During the years 1995-1998 about ten thousand students began enrolling in an educational initiative within institutions for higher education known as NT-SVUX (Special Adult Study Support). Its aim was to make it possible for persons aged 24-48 with life experiences to study a longer natural science or higher technology course with special financial assistance. The aim of the initiative was partly to increase the technical and natural science competency in the country, and partly to come to terms with a labour market with a high rate of unemployment.
Good results with jobs for students after completionThe initiative was successful in that those who took part had good study results. Admittedly scarcely half of those who began 1995/96 had previously taken a degree or at least 120 points, up to and including academic year 2001/02. But, if we discount those who broke off the course within a year, two-thirds of the students either got a degree or took at least 120 points. Overall women showed better results than men. Also success varied to a certain extent between students who studied different courses.
The initiative was also successful in that most of the students who successfully completed the courses were able to find jobs afterwards. Assessing student progress on the labour market thereafter was, however, relevant only with regard to the earlier student-batches. According to statistics, a large percentage of the later student-batches was still engaged in higher education studies at the time when employment / unemployment was last monitored (autumn 2001). Of those students who started the initiative in 1995, and who either had taken a degree or at least 120 points, a large percentage - 92 percent - ended up with a job.
Target group recruitmentThe initiative was, however, somewhat less successful when it came to target group recruitment. It could be said that the initiative attracted too big a group since relatively many of them who started the initiative the first two years maintained nevertheless that they had in fact really intended enrolling in a natural science or higher technology education in the first place. Moreover, relatively many of them who started the initiative - 17 percent - quit higher education studies within a year.
The decision to go ahead the NT-SVUX initiative was made shortly prior to the autumn term of 1995, which did not give institutes of higher education or the initiative target group a great deal of time to prepare for it during the first academic year. The fact that the first-year student group fell below expectations was probably because the preparatory time was too short and the regulations governing study support had not been properly formulated. Possibly a longer time for preparation would have improved the chances of a better recruitment of the intended target group.
However, the NT-SVUX initiative resulted in more new students going in for higher technology and natural science education. The initiative also meant more students with other than traditional background studied at the country´s universities and other institutions of higher education.
Just over half of those who started an NT-programme studied engineering. Every tenth student went for the teacher´s course and a somewhat smaller percentage decide on graduate engineering. A fourth began studying some other natural science or technology course. The initiative moreover resulted in a large influx of women for the natural science and technology courses. Even the traditional differences in the sexes shine through with regard to the NT-SVUX students´ choice of higher education studies.
That the initiative had a positive effect on recruitment for engineering courses also came to the attention of the evaluation group that assessed the university and university college engineering courses within the reference framework evaluation group of the National Agency for Higher Education. In its analysis the evaluation group recommended that the government should resume the NT-SVUX initiative in order to improve the recruitment situation for these higher education courses.
Several more men than women enrolled for the first year, probably because of the negative effect the existing study support regulations had on women recruitment. The initiative´s ambition was that the NT-SVUX resources should be there particularly for the benefit of the women. These regulations were changed for the 1996/97 academic year, the effect of which was to even out the numerical disparity between the sexes.
Furthermore, age and geographical residence would seem to explain the different reasons for applying for NT-SVUX. Finally, the older age groups were more inclined to apply for NT-SVUX at an early stage, while the younger groups preferred to defer application to a later date. The younger also applied for study allowances for longer periods than their older counterparts.
Formulation of a future study supportThe initiative could be said to be largely successful. It gives us grounds for thinking about similar initiatives in the future. CSN (Central Student Grants Committee) would like to focus particular attention on three main points that should be discussed in more detail and concerns any future initiative that builds on more beneficial support for specific groups of students. The first of these points appertain to the fact that a future initiative would not only mean increased costs for the state, but also that resources to a certain extent be earmarked for those who in any case would have pursued studies even without more financial support.
The second point touches on the fact that for some groups beneficial student support can acquire legitimacy with students in general. The aforementioned initiative aroused criticism from other students who questioned the fairness of the initiative wording.
The third point avers that a more beneficial student support for certain groups within the framework of a general study grant initiative system would result in a complicated regulatory system. This in its turn could counteract ambitions to simplify the regulatory system for study support in general.
If a future study support similar to NT-SVUX is to be subject for discussion, the most suitable procedure would be to have a higher student grant incorporated in the new study grant system.