Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Swedish university must reimburse the international student for a lower education than the norm: why this case is important

Connie Dickinson arrived in Sweden to study at Mälardalens högskola in Västerås in 2011, the same year that Sweden introduced tuition fees for students from countries outside the EU. In his case, this amounted to 55,000 kronor (approximately $ 6,500 at current exchange rates) for each of the six terms.

But he left the three-year course in part after the institution and his math courses in particular were judged "of insufficient quality" by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ), and he asked the university to reimburse him for his fees.

"This case was important to use because the university and all publicly run Swedish universities are government agencies," said attorney Johannes Forssberg of the non-profit Center for Justice representing Dickinson, The Local on Tuesday.


"Their argument was that when they provide a service to foreign students, who are obligated to pay, they are not responsible for guaranteeing the quality of that service." The consequence was that these students had responsibilities with the university but did not have rights, and that is not reasonable. "

OPINION: Why should I do a PhD in Sweden

In all, Dickinson will receive two thirds – 114,000 crowns – from the 170,812 crowns he paid for his Analytical Finance course, as well as his legal costs, but the Center for Justice argues that it is the principle of the decision rather than the exact figure that matter.

"It is definitely a precedent decision, now it is established that foreign students have rights in Sweden and that universities must comply with the requirements established by law with regard to the quality of education," said Forssberg. "This was the first time a student sued a university in Sweden for quality deficiencies."

In its 2013 national assessment of the Swedish higher education institutions offering mathematics courses, UKÄ had said that Mälardalens högskola's teaching on the subject was of "insufficient quality", with shortcomings in four of the five exam objectives. The university informed Dickinson and his fellow students of Analytical Finance of this sentence by email.

This was the catalyst in which the Americans decided to abandon their studies, as they had noticed problems in teaching.

"It was everything from problems communicating with teachers to a programming class where they did not even have enough chairs," Dickinson told The Local in 2016. "He felt surreal, to the point where I questioned my own sanity."

Supreme Court judges ruled in Tuesday's ruling that criticism from the Swedish Higher Education Authority showed that there were "significant flaws in the quality of the educational program." This evaluation put the university in a position to grant degrees at risk, although after the university provided a list of the measures taken to correct the deficiencies, UKÄ said in 2015 that it had already complied with the requirements.

Mälardalens högskola refused to reimburse his fees, but in 2013 a local court ruled that he should pay Dickinson the full costs of his course, as The Local reported at the time, since his education "lacked practical value." An appeals court the following year confirmed that Dickinson and the university had reached an agreement and that the university was responsible for not meeting it, but ruled that since Dickinson had received enrollment, the institution should only pay half of the fees. Both parties then appealed.

READ ALSO: The Swedish school is told to eliminate the compulsory uniform

The case focused on the question of whether the agreement between the university and the student could be considered as a contract under Swedish civil law. The university itself has said that it was not opposed in principle to reimbursing Dickinson's fees, but wanted to establish "legal certainty" before doing so.

"When the government introduced tuition fees for international students in 2011, we never got a response on how to handle the situation we are in. It must be clear how it works," Ann Cederberg University director said in a statement last spring. . She said that a legal precedent was important for both students and state universities.

This precedent has now been established by the judges who said in Tuesday's ruling: "When it comes to the responsibility of the university for the quality of education, the court finds that there was an agreement between the student and the university."

Dickinson is currently studying at the University of Stockholm and also works part time. "She is very happy, it has been a long struggle for her and from the beginning she felt that it was not reasonable that she did not get a refund," said Forssberg.

But equally important are the many other foreign students in Sweden who can also benefit from the ruling.

"We have had some questions from other foreign students, although this is the only case that we have accepted, it is difficult to say how many other students there are who may have claims, but I think there are others," said Forssberg. he said.

As to whether the decision could open the possibility that unpaid students receive compensation in similar cases, he was more cautious. "It is difficult to predict the exact consequences for Swedish and EU students, but in the ruling it seems that it is a very important circumstance that he was a paid student, so he would not go too far at this stage," said the lawyer.


READ ALSO: Six money cuts for students in Sweden

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *