countries. What made the deal possible is that the governments pay, not the students. Could an arrangement of this sort be a model for the EU, too?

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