David Landes, at The Local, gives a round up of the Swedish newspapers’ reaction to this week’s news that, from 2010, non EU students will be charged tuition fees to study in Sweden.
Here’s the press release, about tuition fees in Sweden for non-Eu students, from the Swedish Ministry of Education - it was released on the 23rd June.
The 80 000 Crown question is would you still study in Sweden when our universities start charging fees? The Local has a lively thread about this and there are some thought provoking comments.
The Local also reported a few days ago that the Association of Swedish Higher Education recently suggested that Swedish universities reject all applications from non EU students. Wow, that’s a remarkable statement to make. The Local also says that this has been strenuously criticised by Sweden’s Higher Education Agency who counter by saying that such an action would probably be illegal. This was news from a while ago, as far as I can see, and was apparently a knee jerk reaction to the difficulties in administrating a growing number of applications.
Andrei Neculau has a provocative discussion about fees on his blog.
Swedish Universities Plan to Charge Tuition Fees – China View. It’s not surprising that a Chinese news site should pick this up, given the large number of Chinese students we get. I assume if it turns up in English on this site then it’s also been covered in Chinese.
Sweden Ending no-Tuition Policy – UPI (I guess they missed out the word ‘fees’ there…)
Update June 2010 – Check out the latest news regarding fees here.
Please note: since the time of writing, most of this post is out of date. Check out the updates below…
Non EU/EES students will, from the 1st January 2010, pay to study in Sweden. This is the latest comment from the Swedish government, as part of the the Internationalisation of Higher Education bill which will come into effect in the Autumn of this year, as reported in SvD this morning.
Update, July 2010. Lund University announces tuition fees.
Update, June 2010 – Check out the latest post on this here.
Update, December 12th 2008: The 1st of January date may not be correct, it could be later in the year. There is no officially published date as yet.
This story is now also available in english at The Local.
The article is a little light on detail but the following main facts emerge:
- kick off will be the 1st January 2010 (see the above update)
- fees will be set by each university
- there will be some form of scholarship system
The previous government, according to SvD, suggested 80 000 SEK per year as a fee. That’s about 8 500 EURO (to put that into perspective, an international student studying in the UK pays around 12 500 EURO).
So, that’s about one and half years to decide on a marketing strategy, set up the infrastructure and recruit students. This is a huge change for Swedish education and the implications for our university are massive. The critical question is ‘if we had fees, would you have still have come to Lund?’.
There’s plenty of discussion about this at the SvD site - close on a 100 comments in the last few hours.
Updated 2 July 2008 – For some of the background to the Governments announcement take a look at the summary, in English, of their investigation into tuition fees. You need to take a look at pages 13 – 16 for the english summary.
Students who have already begun studying, or are applying in the application periods starting in 2008 or 2009, will not pay fees. The vote will be in Spring 2009. More information will be available then.
I’m involved in a project to prepare new pages for Lund University describing our work with Chinese universities. The main aim is to help improve both the mobility of students and researchers between Lund and China.
One of the first things we did was, using an existing mailing list which had both Chinese and Swedish addresses, email out a questionnaire (using Questback) asking 5 questions.
The questions were:
- Where are you living?
- What are you? (e.g. student, researcher etc)
- Which institution do you work or study at?
- What do you think the most important information, for you, that a Lund University – China website would have?
- Is it important to have a Chinese version of the website?
In retrospect I should have had the 4th question worded as ‘what tasks do you think you would try to do on a Lund University – China website’. However, we’ve still got some interesting results (103 people responded). Almost of the respondents gave more than one answer regarding the content they would want. It’s not particularly scientific, but I’ve roughly classified them.
Study information is clearly of great interest to many of the respondees.
Some other content was identified; clear information on which universities, and projects, we currently collaborate with, research at Lund and how you apply. There’s a mixture of generic answers and issues important for the target group.
