“I could lose my job,” Eliana Velez told The Local.
Velez, a US-native, completed coursework for a master’s degree in Media and Communication Studies at Uppsala University in October and immediately began hunting for a job.
During the process, she filed paperwork with the university so she could have her degree issued in time to present to any new employer that saw fit to hire her.
After weeks of sending out job applications, Velez eventually landed what she called the “perfect job” working as a communications manager for an organization in the United States.
“It was really what I had studied to do,” she said.
Velez moved back to the United States to start work in early March, and shortly thereafter sent another reminder to her department at Uppsala University inquiring as to the status of her diploma.
“I contacted the department on March 15th and was told it would be ready the next day,” she said.
When a week passed and she had still not received anything, Velez made yet another inquiry via email.
The response, sent by Director of Studies Göran Svensson, left Velez stunned.
“Sorry to say, you cannot graduate,” he wrote in an email.
Svensson went on to explain that Velez’s inability to receive her diploma was apparently due to a misunderstanding about which courses could be included in her course of study.
After having twice failed a required quantitative methods class, Velez asked a student advisor about what other courses she might be able to take instead.
She was told that she could take several different courses, including some undergraduate level courses, all of which would allow her to gain the number of credits she needed to graduate.
As one of the undergraduate courses, Media Policy and Regulation, was the next course due to start, Velez signed up in the hope that she would still be able to complete her course of study by the autumn of 2011.
“It was a very relevant course,” she said.
But what the advisor failed to mention and what Velez failed to realize, is that she had already taken the maximum number of undergraduate-level courses allowed.
“They never told me that I wasn’t allowed to take any more undergraduate-level courses,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have taken the course if I had known.”
According to Velez, the department and the student advisor failed in clearly communicating what the programme requirements were.
“It cannot be assumed that I would have known exactly how the Swedish system works,” Velez explained in an email to the department, adding that the student advisor in question shouldn’t have given what turned out to be bad advice.
Writing to Svensson in the wake of learning that her two year studying sojourn in Sweden had left her without a diploma, Velez explained that she had “lost all trust” in the department following the episode.
“You cannot expect foreign students to remember all the details included in one presentation you held at the beginning of the year. That is an unrealistic expectation,” she wrote.
While Svensson admitted that he and his colleagues “failed to inform” Velez that her last course needed to be a graduate-level course, he added that keeping track of a student’s course of studies is a “shared responsibility”.
“You did not follow the suggested plan of study,” he wrote in an email.
“For a student that does not follow the suggested path of studies it is of extra importance that the school and the student keep track over performance and requirements.”
Svensson, who was unavailable to speak on the matter with The Local, added that he would write a letter to Velez’s employer explaining the problem and vowed to work with her to “find a solution”.
Meanwhile, Velez’s future in her new job hangs in the balance, and her confidence in how Swedish universities treat foreign students remains shaken.
“I’m really upset and really frustrated,” she said.
“I had a really good feeling about having studied in Sweden, but something needs to be done.”