Sweden introduces tuition fees

Tuition fees on more than one hundred thousand kroner seems to be introduced in Sweden from 2011. That means that Norway will be the only country in Scandinavia where higher education is free for all.

På norsk

- We are upset. This is a step backwards for welfare, and it also dents the viewpoint that Scandinavia consists of knowledge nations where every person has the same opportunities and rights to educate themselves, says Robin Moberg, vice-chairman in the Swedish Student Union, Sveriges förenade studentkårer (SFS).

The tuition was suggested in next year’s draft budget by the non-socialist coalition government in Sweden. The suggestion is that all students from countries outside the EU/EEA have to pay a tuition fee. The fee is to cover the whole study program, and the specific amount of money is to be decided individually by each of the education institutions. Results from Denmark, who introduced a similar arrangement in 2006, show that the tuition fees have come up to an amount of 100 000 Norwegian kroner.

Fears for the principle of free education

- We hope that Norway acts against this attempt at shutting people out of Europe rather than following the example, says Moberg.

The resolution has aroused reactions in Norway, too.

- The initiative is not good. The planning of tuition does not assure internationalizing or the same rights to education, says Anne Karine Nymoen, president of The National Union of Students in Norway (NSU). She fears that the liquidation of the principle of free education is spreading.

- We consider it a frightening development when this has happened in several European countries, and we are worried it will happen in Norway. If that happens, we will fight it.

Lacks reliability

- The Swedish higher education’s resources will be emptied if we pay for the all the international students' education, says spokesperson Eva-Marie Byberg in the Swedish Ministry of Education.

- The 420 million kroner we save on this will be used in the education sector. Our goal is that Swedish educational institutions shall attract students with promise of quality, not free education.

Moberg calls this assertion a piece of nonsense.

- The government fails to promise that the money they save on tuition will gain the universities. Most probably, the universities will lose students, and then there won’t be any money to stem the cuts in the grant. In addition, there are several master’s degree studies, especially in technical fields, that we know are threatened because nearly all the students are foreign. The diversity in the educational system will be threatened if these students disappear. All in all this arrangement will involve a shortage of quality.

Would lose international students

- Norwegian education isn’t poor in quality, but it needs a distinctive feature to attract international students. Today that feature is that the education is free. If this wasn’t the case, the good students would probably go to England to study instead, points out president in International Students Union in Norway, Farshad Tami.

- I estimate that approximately 4 000 students in Norway would be struck by an arrangement similar to the one in Sweden. The universities would earn only pocket fluff from a tuition fee, and most of the 4 000 international students probably wouldn’t be in any economic condition to study here. These students have to show to at least 85 000 kroner in the bank to get a visa.

- An advantage for Norway

Even though our closest neighbors have introduced a fee it doesn’t mean that it’s bad for Norwegian education, claims Tami.

- The students who consider coming to the Nordic countries will probably put Norway as their first choice if the education is several hundred thousand kroner cheaper. Consequently the number of students won’t necessarily increase, but the level of skill on the students who do come, will undoubtedly be higher.

In need of a Norwegian debate

While the introduction of tuition fees in Sweden and Denmark is supported by both right wing politicians and social democrats, no Norwegian parties have yet agreed upon a similar policy.

- The fees have gained support in Sweden partly because of the conservative wind that blows and partly it has become easier to promote it as a quality measure as a consequence of the very limited grants given to the whole sector, says Moberg.

The student organization of the Conservative Party Høyre doesn’t rule out the possibility of tuition fees in the future.

- We haven’t discussed a specific solution in the student organization, but we think that the time is right for a debate on how we are to keep the university sector going, economically. A tuition fee can be a necessary instrument, says Sigve Sand, president for the student organization of the Conservative Party Høyre.

The president of NSU wants to avoid that debate.

- It should be the government’s job to make sure that the education is both good and free. But we still see that the debate about tuitions might be forced through in Norway, too, if the support to the educational sector is pressed even further. That would be a terrible pity, since internationalization is a value in itself, says Nymoen of NSU.

- Will remain free of charge

Toril Johansson in the Ministry of Education and Research thinks that tuition fees still are kept at a safe distance in Norway.

- The principle of free education is fixed in Norwegian law, and it is Norwegian politics' responsibility to make sure that education remains free of charge. We think that internationalization is important, and with a complete budget of 20 billion kroner we count on the sector to be able to handle the students in a good way, also without the extra income a tuition fee might provide, says Johansson.

