Extra everything for paying students
More than 1500 overseas students have paid the registration fee. A decent figure, Tina Murray believes, Head of International Relations, together with Vice-President Eva Malmström. Now, one needs to keep interest alive about KTH among the students. For example, by offering an attractive package of student housing, jobs and free healthcare.
"During the summer, we will know how many students from outside the EU/EFTA countries will be coming here in the autumn," says Tina Murray, Head of International Relations.
It's definitely a big change. From 1 July this year Sweden will introduce fees for non-European students who wish to study at colleges and universities. The reason is that the government wants Sweden to compete on quality rather than on the provision of free education.
At KTH, the academic fee is set at SEK 245,000 for the architecture programme and SEK 145,000 for other international Masters' programmes. Quite high, according to Tina Murray, but other Swedish technical training programmes are around the same level.
"Most EU countries have some form of tuition fee," she says.
"We have not heard people say – ‘Oh now they are charging tuition fees’ - But rather, students have wondered why we have not charged tuition fees before," she says.
Notification following residence permit
According to figures from VHS (The Swedish National Agency for Services to Universities and University Colleges) about 5300 people outside the EU have applied for KTH's international Master's programmes this year. Of those, a total of 1526 have paid the deposit of USD 900. Their competence is now being examined and around 20 March, acceptance letters will be sent out.
Fees for the first term must be paid in advance by June 15, which is the deadline date so that the Immigration Service can process the applications for residence permits.
"When the fees have been paid and the permits have been granted, then we will know exactly how many people will be coming to KTH. So now you have to keep those who have signed up "interested" through various information activities," says Tina Murray.
Vice-President Eva Malmström is the manager of KTH's International Advisory Group. She has not yet received figures from VHS as to how many fee-paying students have applied and paid for each programme, but she says that she will be monitoring and analysing the results.
"The Master's programmes that have both few fee-exempt students and few paying students will be put under the microscope a little extra. It is likely that programmes with an overall low number of applications will disappear next year," she says.
Scholarships for prioritised countries
The paying students will be offered a special service package.
"We are looking at a lot of things. Among other things, a housing guarantee for two years, a rental guarantee, health care and insurance," says Tina Murray.
The possibilities are also being explored as to whether it is possible to offer students work on the campus. An international student counsellor will be recruited and students will also have access to extended support from a personal mentor.
The Government has allocated SEK 60 million for grants to non-European students; these grants will be managed by the universities themselves. KTH receives by far the most - SEK 5.4 million per term for a four term period. All fee-paying students admitted to KTH are automatically nominated for a grant. Whether or not they receive the grant is based on academic merit.
"There are a number of grants that will cover either all or part of the fees," says Tina Murray.
Brazil, India, China and Southeast Asia (Thailand and Vietnam), are countries and regions that are prioritised by KTH. Partly because there is well-established educational and research collaborations, and also because these countries are judged as being important for Swedish companies. For these countries there are a certain number of guaranteed grants, provided that applicants demonstrate academic excellence.
Low amount for aid countries
There are also funds provided via a number of assistance grants, which cover both tuition fees and living expenses. The Swedish Institute has received a total of SEK 30 million per year for distribution. In practice this means that they can distribute a number of grants, earmarked for students from Sida's 12 prioritised aid countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Applicants from these countries may not be eligible for government grants, which both Tina Murray and Eva Malmström think is unfortunate. The amount set aside for assistance grants is too low, they say.
"At the moment at KTH we have, for example, many students from Bangladesh and Tanzania. The introduction of tuition fees means that in future we'll see fewer students from countries receiving aid in general in Sweden and at KTH," says Eva Malmström.
Tina Murray is rather surprised that very little in terms of an economic analysis has been carried out regarding the imposition of fees and what it means for Sweden.
"One consequence that we regard as rather serious is the new influx of research studies, which often consists of international students from these Master's programmes. There should be a continuous evaluation process to adjust to what is not right," she says.
Erasmus Mundus has provided experience
The coordination of large externally funded cooperation programmes such as Erasmus Mundus has provided International relations with valuable experience which will now come in handy.
"Many of the issues we deal with are about international students in general, irrespective of whether they are exchange students or whether they are paying students," says Tina Murray.
With the introduction of tuition fees, KTH and all other Swedish universities will now have to compete on a global education market. Eva Malmström thinks that what will attract students to KTH are the University's excellence and its close ties to trade and industry.
"There will certainly be some tough, but also exciting years. We need to learn new game rules and understand the parameters that are most important. And we must push the development of both education and student services, which will benefit all students in the end," she says.
Text: Susanne Rosén