Late last month Uppsala University was found guilty of discrimination against Swedes by the Swedish Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen). Three years ago, the university refused to enroll Cecilia Lönn and Josefine Milander in its Law Faculty even though they had better grades than thirty other students with a foreign background.
In 2003, thirty of the available places for the law courses had been reserved for students with a foreign background. Cecilia Lönn and Josefine Milander, both with better grades than all of those thirty students who were allowed in, were refused by the university. The two young ladies sued the university. They won twice in lower courts. Now the Supreme Court, too, has ruled in their favor and ordered the university to pay them a compensation of SEK 75,000 (approximately €8,200). The court expenses they made, about SEK 41,000 (approximately $4,500), will be reimbursed by the state.
Neither the Supreme Court nor the two women question the principle of positive discrimination, as long as it is practised between candidates who are equally qualified. Not so, however, when somebody with a foreign background is favored even though the Swede had better grades, since this is not positive discrimination, but just plain discrimination. Hence the Supreme Court wanted to set a clear example of what cannot be considered to be positive discrimination and therefore is illegal.
Of course, the two students have had two tough years. Ironically, however, the whole case may turn out to be an advantage rather than a disadvantage to them. As law students, they now have practical experience in bringing a case to court and taking it up to the level of the Supreme Court. Moreover, the fact that they have participated and won an important case will undoubtedly help them in their careers.