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University must pay back tuition fees for substandard education

Published torsdag 6 april kl 13.07
Student: One of the teachers spoke neither English nor Swedish
(2:55 min)
Former student Connie Dickinson stands by the Stockholm waterside.
Connie Dickinson sued her former university. Credit: Centrum för rättvisa/Handout/TT

A court has ordered a Swedish University to pay an American student back half the cost of her maths degree, because the quality of teaching was so poor.

The Svea Court of Appeal ordered Mälardalen University to pay Connie Dickinson SEK 85,000 in fees, as well as SEK 63,000 in legal costs.

“It feels good to know that even they [the court] thought that wrong was done and that it should be righted,” Dickinson told Radio Sweden.  

She said that it had been apparent to her that the quality of the course was inadequate as soon as she started it in 2011.

She said the techniques students were taught had been out of date, teachers seemed poorly versed in their subjects, and that one teacher could neither speak English nor Swedish to an adequate level.

There weren’t computers or chairs for all the students, so in a computer programming course, there were students sitting on the floor,” she added.

Dickinson said that she had only decided to sue the university when, at the start of her third year, it sent her a letter informing her that Sweden’s university watchdog, the National Higher Education Authority, had found the program deficient in four out of five degree goals.

In court, the university’s lawyers argued that Dickinson's enrollment and fees should not be viewed as comparable to the contracts and payments implicit in the purchase of other goods.

 “Had this been any other product, had I bought a car or a sofa, I would be able to get some of money back, but because this is a product sold by the state to students there’s not any principle,” she said.

The Svea Appeals Court accepted that the university had failed to deliver on a contract, but said that it need only repay half of the courses she took, as she would in theory be able to use some courses if she enrolled to do a maths degree at another university.

The university is expected to appeal the Svea Court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Sweden.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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