Swedish University reprimanded for poor quality but refuses to return foreign student’s fees

In some respects the attitudes taken by Swedish Institutions today is reminiscent of the high-handed attitudes taken by old-fashioned, communist, East Block countries. Very high levels of individual freedom are coupled to a very high level of protection for institutions (and their employees) which can lead to peculiar situations at the interface.

Standards are – usually – very high but public institutions in Sweden – hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, local or national government organisations – rarely take responsibility for poor quality or negligence. The extent of accountability is normally restricted to correcting a problem once it has been identified. An individual who has suffered from the negligence – and even gross negligence  – has little recourse in law and generally gets little compensation. Damages for institutional wrongdoing are either at ridiculously low levels or completely absent. Institutional employees are highly protected and very rarely held accountable or sanctioned for their negligence or lack of quality. Blame – if wrong-doing can be proven –  is allocated to the institution as a whole which of course leads to no-one being accountable.

It is almost impossible for a lone individual to sue an institution or claim damages or get any equitable compensation for any damage suffered.

In this case it was Mälardalen University College which did not provide the promised education to a foreign student from the US. She paid a great deal of money for a 2-year course in Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics but received education which even the Swedish Higher Education Authority agreed was lacking in quality. But of course, the institution does not believe that it had any kind of contract with the student to provide any particular level of quality and feels no obligation to repay her tuition fees.

Sourced and freely translated from Sveriges Radio and Svenska Dagbladet:

Not enough chairs, not enough computers and a lecturer who could not speak Swedish or English properly. That’s what the US student paid nearly 200,000 kronor for (about $26,000). But Mälardalen University does not intend to return her money.

“I thought it would be interesting to study abroad. The program looked promising”, said Connie Dickinson .

A suitable program and being cheaper than in the United States convinced Connie Dickinson to chose to study mathematics and mathematical statistics at Mälardalen University in Sweden , where she has relatives . But it was nothing like she had imagined. “The lecturer did not spend  much time with us in the classroom. We had to share computers. There weren’t enough chairs and some students had to sit on the floor. The teacher handed out papers  and walked away and she couldn’t speak either English or Swedish. I was really surprised at the low standard”

Connie complained to the college about the problems, and even informed the Swedish Higher Education Authority UKÄ, about the shortfall in the education. UKÄ agreed that the the education lacked quality and has given the University one year to fix the problems or to discontinue the course.

But that is insufficient for  Mälardalen University to repay Connie her 183 000 SEK.

But whether it is discontinued or not, Connie attended a training course for two years that does not measure up  either for her or the Swedish Higher Education Authority.

Bjorn Magnusson , CFO at the college , claimed that it is not possible to give money back just because of a complaint about the lack of quality . “You can’t get back the tuition fee because of a complaint about the lack of quality. You pay the fee to participate in regular training. it’s not like a contract between us and an individual”. Besides dissatisfaction is subjective he says.

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