In several of its recently broadcast programmes, Dagens Eko, a brand new national radio service based in Sweden, has questioned the price of tuition at Swedish universities since fees for similar courses can cost up to twice as much depending on the institution.

The cost of tuition for a non-EU student hoping to study in the region is in excess of SEK100,000 (US$12,200) per year, despite the course they are attending costing half that price to run, Dagens Eko reported.

“It is remarkable that the costs are so high,” said Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Sweden’s Minister of Higher Education and Research.

“The previous government introduced the tuition fees without establishing any regulations for how the courses should be costed, and left this task up to each individual university.”

The radio station’s research has resulted in requests from the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS) for the eradication of unregulated fees on the grounds that they have not bolstered quality assurance within the Swedish higher education system. Jan Björklund, the nation’s former Minister of Education and current Liberal party leader, has also been called to investigate whether students are being overcharged.

The Dagens Eko programme also shed light on the fact that a number of Swedish universities have been using overpriced fees to force students into covering certain PR costs, as well as to build up the necessary administrative infrastructure to handle incoming monetary flow, and attract a greater number of overseas students by using student-paid funds to boost their globalisation schemes.

“It is important for Sweden to have more international students coming here,” continued Hellmark Knutsson, noting that the region’s previous government did not make any “consequence analysis” or lay down the necessary regulations when it came to the cost of tuition.

“In the autumn we will therefore appoint a committee that can find out how to improve internationalisation at Swedish universities.”

University World News reports that Johan Alvfors, Chair of the SFS, believes the government should not wait until autumn for a committee to examine the question, stating instead that “This should be executed by the government as soon as possible.”

He notes that when the Swedish government first introduced the fees back in 2011 (only for non-EU students), the number of non-EU students choosing to study in the region significantly declined by 60 percent, meaning that 5,000 fewer students were recruited from Asia, 1,000 fewer from Africa and 3,000 fewer from remaining global regions.

“Paradoxically, the introduction of tuition fees has not led to a significant improvement in the quality of Swedish higher education,” Alvfors argued, referring to Dagens Eko’s investigations.

He said that last year, Swedish higher education providers grossed more than SEK500 million (US$61 million) from the recruitment of non-EU students, stating that “tens of thousands of Swedish krona can be the difference between the tuition fees claimed for the same courses at Swedish universities”, and urging the government to reconsider a system that treats the international student population as money-bearing ‘cash cows’.

Additional reporting by University World News.

Image via Flickr.

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