Emil Flatø • Translated by Ingrid F. Brubaker


10 kommentarer

Tony Tanny

What Norway needs to do to take advantage of the situation is to: 1) Advertise the fact that it is competitive to get into a Norwegian school and subsequently attracts the best students around the world (the best students tend to want to feel special, so they go to schools that have low acceptance rates), 2) That Norwegian schools provide the best possible education available with top notch facilities (for both in-class learning and research), and 3) That Norway believes in providing the best education possible, to the best candidates, for the best price; and no price is better than free.

You REALLY have to drive the fact that the education is top class into the minds of foreigners in. If you really look at it, Harvard does not actually make a lot of money by way of tuition. Their tuition is ridiculously high, but they give out so much financial aid that if your family makes less than 60k a year, you basically pay no tuition. The amount of tuition they actually collect is actually negligible. The tuition is NOT what make top private US schools like Harvard and Yale such great institutions. What make the schools so rich is alumni donations, which allow them to give out a lot of scholarships to top students, who then become wealthy businessmen, who then feel greatful to Harvard for being so kind back in the day, and then they subsequently donate.

Norway doesn't want to charge tuition, so how can they make students feel greatful? First, tell them how much it costs the country of Norway to educate a foreign student. Second, tell them that the moral reason for providing such costly education for free. For example, I'll make up numbers to illustrate my point, "Fact: It costs Norway 40,000 a year to educate 1 foreign student. How much does it cost the student in tuition? Zero. This is because Norway is a country that believes in fostering talent, and we are a country that will provide the best education to the best students for free. This means that it is very competitive. Only 15% of all applicants are accepted." In this way, you let the world know that the education in Norway is of high quality (why else would it cost the country of Norway so much money? $40,000 is no small sum), and there is prestige in going to Norway (only 15% of foreigners get in, that means you feel like an elite). And because the education is free, those who go to Norway will feel greatful to Norway and will donate to Universities in Norway when they become successful.

Essentially, it is my view that schools in Scandanavia fail to advertise how competitive it is to get in, and how much it costs the country to educate the student. People know that there is no tuition, but they don't know exactly what this means. If it only costs Norway 500 dollars to educate a student, then people won't feel as greatful if they know that Norway is shouldering 50,000 dollars.

The tuition itself has very little to do with prestige of a school, a lot of it is how you advertise. Norway has a very good opportunity at the moment to become a very powerful school. You don't have to increase the amount of spots. If there are only 10,000 seats for foreigners, keep it at that amount. Don't accept any more than traditional, but try to increase the amount of applications. So if traditionally only 20,000 apply, and 10,000 get accepted (50% get in), try to increase it it to 100,000 apply but only 10,000 accepted (10% get in). Charge application fee for foreigners to balance out the cost. If you can do this successfully, you will attract the best students possible, and by far will surpass the other Scandanavian countries.

Just my opinion, but i think it is worth a try. How well Norway takes advantage of the situation will depend on how everything is advertised. You can remain tuition free, but give off impression of exclusivity.

Tony Tanny

Essentially, to summarize:

1) Lower acceptance rates, not by decreasing the amount of seats, but by increasing the amount of applications (this will contribute to prestige), 2) Advertise how much it costs Norway to subsidize 1 student for University classes in Norway (this, if it is a high number, will show the quality, because if it costs the Country of Norway US$40,000 per student, the world will think you are providing very high end education. If it only cost Norway $400, people will think the education is cheap and low end), and finally 3) Advertise that it is free (that way, combined with 1 and 2, people will feel greatful, because Norway is very benevolent for providing such an amazing, elite and exclusive education for free). This way, those who go to Norway will brag of Norway when they go back home, and if they become successful, they will feel greatful enough to donate millions of dollars to establish new research centers etc... Oh, and 4) Make it easy for alumni to donate money, don't make it difficult, make sure there is a link showing who to contact etc...


I agree. Charging tuition will NOT make Sweden or Finland a country with better schools. Charging tuition will only make it hard for poor people to attent top schools. Tuition at top schools in the US are not what allows them to hire top professors or have top facilities. As mentioned, they have very well funded scholarships and grants. Poor students often study for free.

Most of Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc... is funded by donations by alumni. The trick, as mentioned, is to create a sense of pride in those who study in Norway. People donate to Harvard not because the tuition is high, but because they are proud to go there. This pride will lead them to brag about the university. This pride will lead them to recommend the school to others, and their children. This pride will lead them to donate large sums of money. This pride will lead their children to want to go there. The hardness of getting in will make students across the world want to be apart of this exclusive class of educated elite of Norway.

The truth is, Norway's education is very high class. But not many people know it. You have to advertise in a way that can capture the hearts of many.