When the site is up, we’ll email the respondees again and ask them to take a look at the site and give us feedback.
‘If your users fail, your website fails’ is an excellent article by Scott Karp – the premise being that there ‘are no stupid users, only inadequate designs’.
The obsession with a website’s ‘look’ rather than its ability to deliver is something which I get annoyed about. ‘Take a look at Craigslist‘ I say ‘Pretty crappy design huh? Well, Alexa ranks that site as 56th in the world and it has 9 billion page views a month‘.
I’ve been experimenting with adding tracking code to links in pdfs, with the aim of learning more about how they are being used. Simply put – we get a better return on the money we invest in them.
Before I began working at the university I was anti Pdf for the usual reasons (it’s dull, hard to read and is usually print content, rather than scannable text. Here’s Nielsen’s thoughts on the subject) but, after interviewing students and checking out our web metrics I’ve changed my mind. When it comes to brochures and course descriptions, for example, the students are okay with pdf.
Our Master’s Brochure was viewed over 25 000 times in the last 7 months. This makes it one of the most popular documents on our website. I was stunned when I saw this, particularly as our online marketing of this has been relatively passive.
So I got to thinking (which can be dangerous). We print something like 10 000 brochures, at significant expense, but it’s an act of faith as to whether they work or not. We’ve shown them to student reference groups – who liked them – but once they are out there they drop off our radar. We don’t know how many students try to learn more about the programmes the brochure describes, how many visit the website as a result or how many begin the application process. We don’t know if the money we spend is worth the result!
With some clever tagging on the links in the pdf we can find out more about how the pdf is used. We can see how many people come back to our website and which programmes receive the most interest. We get segmentation data as we can drill down through the data to a country level. This kind of data means we not only can test how well the pdf works in encouraging people to come to our website but it also generates valuable data, about potential students, in an easy and cheap way.
Correction: 7th July 2008. Okay, I admit it. I got a bit ahead of myself. Tracking the pdf itself is one thing – and can be done – but tracking the links within the downloaded pdf is another thing entirely. One way to do it would be to give a vanity URL in the document, one which does not exist anywhere else, and track the visitors that come from that link. Here’s some stuff about tracking offline campaigns at Conversion University.
I’ll post more on this when I’ve researched it more – if you’ve any good ideas please feel free to leave a comment.
This is really good – Nottingham university’s web video site where they have given free rein to a journalist to make mini video reportages around the university. It feels real, check out Prudence doing her viva for her PhD (only 3 hours – lucky – mine was over 4!) and Prof Poliakoff talking about his resemblance to Einstein.
The latest results from the online survey we been running on our www.lu.se/english website are in, and – no surprise – the biggest complaint our users have is with study information.
The most important task is looking for courses, and it’s also the most common source of usability problems.
The survey has been running for 4 months, and was accessed via a static link on our top 5 entry pages. It asked three simple questions:
- What were you looking for today?
- Could you find what you were looking for?
- If not, why not?
We got 577 answers (which is less than 1% of our website traffic) but we have captured a valuable insight into our users’ experiences of the website – the ‘voice of the customer’, as Avinask Kaushik calls it. I would not suggest planning an entire overhaul of the website on the basis of these data alone but, in combination with the recent usability studies and other, secondary research, it continues to support the case that finding study information is the number one task on our website.
‘No’ and ‘Not Sure’ answers – Study and Apply Information biggest source of frustration:
Graph showing catagories of free text answers as a % of the total ‘No’ and ‘Not sure’ answers:
The single biggest issue is the lack of study information – and this totally reflects the varying quality of our education database’s content. The design of the site, and its navigation, occupy joint second place with application content as being barriers to usability. The good news is that the content of the database is fixable, and requires no technical input to do so. Similarly, the application content can be improved without any major expense. The navigation issue is a deeper question and requires more analysis.
Check out Stockholm University’s new english website: Beta Site, Stockholm University. It was launched on the 30th.