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Swedish university to refund American student over “poor quality” education

This month, a rather peculiar news has appeared again in the press: an American student named Connie Dickinson, who in 2011 enrolled a three-years course of Analytical Finance at Mälardalens university (Sweden) has won her battle against this university and will have her fees refunded. 2011 is the year Sweden has introduced fees for non-EU students, a decision that has since then raised strong criticism. In the case of Ms Dickinson, fees amounted to about EUR 5 200 per semester. 

The student decided to quit the course halfway after the Sweden’s Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) judged the courses offered at Mälardalens University “of poor quality”. More specifically, she complained about the fact that professors did not have a good enough English level, that communication with them was not easy and that classrooms had not enough chairs for all students. At first, the university refused to refund the student, on the assumption that there was no legal obligation to do so. But after the ruling of the Swedish local court, it is now clear that there is an obligation for universities to ensure quality education and therefore Mälardalens must repay half of the fees to Connie. 

This case sets a precedent in that, with this ruling, it has been clarified that a contract binds students and the university and that Swedish universities must ensure quality education to all paying foreign students. Moreover, questions now rise on the possibility that other students may follow Connie’s example, or if this will remain just an isolated case.