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Sweden: CEOs and university rectors call for scholarship scheme for international students

A group of leaders of Swedish companies and university rectors has called for a new scholarship model to attract more international students. Chief executive officers (CEOs) and representatives from Investor AB, AstraZeneca, Ericsson, Volvo, and university rectors from Gothenburg University and the Royal Institute of Technology have published an article in Dagens Nyheter (DN), one of Swedish major newspapers, in order to draw attention to the low number of international students at Swedish universities and to propose a self-financing scheme for scholarships and grants.

After the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU/EFTA students in 2011, the number of international students for degree mobility plumped significantly from 7 600 to 1 600 in 2011 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, July 2011). In order to curb the shortfall in international student numbers, the Swedish government proposed additional scholarships for international students coming from developing countries, financed by funding for development aid (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, September 2013). Apart from the overall decrease in international student numbers, the DN article also points to the low rate of international student graduates who stay in Sweden. Although 85 % state that they would like to remain in Sweden, only 17 % are granted a residence permit upon graduation.

In consequence, the authors of the DN article call for revised legislation concerning residence authorisation for highly skilled university graduates as well as a new scholarship scheme which would ensure to attract international students in the interest of Sweden’s economy. A number of 1 500 grants could by financed with tax revenues without additional costs if at least 20 % of this number of international students stayed in Sweden for at least five years after graduation. The grant scheme would be decentralised by attributing a certain number of grants to higher education institutions based on the number of fee paying students and the amount of students who become holders of a work permit related to their subject of studies.

The initiators of this call hope that these measures would ensure Sweden’s future competitiveness. However, it remains to be seen which steps the Swedish government is going to take. In view of the upcoming elections in September 2014 it is unlikely that new measures will be soon taken. 

Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish)