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Monday, March 1, 2010

Diversity: Pick your flavor

A few weeks ago, it was announced that starting 2011, tuition fees will be introduced into the Swedish universities, which have so far been free of charge...
A few weeks ago, it was announced that starting 2011, tuition fees will be introduced into the Swedish universities, which have so far been free of charge. This announcement stirred quite a bit of controversy and debate in Sweden. Effectively, Swedes and European Union citizens would still be getting the free education they used to, paid for by the Swedish government, while the new fees affect non-EU citizens. So what's this all about ?

- First and foremost, Swedes believe education is within one's rights, and therefore it must be free of charge. In order not to discriminate on the basis of nationality, education was made free of charge for anyone wishing to study in Swedish universities.

- Student Unions across the country saw this aspect of education as an asset, making their universities highly multicultural, and very attractive, especially that education at the Master's level and beyond is offered in English.

- This situation, however, comes at a great cost to the Swedish government. After all, it is the Swedish tax payer's money that is paying for the education of the world's children, and within the reality of a world trying to come out of an economic crisis, what seemed like a generous gesture on the part of the government now seems more like a hole in the economy's resources, and introducing fees is one way to stop the bleeding. The Swedish tax payer will now only pay for the education of his children, and those with an EU nationality,

Officially, the new law is meant to make the Swedish universities compete more fairly with other European universities. The government meanwhile addresses the student unions' concerns over diversity by starting new scholarship programs for non-EU citizens who wish to study in Sweden.

So what's the issue ? Why am I ranting about this ? Well, to be honest, this is not my issue. The Swedes have the right to determine where their money goes, and while the free education system was a great idea that offered me, and plenty of other students with limited financial capabilities, a chance to get a higher education degree... sadly all good things come to an end.
But here's a thought that I haven't been able to shake off lately... Could this be, even partially, a case of selective diversity ? If someone's trying to say

"We want the Swedish universities to be diverse, but not any kind of diverse"

I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intention of the Swedish government when passing this law, but given the rising levels of xenophobia in the region lately, and the difficulties surrounding immigration and integration, could it be that maybe the answer to all these problems lies the selection of the flavors ?

Can we think of some cultures as Chocolate and others as Mustard: Both are good, but it's best if you don't mix them together ?


March 1, 2010 at 5:07 PM Lara

Well you're totally right Fadi, I mean it can't be just the financial aspect of it, it's definitely the study of multiple factors that make countries come up with such a new law…
It's just sad for people like us, coming from countries that don't provide its citizens with a public yet respectable education...

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