The student movement's opposition to tuition fees is massive. The quality of education does not get better just because you start to get paid. Instead, concrete measures are needed to develop the pedagogy and ensure that the educations become available to more people.
In a short time, two political student unions have proposed that tuition fees be introduced for higher education in Sweden. Center students' then incoming chairman Alfred Askeljung was first out in UNT, although the AGM later voted down the proposal. He was followed by Moderate Students in SvD.
It is deplorable that there are still forces that want to abolish the basic principle that education should be free of charge. At the same time, it is reassuring that there are so many voices standing up for everyone who wants to get an education to do the same. (See for example: Liberal students in UNT, Uppsala Student Union in UNT, S-students in SvD and Green students in SvD.)
SFS has stood up for the right to free education for almost a hundred years. We thought that this debate was settled, but time and time again there are suggestions that the university's problems should be solved by controlling students' choice of education with fees. Time and time again, ignorance of the consequences of the proposals is revealed.
First of all, it is an indisputable fact that tuition fees disadvantage the financially disadvantaged and strengthen the biased recruitment to higher education based on social background. This applies regardless of whether it is possible to defer the cost by taking out additional student loans. CSN has confirmed that students with a background in study are less likely to take out loans to finance their studies. In addition, tuition fees can lead to students only daring to study educations that provide high-paying jobs.
Today's increased student loans mean that Sweden is already approaching increased individual student funding. With tuition fees, Sweden could become like the United States, where student debt has become a government finance problem. International experience shows that more private funding leads to less public funding, and that tuition fees generally lead to fewer students.
Sweden needs to take greater joint responsibility for higher education, not less. Center students and Moderate Students are right that there are major shortcomings when it comes to the quality of higher education. It is true that the universities are severely underfunded. But the solution may unreasonably be to exclude large groups of students and raise the already high thresholds for higher education. Instead, concrete measures are required to raise the quality of, above all, teaching. With national investments in pedagogy the university can become available to more than those who already have good conditions to complete an education.
Rebecka Stenkvist, Chair of the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS) & Johan Alvfors, Vice Chair of the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS)
Previous posts in the debate on tuition fees:
European Students' Union and DN: http://www.dn.se/debatt/debatten-i-sverige-om-avgifter-skrammer/