FFE Magazine

Swedish academics want more opportunities for international Students

by FFE EU News Staff


Why are more international students needed in Sweden? Here’s the answer:

Why are more international students needed in Sweden?


There had been significant changes to the number of international students enrolling in Swedish schools since tuition fees were introduced in 2011 and, according to some stakeholders, this is hurting Sweden.


Academics and stakeholders in the field of education wrote an open letter in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter last week to lament the decreasing number of non-EU student enrollees in Swedish schools. They said that this could lead to a ‘decrease in [Sweden’s] internationalisation.’


But one solution that could turn the tide is for Sweden to become more competitive to attract more foreign students. This includes having more scholarships, reforming visa laws and setting clearer goals for universities and industries.


The writers of the letter are Carl Bennet (CEO of Carl Bennet AB Börje Ekholm and CEO of Investor), Leif Johansson (board member at Astra Zeneca and Ericsson), Martin Lundstedt (CEO of Scania Olof Persson and CEO of AB Volvo), Pam Fredman (chairwoman of Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund and head of Gothenburg University) and Peter Gudmundson (head of Kungliga tekniska högskolan). According to them, international students are important because they ‘contribute to domestic students’ knowledge’ and are ‘an important part of resource for competency.’


They added that since Swedish companies are largely international, they need to attract new talent. International students studying in Sweden and Swedish students exposed to different cultures become ‘ambassadors for Sweden’ and are ‘important for trade contacts.’


The number of students from non-EU countries dropped from 8,000 to 1,600 or around 80%, bringing down the ratio of international students to 2%. This is alarming, said the writers, because the EU average is 5%. The number of foreign students getting work permits has also dropped: 85% of foreign students said they would like to stay in Sweden, but in reality only 12% stay.


A report from Boston Consulting Group showed that the availability of a scholarship increases the chances a non-EU student will enroll in a Swedish school. Only 20% of students who are granted permit to study in Sweden accept if there is no scholarship. This increases to 70% if scholarship is available.


The report also said that non-EU students prefer opportunities outside Sweden despite the high quality of education and life in Sweden. This is because other countries offer ‘well-formed tuition fee grants for paying students’ and students are offered ‘good possibilities of a job after graduation.’ Residency rules in other countries also make them a better choice than Sweden. To be able to stay in Sweden, foreign students need to find a job before they graduate. But in Germany and the Netherlands, students are allowed a residency of six to 12 months after completing their degree.


The writers offered a ‘new scholarship model’ founded on three principles to increase the competitiveness of Sweden. These are:


  1. Scholarships should be funded by non-EU students who stay in Sweden to work. This fund will be taken from the income tax revenue of the said working group.
  2. Scholarships should be distributed maximally to schools and to the international students enrolled in them.
  3. Fund allocation for scholarships in universities should be based on an incentive model.


Other suggestions include increase in scholarship funding, revision of residency rules and better work opportunities for international students after graduation. The writers said ‘to attract students from around the world it must be clear that Sweden is an attractive country in which to be educated.


‘That requires industry, academia, and the government to take a joint responsibility.’



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