Most of the comments here (including the article itself) are "full of bull".

Toril Johansson in the Ministry of Education and Research says that "The principle of free education is fixed in Norwegian law, and it is Norwegian politics' responsibility to make sure that education remains free of charge."

The law, of course, says nothing about foreign students, and Norway is not under any obligation to provide free education for non-Norwegian/non-EU students.

As for internationalization: Yes, Norwegian education and research needs more internationalization, but not necessarily through student exchange with 3rd world countries. We need researchers and professors from the Western world's leading universities, able to attract students from other Western countries.

As for now, Norwegian education is not attractive to students from other parts of the Western world. It is obvious that most of the foreign students here are non-Western. These are people with bad alternatives, and - as the Swedes have realized now - it is not in the long-term national interests of these countries to fund foreign students from non-Western countries. A lot of resources could be used much better by investing in the country's own population.

Let's take an example: Norway has a lot of students from Russia, studying their native language in Norwegian universities - and with money from the Norwegian Lånekassen. If a Norwegian student wants to go to Russia to study there, it will cost approximately 10.000 USD per year (St. Petersburg or Moscow). Is that fair? Is that a reasonable way of using scarce resources? I don't think so.

Carl J

In the end, tuition is negligible. The amount of tuition collected won't be much overall unless Norway decides to be like Australia. Australia attracts a lot of international students, charge them a lot of tuition, but at the same time, they managed to gain the reputation of being everybody's fallback/backup plan, not the first choice. I have Canadians friends who say that the only Canadians that go to Australia to study are those who can't get into Canadian med schools. I don't know if Norway wants to gain that sort of a reputation at the international stage. To be known as everybody's second or third choice.

The problem with Norwegian schools is their obscurity, not their quality. You want to be able to keep a good reputation, which Norway has at the general level. You also want to make sure you advertise so that more top students know about Norway. I didn't even know Norway provided free education to foreigners until about a month ago! Norway's free education is very enticing to students, but if no one knows about it, how can you use it as a tool to attract top talent? Furthermore, some schools are very good at advertising and convincing me that Norway is amazing, while some schools have aweful websites that leaves a bad first impression. Norwegian schools need better web designers (very trivial point, but first impressions matter to a degree). They need better advertisement (none of the online ads or banners BS, that stuff make your school seem cheap and low-class), but by advertisement I mean word of mouth, news (maybe facilitate a magazine or newspaper to talk about how amazing Norway is) etc...

Usually exlusivity is one way of getting some attention. The Indian Institute of Technology has gotten some attention because of this in recent years. This is despite the fact that they don't attract top international students at all. No sane Chinese, for example, wants to go to IIT... ever. IIT only attracts Indian students. What made IIT impressive is the fact that less than 2% of applicants get in. This establishes a reputation of exclusivity. Norway can do this too. Some suggested by increasing applications, that could work I guess.

Essentially, I think there are more benefits for Norwegian students if the reputation of their schools go up and is maintained rather than charging tuition to foreigners. Charging tuition will not immediately lead to increased reputation that is workable. The University of Oslo won't have more sway on Wall Street or anything like that beause you now charge foreign students 5000 Euros per year. Of course the tuition money can go to facilities or something, but like i said about, not enough foreign students in Norway to make it truly worthwhile. But what if you can somehow increase the reputation or Norway using free education as a weapon? You will benefit Norwegian students as a whole when they enter the international stage. "They went to famous Norwegian schools! They must know their stuff!" This is the kind of thing you want international people to say when they think of Norwegian education. It will benefit Norwegians when they apply for schools abroad or international companies. The problem is, currently, not a lot of people know about Norway's educational standard, Norway is pretty obscure at the tertiary educational scene. Charging tuition might make Norway lose a bit more in reputation as well considering this fact, and I can see why there is reluctance.

However, just keeping Norway tuition free is not enough, you have to do more to promote the brand of your schools. You have to promote the fact that your schools are of high quality to the world in a tasteful way.

Carl J

Essentially, I think it would be smart for Norway to develop a plan to attract students from developed Western countries like Australia, UK, USA etc... Norway has a very strong reputation among developing nations as being a fair and equitable society that provides free education. The question now is: Can Norway become the country of first choice for top students in developing countries?

Norway can definitely use tuition free to their advantage, how you do it is up to you.


Posted elsewhere but very relevant:

The problem with Scandanavian schools is not that they are free, it is the fact that they fail to advertise themselves to developed countries in a sufficient and effective manner. Free can be a very good form of advertisement, but the question is how it is advertised. The educational level provided is superb, and the facilities are at least average compared to most Western facilities, but why do they fail to attract the brightest? Advertisement.

DON'T use the word "free." Like mentioned in the article, free sounds bad. What these countries need to do, rather than charging tuition, instead focus on advertising. Go look at how Cooper Union advertises itself on Wikipedia. Even though it's technically "free" as well (in the same way that the University of Oslo is), they don't use the word free at all. Furthermore, they are effective at making themselves seem pretty elite. They also say To summarize, this is what they say "The Cooper Union is one of very few American institutions of higher learning to offer a full-tuition scholarship (valued at $140,000 as of 2010) to every admitted student." This essentially means the same thing as free, but by instead of using the word free and throwing in things like "full tuition scholarship" and then hilighting the value of the education (making sure people knows its expensive by saying the value is $140,000, which means quality, despite actually being free), it gives a level of prestige to it. And also they put "cceptance rate generally below 10%," which shows that there is competition for these spots. So they must be uber good. I can't find acceptance rate anywhere for Swedish schools, it's hard to know if i'm taking free education cause no one wants it, or i'm being awarded a unique prize.

How do these schools support themselves without the government forking up so much? They don't charge tuition at all, and they don't get a lot of government aid. Well here is how, "A substantial portion of the annual budget, which supports the full-tuition scholarships in addition to the school's costs, is generated through donations from alumni in both the public and the private sector." Essentially, as someone mentioned above, greatful and successful alumni.

Here's another quote that is important: "Its mission reflects Peter Cooper's fundamental belief that education of the highest quality should be as "free as air and water" and should be available to all who qualify, independent of race, religion, sex or social status."

Sweden, Norway and Finland could easily advertise themselves more effectively. They believe in the very same principles that Cooper Union does, and yet Cooper Union has more general prestige than Swedish schools. Why? Advertisement. They just make themselves sound a lot better.

Furthermore, look at Denmark, they've been charging tuition for a couple years now, their rank did not go up... tuition fees charged to a small group of foreigners won't do much good. Reason? Not enough foreigners to charge.

Essentially that's my take on it, lack of advertisement, and lack of skill in the little advertisement that they have. I agree wholeheartedly with a lot of the above. Being free is not a problem, failure to advertise effectively is the main problem. This leads to failure to attract top students from developed nations.


Whether Sweden benefits from charging tuition remains to be seen. What's important is what should you the non-EU student do? Many countries charge tuition. So the question is for the non-EU student - where should you take your tuition money? And what if you don't have tuition money and need financial aid?

My post is directed to the potential college student from a non-EU country

Note that even though Sweden will be charging tuition there is talk of scholarships which is starting to sound something like what happens in the US.

However there is a very big factor which is that Sweden IS NOT the US. Of course apply to as many places as you can afford to pay application fees for - remember many US schools offers waivers so that if you are poor you don't have to pay an application fee, this may be the case in other countries as well but as I understand it this will not be the case in Sweden.

If you are a non-EU student good ol' USA is the best place for you to study with some exceptions which I will go into. Remember your goal in life along with getting the degree, is to actually do something with that degree and to also live relatively happily if possible within your circumstances while using that degree.

My opinion is directed to prospective students from outside the EU who would be subject to tuition in Sweden. Here: don't bother with Sweden (or even Denmark) if you have to pay.

If your English is good enough for you to "pass" TOEFL or you can get an exemption from TOEFL or don't have to take it at all then your choices should be, and in this order:

1) USA - Yes, the USA is the best country in the world... if you are a prospective college student who is non-EU (exceptions later). If you are smart enough you'll go to school for free - or almost free. If you have high SAT, SAT subject or GRE and GRE subject scores you will get good financial aid, and of course if you get into top schools like Harvard you won't be charged tuition if you are poor - which by US standards you are. It's best if you high school grades are good too, however if you score really high in your subject SATs or subject GREs then those can outweigh your high school grades somewhat. If you have very high high school grades but low subject SATs/GREs and your education was in English, the schools might assume your parents bribed someone for those grades and you are really not smart after all. So get good grades in school but also get good grades in the standardized tests - your SATs/GREs are important, with TOEFL you just need to pass - a high TOEFL score doesn't make people think you're smart, just that you know English, make sure you pass TOEFL of course, maybe get it out of the way early on, but focus on SATs/GREs. If you are not that smart you will end up having to borrow money from somewhere. Then again if you are not good at academics then perhaps you can achieve your life goals without college - remember college itself is not a life goal it's what you can do with the degree that's your life goal. If your life goal does not require you going to college, don't bother. If you don't have a life goal, perhaps you should work for a while before thinking about college. And remember if you are not smart enough you will have to borrow money to go to school, and the less smart you are the more you will have to borrow. Oh yeah if you can do avoid those over-priced liberal arts colleges that are not Ivy Leagues, if you don't know what I mean Google it. Of course sometimes because of financial aid packages you might be forced to go to those schools they are better than nothing if you don't have other choices, but just make sure you understand the loans and what it will mean when you are repaying them, these liberal arts schools are not ideal in terms of whether your education will be worth what you pay for it compared to if you had gone to another US school, but things in life are not always ideal.

