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Swedish tuition fees for oversees students command reviewing – unregulated internationalisation?

The national radio station (Sverige Radio) in its newest programme Dagens Eko, has raised a critical debate on the pricing structures permeating tuition fees for foreign students studying at Swedish universities. A call to rethink the system stems from findings that the fee levels applied can in some cases double up to twice the cost compared to similar courses, depending on the higher education institution.

On average non-EU students who pursue studies in Sweden , since the 2011 introduction of fees for those from overseas, will need to expend more than 10 700 EUR (100 000 SEK) yearly - with the actual cost of courses often only amounting to half of what universities are charging.  

Sweden’s Minister of Higher Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson, states to take the findings serious and ‘‘will give a mandate to identify how universities are working with setting their fees, but also repayment procedures’’.  She points out how the introduction of tuition fees by the previous government and its accompanying system, has left universities largely unregulated and at their own discretion to individually determine cost structures.  Investigations have also suggested some universities to have incorporated marketing costs, the development of administrative infrastructures necessary for managing the tuition fees and attraction of international students, into the selected price of tuition.     

Uppsala university professor in public law Olle Lundin, believes the system of how Sweden takes and manages tuition fees of overseas students may even be contrary to the Swedish constitution - going against the fundamental principle that everyone should receive equal treatment in all public activities. The Dagens Eko review shows that non-EU students face highly different rights depending on institution when wanting to claim their money back, because of failure to ever commerce their studies, often owed to forces such as declined visas. 

The Swedish student union (SFS) states the number of oversees students to have dropped by 60% since the introduction of study fees and criticizes this new cost structure not to have led to significant improvements in quality as promised, signalling a need for a policy focus on pedagogical innovations.  

The government plans to appoint a committee this autumn to review and improve the internationalisation at Sweden’s universities. A discussion for re-thinking the country’s  higher education as historically free and equitably accessible to all has once more surfaced , however the trend in the Nordics appears to be progressing towards the expansion of tuition fees, Finland recently having followed line for 2017.   

Sverige Radio (Ekot)  – reporting on study fees (only in Swedish)
Sverige Radio (Ekot)  – interview with former education minister Jan Björklund (only in Swedish)