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Competitiveness / Education & Research



Perpetual fall in international students to Sweden start worrying some businesses

Friday, 22 March 2013
The reduced number of foreign students at  or vying to study at Swedish universities can cause long terms problems for Swedish companies and other research related academic programs that need the mix of various skill input. As international students shy away from Sweden, could it be blamed only on the institution of tuition fees?

Tomas Qvist head of human resource of the Swedish telecoms giant, Ericsson in Sweden has stressed the need for the authorities to do more to encourage international students to study in Sweden. He made his mind clear on radio Sweden on Friday.

He pointed that the effects of reduced number of international students to Sweden means that Sweden looses out on the mix of what the international environment would look like as Sweden goes out to look for market for its products. Also these student come in rich with knowledge which can be transferred to Sweden especially in areas where Sweden lacks skills.

"We depend on these talents, like many other companies. We see that as the range of people who are studying at the technical colleges go down,  we have concern for the future where we will find it hard to get the talents for our continued engineering development," he said to radio Sweden.

In the autumn of 201l, Sweden introduced tuition fees for foreign students from outside the EU, who wanted to study at Swedish universities. Immediately, Sweden lost almost 80 percent of these students. Last fall, they were less than 2 000 international student studying in the country's universities.

This is not the first time companies have cried out about the effect of making it hard to attract international students to Swedish universities. Even some Swedish students feel that studying in a school with few students from other parts of the world make their studies less challenging and the environment less interesting. Student union activities or debates which are all dominated by Swedish case studies does not reflect what happens in the international business environment where Sweden which relies on exports has to master. This knowledge comes from international students who bring new perspectives and approaches  as well as their cultures to enrich Swedish exporters and businesses at home.

It should also be pointed out that these students also consume lots of products in Sweden then contributing to the spending in the Swedish shops and the GDP.
However, there are those who feel that implementing tuition fees was a wonderful idea. Magnus Henrekson who is president of the Institute for Industrial Economics research thinks it is logical that Sweden should charge fees for students who want to study in Sweden.

"For a number of years now Sweden has received students from India and Russia... They have been good, very driven and love to have stayed here and had seen a better future than returning to their home countries," he said, and continues "it has been a good recruiting base for Ericsson and other companies. Meanwhile, it is also logical to start charging for students coming from outside the EU. It is a dilemma that we do not know the solution for real."
Magnus Henrekson continues that the old system in which Sweden allow international student to come and study here free other than its own citizens, was not sustainable.

But Tomas Qvist is concerned. Although Ericsson now is laying off more workers in Sweden rather recruiting, the company in the long run will need to count on the ability to recruit good engineers. and these good engineers come from universities where there are a mix of Swedish and international students.

There has been talks of scholarship for non - EU students but that does not seem to have attracted interest. The fees are very high and there are actually fewer practical operational opportunities in Sweden where student can study, and works and gain more experience from companies while also interacting with the Swedish people.

In addition, the rise of the far rights politics in Sweden and its growing strength in the Swedish society and the coldness of the Swedish people toward immigrants, especially those of different skin and hair colour could be another deterrent. One reason why international education in the UK for example is so worth the money is that, among all, the tolerance and the acceptance of the British people of people of other races. The country also has a very strong race relations and any racial abuses considered in Sweden as jokes are taken in Britain very seriously. This gives comfort and protection to the non-whites European students.

For now, Norway and Finland are benefiting from the students who are not going to Sweden.
by Team

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