Nevertheless the good thing with the US is that the quality of education and faculty at college level and graduate school is very high - hey they sweep the academic Nobel Prizes year after year for a reason. But the most important part about a US education is your goals - after all your goal is not just to get the degree, but to use the degree as a tool to achieve your life's goals. It's easier for you to get internships/practical training as a foreign student in the US than for example Sweden, Norway or Denmark. It's also easier for you to get a job after you graduate in the US - simply because there are jobs, you speak the language and people are not resistant to hiring foreigners as they are in Scandinavian countries. After you graduate you have a few months to find a job, however companies come recruiting starting the fall of your senior year and you should also start your job applications then so if you are a foreign student you want to have secured an offer before you graduate. Another good thing is there is less racism in the US. People in Europe want you to go home because they don't know how to create jobs, people in the US want to know whether you can give them an advantage over someone else in which case they will pay you to stay. Assuming you are the same smart kid this will not be a problem.

2)Britain - if you come from a country that has produced terrorists who have attacked the US you might get into a school in the US with no problem and get the scholarships and everything, but you will have some obstacles in achieving your life goals in the US starting with simply getting the visa, then you will have to deal with profiling issues after you finish school - Americans are going to hate me for saying this, but when an American who is not an Arab sees an Arab the word "bomb" crosses their minds - most of them will try very hard to suppress that thought, but it happened - I am sure you understand how this will affect your life socially and professionally. If you are definitely going to live and work outside the US after school then you might be ok with studying in the US, but really don't choose the US if you are Arab - or if you have an Arab sounding name - you saw how a good number of Americans had problems with Obama's middle name being "Hussein" and this is a guy who is both a black and white American.

3)Canada - see Britain, but Canada is a superior choice to either Scotland or Ireland below. 4) Scotland - see Britain (of course Britain and Canada are better) 5) Ireland - see Britain (Britain, Canada and Scotland are better)

6)Australia - If you are from a country that has produced terrorists and you can't get into a school in any of the countries above then Australia is your last resort. If you are from India however then Australia is not for you - obviously you know white people in Australia beat up Indian students for fun because they are not white right? If you are from India and you have the option to do so, choose US you will thrive there and people in the US assume that you are smart as well as good at business. However, if you are Indian but you have an Arabic name this will be bad in situations where people see your name before they see your face, like on a resume, so choose Britain.

I only have experience with English speaking western countries and Scandinavia. I hear that France and Germany are good options too and that there are other schools in Europe where tuition is so low it's almost free, they are definitely worth checking out I am sure, but I don't know much about those countries. Hopefully someone else will provide some info on them. Kids - go get those top scores and Good luck in your studies!


Honestly, being myself a Canadian thinking about going to Norway for doing a PhD, I think most of those replies fail in discerning what is for me, and I think for a vast majority of non-EU potential students, the main reason for wanting to study in Scandinavia: the people. Scandinavia is very well-known worldwide for its quality of life and for its non-violent, respectful and egalitarian culture. I'm sorry but the USA are not.

This distinct culture is what scandinavian schools should focus on to bring the best students in Scandinavia, not merely try to copy the USA or other english speaking Western countries. A lot of people like me, who are good students, are actually looking for options to the american ultra-competitive education and ultra-competitive society. Anyway, their model is going through very tough times now and is thus getting less and less attractive.

I think the priorities should thus be to advertise the fact that Scandinavia has at least 4-5 universities of international level set in countries with cultural preoccupations that talk a lot to younger generations of most Western countries. Also, it would be important to emphasize the fact that it is totally possible to study, even more at grad school, in english in Scandinavia. Loads of people don't realize this and therefore don't even think of Scandinavia as a possible option.

Anyway, whatever you do, please don't try to copy the USA- I think Scandinavia is doing much better the way it is now and you should be proud of it and use it to your advantage.

New yorker

Good luck sweden trying to find international students..Who would shell out 20000 euros for studying a Master degree in sweden? You have lost your niche!


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