One – or rather two – of the ritual fixtures of the academic year in Sweden are the Saturdays in March and October where Högskoleprovet or the Swedish SAT is carried out.
The SSAT is a supplement to the ordinary grading made by secondary schools and it was intended as a general second chance to qualify for higher education. Since there are no limits to the number of times one can take the SSAT, the consequence has been that the SSAT scores neccessary to enter medical school and a number of other, very popular lines of education have reached the maximum limit.
In March this year, it was noted that the number of people taking the SSAT had declined steeply, and this was followed by a sharp decline in the number of applications for most most courses at all universities in Sweden. This also led to a decline in the number of new students enrolled for the autumn semester 2006.
The numbers reported for the October SSAT show a continued decline and it is likely that the decline in applications to higher education will continue for the spring semester of 2007. Eventually the result will be a severe economic crisis for all Swedish universities.
The interesting question is of cause why the number of people taking the SSAT and the number of applications for higher education decline when the number of children born during the late 1980s – the age group which should be entering higher education now – was at an all time high. No-one knows the answer which is why the Swedish Higher Education Agency started an investigation of the deciline.
One possible cause could be that unemployment among people with higher education generally rose unexpectedly from 2000 to 2005. If one combines this with a less generous system for the repayment of study debt, 3-4 years of higher education becomes less attractive compared to taking casual jobs or travelling.
Note: JUSEK published some interesting data about unemployment for people with a social science degree. The data – in Swedish – are available here but I’m too tired to write anything intelligent about them today.