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Sweden: International student numbers on the rebound?

In 2011, Sweden faced a major drop in applications and enrolment for its master’s programmes and “international courses” (at the first-cycle or bachelor’s level). This development came on the heels of significant changes (and challenges) with the introduction in that year of a relatively high application fee and not insignificant tuition fees for students from outside the EU, the EEA and Switzerland (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, July 2011). For 2012/13, however, things may be looking a little brighter. On 8 February, the Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services (known in Swedish as Verket för Högskoleservice or VHS) reported that a total of just over 33 400 autumn 2012 applications had been received for master’s programmes in the country, and 7 241 for its 2012/13 international courses. This represents an increase of just over 27% when compared to master’s application numbers at this time last year (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, February 2011), and growth of nearly 15% in international course applications. Applications from Swedes are up slightly in both programme categories, but a look at the non-Swede applicants by nationality presents even more interesting findings. For example, among master’s programme applicants the number of students applying from Great Britain has grown by 41% from 1 055 to 1 490. German applicant numbers at the master’s level have also expanded, from 1 112 to 1 444 (an increase of 29.8% over 2011/12), and 1 399 Indian students have applied this year, as opposed to 1 100 last year (i.e. 27% more). Meanwhile, the top four countries of origin for international course applicants remain the same as last year, but each has registered sharp drops when compared to last year: Nigeria (down to 444 from 1 167, or -61.9%), Pakistan (-48.5%), Ethiopia (-29%), Bangladesh (-22%). Different from 2011/12 is that Great Britain, Kenya, Germany and Uganda are all newly represented on the top ten applicant countries list for these international courses, replacing Iran, Ghana, Cameroon and India. Clearly, the country is not back to its pre-fee heyday. However, a shifting portfolio of feeder countries may be one key way in which the Swedish higher education system is adjusting to the significant modifications of the last year—and cause for some optimism for the sector in the midst of a challenging period of change. Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services (VHS)