me, myself & andrei

22 Feb 2009
Lund, Tuition Fees and Denmark

Recently, a comment was left on my blog, linking to a Lund document on the future tuition fees for Sweden.

After clearing it with the author, John Wedderburn, English Web Editor at Lund University, I am posting down some comments and views.

  • It’s very good to see university people taking steps to analyze the future situation with a clear head, and not only figuring out how to do damage control.
  • Very true that Sweden is a new player and cannot compete as equal with the UK, the US and even Germany, yet Sweden has a whole bunch of unique things to offer. So a planned and bold step can do magic, I’d say.
  • I am reluctant to agree that there’s a serious oversubscription these years, that preceed the fee system. I think it is merely the word about Swedish education that traveled fast during the last couple of years, which put the pressure on the admission process. Last year, it was after the application deadline, that there were news regarding the tuition fees. So last year wasn’t influenced by the future tuition fees. This year’s admissions are the first under that influence. It will be nice to see the statistics, but I have a feeling that the increase in number of applicants is not substantially larger.
  • I remember last year that although there was a large number of applications, lots of applications didn’t meet the pre-requisites. I cannot understand why would someone want that? And I’m asking that because I know from the community that lots of those pre-requisites haven’t been made clear. Thus many applications have been undermined right from the start.
  • I am also reluctant to agree that this will influence that international atmosphere so negatively as to actually consider it. I have no idea if it is only the situation of IT campuses, but there are many Chinese, Pakistani, Indian and Iranian students. These four nationalities may arguably take up to 60-75% of the whole student body for some programmes. By introducing fees, the cultural diversity may increase and it would put pressure on the need to actively engage in mixing, rather than building isolated groups. I am not speaking against or for these nationalities, just stating a fact.
  • International programmes becoming predominantly EU-programmes - there is a risk for that, and I personally vote against it. If there would be a percentage split, I’d see around 60% non-EU, 25% EU, 15% Scandinavian as the perfect split. Having no Scandinavians in the programme has a seed of segregation in it (I have one by mere chance in mine). The same with EU (I am the only EU, non Scandinavian in mine). Once again, I’m not speaking against or for any nationality and I’m giving the above percentages only to state that diversity would be highly appreciated.
  • Needless to say that central application system (studera.nu) needs to work at high parameters, and that’s not only for those who pay fees - non-EU. I’d say that if Sweden markets agressively the free tuition inside the EU, and then keeps the low-level studera.nu as it is, then Sweden will once again undermine applications of highly skilled EU students, that will get the wrong picture of Swedish education and will choose different.
  • I would like to see an application fee. That will leverage the number of applicants that haven’t thought the process through. Even with tuition fees, there will be lots of applications from people that will hope for a scholarship to be awarded. Once again, I stress that the number of applications will decrease, but for sure it won’t reflect the real possibility of people to pay tuition fees. People will try their luck anyway.
  • “The process of dealing with applications must be seen as an integral part of the marketing effort.” - I am not marketing my skills here, but certain skills that my generation has. I would like to see students involved in the application, admission and induction process. And when I say involved, I am not saying “consultants”, but closer to co-management positions where their word actually values something.
  • I very much like the idea to convert exchange students into fee paying students!

John mentioned Denmark as a place to learn from (they instated tuition fees in 2006).

While I cannot reveal the sources of the following information, nor to go into details, Denmark confirms my intuition that while the number of applications will decrease significantly, the number of admitted students will be quite stable, and with good planning it will actually be possible to increase (the case of one Danish university).

Also, the number of exchange students will increase as universities will look more carefully into attracting students. This can only be benefitial for both parties. And there’s another key detail to this tuition fees story: the number of drop-outs. Students are prone to drop-out when there’s no tuition fee, because it is a window towards getting a visa. At least this is what Danish history tells us.

Without further due, here’s John’s document.


Andrei