The right to free tertiary education

Recently I attended a public speech given by the Prime Minister of Sweden Goran Persson, at the end there was a question and answer section, here is a transcript of the question I asked him. This was (wonderfully) provided by (the poorest paid member of the New Zealand press gallery) Keith Ng (of Salient). Many thanks Keith.

Greg Stephens: Prime Minister, you said that you aimed to get 1-in-2 people into tertiary education, how key is the 'no tuition fees' policy to that? And how key is it to long-term economic growth for Sweden?

Goran Persson (Prime Minister of Sweden): You asked about the tuition fees?

GS: ...for tertiary education.

Helen Clark (Prime Minister of New Zealand): [I take it that's for students.]

Chair: How important is it that there's no fees?

HC: They all take out a loan.


GP: It's extremely important, it's a question about if we should be able to have 50% of the cohort leaving the secondary level and going to universities, we must be able to reach everyone of those who are capable to do so.

And the capacity doesn't always link to the parents' income, to be honest. And many of us have a completely different background. And our experience is also that we can do something in the university system. But if we don't have generous support, economically, we will not enter.
Or we will stop and try to finance it on our own, and most of us will fail. Some will be successful, but we can't afford losing those young men and women. We need them, and therefore, they should have economic support that doesn't make it necessary to have rich parents.
So, looking from the society's perspective, it is extremely (inaudible) to have young men or women fulfilling their university degree. That's the best thing you can have today. And to lose those who cannot afford the tuition fee [for] education is very short-sighted.

So for us, this is an investment, and we have been able to create a revolving system of having had it for many many years, so it's a relatively small burden on the public finances. The older generation who have had fulfilled their exam, have a good job, they pay for their debts, and the young generation, they have generous loans with little interest rates, and that system is financed by the older generation's payment. [It's] a revolving system. And on top of that, we also add a contribution that you don't need to pay back.

In Australian dollars, it is around $1500 per month that you have when you go for university studies. Of those $1500 you borrow, you have to pay back $1100. $400 is contribution that you don't need to pay back. But you need to know about Swedish level of costs also to be able to (inaudible) about it. But it's relatively generous.

And the social problems... you inherit your parents' social behaviour, no doubt, and very few of us are strong enough, on our own, to break with the old pattern. And it's obvious we still have a problem where we don't see many enough from ordinary working-class homes going to the universities, even if we can see now that it is going in the right direction quite quickly, not least the immigrants, who belong to those who are most vulnerable on the labour market. Their daughters and sons are coming to the universities. That might be the crucial advantage for Sweden in the coming years.

That was the question about tuition. You had one more?

GS: [Uh, you covered it already].


Interesting. Unless I'm misreading things, I'm actually surprised (in a disappointed way): I'd have thought Sweden was a place where tertiary education was free. But at 1500$/month it's nothing like it.

Or did I miss something? 

Posted by WhyNot
2/17/2005 09:44:00 am  
It is free, they are paying for there living costs not tuiton fees 

Posted by Greg Stephens
2/18/2005 12:24:00 am  
"they are paying for there living costs not tuiton fees  "...

Oh right, thanks for pointing this out - I was kind of puzzled and worried.

I wonder how many places in the world have free tertiary education. I sure hope that when/if the EU constitution becomes reality, it will be embedded. 

Posted by WhyNot
2/18/2005 01:01:00 am  



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