SYL has made its presence felt outside the House of the Estates to remind the government negotiators about the importance of a student-friendly education policy. We have noted with pleasure that the idea of doing away with the quota for first-time applicants has been met with some interest by the decision-makers. SYL’s goal about removing the quota is also found in the election manifesto of the Swedish People’s Party.
Since 2016, a part of the student intake in higher education has been reserved for applicants that have not previously accepted a study place. The size of this quota varies from degree programme to another, but as a rule, more than half of student intake is reserved for first-time applicants. Although this quota has made more students enter higher education, it is not an entirely good thing.
Before the general election, it was also put forward that plans for imposing a fee for students starting a degree programme of a level they already have would limit people’s opportunities for education. The quota for first-time applicants and charging a fee for a second degree are both ways to punish students for wanting to educate themselves and for their errors in making an unsuitable choice earlier on. The grounds for quotas and fees are also based on the misconception of students just being greedy for new degrees. This is simply not true.
The reasons for studying for another degree can be varied. Such decisions are often made by no longer being interested in their current studies or wishing to find employment in another field. Changes in life situation, such as moving house or having children are other common reasons for applying for another degree. Changing degree programmes within a university is often difficult, which is why people in such a situation apply for a totally different degree through the joint application procedure.
Quotas and fees exact a heavy price for human error. Having a quota for first-time applicants for selecting a field after secondary education makes it more risky and forces many to resort to tactics with student admissions, and also increases pressure. Charging a fee for a second degree would enable those with thick wallets to choose this route, and would only postpone tactics to the stage before graduation.
Everyone should have the opportunity to study as much as they have the capacity and motivation for. This is a principle that has been held in high regard previously. Now, earlier mistakes with starting places and their funding are being fixed with limits, as there are not enough study places. Universities must have room not only for first-timers but also for people who wish to pursue new avenues.
The sustainable solution for improving the position of first-time applicants is to increase the number of starting places and providing sustainable funding for them. Another effective way is to increase the role of entrance examinations and free admission courses in student admission, because they give applicants a better idea of their suitability and genuine interest in the subject, better than simply choosing applicants on the basis of their certificates. We should also improve the possibility for changing to another field of study within a university and between universities, with sufficient support services for this, as this benefits everyone.
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