Studying in Swedish car repair shops

Nieuws | de redactie
2 februari 2012 | A number of fake colleges have sprung up all over Sweden. Public officials attribute this to the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students and recent raids in the UK. “Anyone can start anything and call it a university. It is like setting up a hot dog stand,” comments Lennart Ståhle of SNAHE.

This academic year, Sweden started charging substantial tuitionfees to non-European students ranging from 100.000 kronor (€11.000)and 230.000 kronor (€25.000) per annum. The consequences werealready felt when applications from this group of internationals decreased by 90%.

For the upcoming year demand slightly recovered. Nevertheless, Sweden might now faceanother side effect of introducing tuition fees for foreigners. TheSwedish National Agency for Higher Education (SNAHE) reports arecent rise in fake colleges all over the country.

It is like setting up a hot dog stand

“Anyone can start anything and call it a university. I usuallysay that it is like setting up a hot dog stand,” commented LennartStåhle of SNAHE. “At the Swedish National Agency for HigherEducation we can’t have an opinion when it comes to this and theycan establish themselves here as long as they follow Swedish taxlaws. It is like any sort of business venture.”

The issue: In the past, Great-Britain was an attractive locationfor dubious education institutes to set up their business. Aftervisa and exam fraud scandals like the one leading to the shut-down of the University of Wales however,British regulators have become more alert.

The business concept is simple. Foreigners are offerednon-accredited degrees in a renowned country for discount fees.That is also why “Sweden has become an interesting market. Theseschools say they only charge half of what Swedish universities arecharging. They are using our good name, as Sweden is seen as atrustworthy country to study in,” stated Ståhle in an interviewwith newspaper Sydsvenskan.

Non-existent libraries and car repair shops

Sydsvenskan investigated this issue revealing that some of thesecolleges indeed offered an interesting environment for learningexperiences. While one of them claimed to provide class rooms and acafeteria, the college was in fact situated on top of a car repairshop. Another boasted with its excellent library facilities whilethe pictures turned out to be made inside of the Stockholm CityLibrary.

Despite these irregularities, Ståhle said that his agency couldnot move against such institutes as long as they do not offeraccredited Swedish qualifications. “We can’t make an officialjudgment on any of these ‘colleges’. We don’t control them. Theyare none of our business, so to speak.”

That tuition fees for non-EU students create incentives fordubious organizations might be of particular interest to anotherEuropean country. Germany is priding itself of catering to anever-increasing number of international students. To finance this,Margret Wintermantel recently advocated charging overseas students for thecosts they create.

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