Swedish CSN-funded students on language courses abroad, 2001/02 to 2016/17
Swedish outbound language market declining

The number of Swedish students on language programmes abroad dropped to an all-time low in the 2016/17 academic year, according to data released by the government support agency CSN, although the most-requested destination Spain increased student numbers.

In an analysis of the figures from funding body CSN, Swedish agency DreamStudies said the number of students claiming support for language programmes overseas declined from 7,377 in 2001/02 to a record low of 2,644 in 2016/17.


The CSN programme provides grants and loans for language studies abroad for students aged between 20 and 56, therefore covering a large share of the market, Johan Asplund, CEO of DreamStudies, explained to StudyTravel Magazine.


Despite the overall declines, Spain - the most popular destination by student numbers - received 611 CSN-funded language students in 2016/16, its best performance for five years.


Second-placed Japan declined from 531 in the previous academic year to 416 in 2016/17, but was still the most popular destination by the student weeks measure, recording 9,194 student weeks compared with 6,843 for Spain.


With 287 students, the USA was the third-most popular language destination for CSN-funded students last year. Johan explained that the popularity of the USA has grown rapidly since a change in 2015 that allowed Swedish students to study European languages outside of Europe.


He noted that the UK and France recorded the lowest number of students this century in 2016/17, with 223 and 257 students respectively.


Examining the reasons for the declines, Johan said, "I think the reason for this decline is that language travel is less trendy than it was 15 years ago, and nowadays it is easier for students to take study abroad semesters at colleges and universities as an alternative to language courses." He added that in 2002, 27 per cent of CSN-funded students attended language courses overseas, compared with a ratio of just 10 per cent last year.


"The birth rates were very low at the end of the 1990s so the total number of students graduating from high school are very low right now but will go up over the coming 15 years, so maybe there is hope for an increase of Swedish language travel students in the future, at least in absolute numbers," Johan said.


He added that that in terms of student weeks, the long-term downward trend is much starker, as prior to 2009 the minimum length of courses for CSN funding within the EU was 13 weeks, compared with three weeks now.


Another structural change of CSN that has reduced numbers was that the minimum age for non-credit bearing courses was raised in 2015 to be available from July 1 the year that a student turns 20, thus removing 19-year-old students from the funding system.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor