Startpage for Swedish National Agency for Higher Education

Please note! The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was closed down on 31 December 2012. Instead two new agencies have been established: the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This website will continue to operate as the new agencies will have links to information it contains.  


De facto competency and alternative selection at institutes of higher education for the year 2003

Based on the year 2003 annual report of the institutes of higher education, the National Agency for Higher Education has summarized and examined how these institutes have applied the regulations of the Higher Education Ordinance concerning so-called "de-facto competency and alternative selection".

De facto competency

Since several institutes of higher education have not been forthcoming with data on how many applicants have stated de facto competency in their application, it is not possible to summarise nationally how many have been accepted. There is also the possibility that the same applicants may have submitted applications to several institutes of higher education. However, to give us some idea of the data the institutes of higher education did in fact submit, it can be said that approximately 16 per cent of them referred to de facto competency (approx, 712 of 4 200 applicants) are judged eligible and that about 4 per cent of them that cited de facto competency have been accepted (approx. 210 of 4 200 applicants).

Swedish, mathematics and social science are the most common subjects when validating de facto competency. To a great extent the validations are related to vocational degree courses such as those for nurses, engineers, real estate agents and teachers.

Some institutes of higher education have written that the work of assessing the applications was very demanding both in time and resources.

Some institutes of higher education point out the necessity of clarifying admission requirements and of bettering information to the applicants.The National Agency for Higher Education wish to point out that the Higher Education Ordinance already contains several alternative ways of handling informal merits that closely resemble validation of de facto competency, such as making corresponding assessments and granting dispensations as per 7 Chap.3-4 §§, the Higher Education Ordinance. It is also possible to consider work experience in the light of the so-called “25:4-rule". Quite probably. however, the major reason why eligibility via de facto competency has only received relatively little publicity during the past year is that most of those who would gain most from the new regulation has been unaware of its existence. The work of the institutes of higher education in assessing applications and disseminating information to applicants nevertheless continues and may quite possibly lead to different results in time.

Alternative selection

Of a total 36 institutes of higher education where the state is the responsible authority, 13 have used some form of alternative selection that has resulted in the admission of about 500 students. One fourth of these was accepted by the University of Umeå. Five institutes of higher education have used the alternative selection for allocating places for students who have undergone some form of higher education introductory course (so-called “college year").

Three institutes of higher education have used the alternative selection in accepting applicants judged to have de facto competency.

Allocation according to sex has been used by four institutes of higher education.Three institutes of higher education have based allocation on ethnical grounds.One institute of higher education has used work aptitude tests and interviews for its selection process. Another institute of higher education has used professional experience, priority and personal letter for its mode of selection.

One institute of higher education has given a course admission preference to applicants living in the commune in question who had at least one year´s professional experience of social work, social care or health care. This applied to communes where the educational level of the inhabitants was low.

Very often but not always has it been necessary to make a selection where places have been reserved through quota-allocation. The University of Uppsala states that school grades and interviews were used when selecting for its law program. The University College of Mälardalen used work experience, personal letter and reflections on a pure literature text. Work aptitude tests and interviews were used by the University College of Skövde. As selection instrument Södertörns University College used academic start year exam results.

The institutes of higher education say very little about whether alternative selection contributed towards broadening recruitment. In all cases, however, allocation according to sex applies to men and has naturally contributed to increased male percentage at universities or university colleges, even if only marginally so. Allocation of places for applicants judged to have de facto competency and for applicants who have undergone college education ought to lead to a certain broadening of recruitment.

One reason why alternative selections have been used to so little extent is probably because the regulations are new, thus not allowing the institutes of higher education sufficient time with which to plan how the new opportunities can best be utilised. Another reason may be that an alternative selection is often linked to increased costs and this could contribute to a dampened interest on the part of the institutes of higher education. A third reason is presumably the uncertainty that exists about what is and what is not permitted within the framework of alternative selection.