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EDUCATION

Uni vows to ‘do more’ to inform foreign students

An Uppsala University official has promised to bolster efforts to give foreign students accurate information to help avoid misunderstandings like the one that has left one graduate student without her degree.

Uni vows to 'do more' to inform foreign students

“We all make mistakes, but we need to do more to safeguard against these kinds of mistakes,” Göran Svensson, head of the Media and Communication Studies department at Uppsala University told The Local.

“The onus is on us as educators to inform our students and we’ll have to do that better.”

Svensson’s promise to improve information provided to foreign students comes in the wake of a communications mix-up that left Eliana Velez, a graduate student from the United States, without a diploma and in jeopardy of losing her job.

Velez completed coursework for a master’s degree in Media and Communication Studies in October, but only learned from Svensson in March that she actually didn’t graduate.

She was shocked to discover that the credits for one of the classes she had taken did not count toward her degree.

Velez had enrolled in the class after being told by an academic advisor that it was a possible replacement for a course she had twice failed and which would still allow her to complete the programme on schedule.

But as it turned out, the course credits didn’t count toward Velez’s degree because it was an undergraduate-level course and Velez had already taken the maximum number of undergraduate courses allowed – something overlooked by both her and the advisor.

“They never told me that I wasn’t allowed to take any more undergraduate-level courses,” she told The Local.

“I wouldn’t have taken the course if I had known.”

After being alerted to Velez’s lack of a diploma and the potential consequences it had for her job, Svensson agreed to contact her employer to explain the situation and see what could be done to rectify it.

In addition to the letter, an apologetic Svensson is now working to find another class Velez can complete at a distance in order to gain the credits necessary for her to complete her degree requirements.

“We’re very sorry about what has happened, but there is no question that Eliana will graduate,” he said.

Velez is appreciative of Svensson’s efforts, but added that the whole episode has left her “exhausted”.

“I just want it to be over,” she said.

“The letter that Göran wrote was exactly the kind of letter that I needed him to write. He apologized for the error, and accepted the mistake that was made.”

Velez is prepared to take one more class in order to finally complete her degree, but remains critical of the advisor who gave her bad information.

“I just hope that a mistake like this never happens again,” she said, emphasizing once again that more care should have been taken in formulating the advice she was given.

“Had I been advised differently I would be in a different position. It’s not easy to know what questions you need to ask so that you get the right answers.”

She encouraged foreign students to “as many questions as possible” to avoid misunderstandings like hers.

Svensson also said that Velez’s case had been an important learning experience for him and his staff.

“We will certainly look into cases much more closely before giving advice in the future,” he said.

“It is complicated, so we will really step up information to make sure foreign students are really aware for the requirements.”

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EDUCATION

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

Sweden's Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) chain has been denied permission to open four new schools in Gothenburg, Huddinge, Norrtälje, and Upplands-Bro, after the schools inspectorate said it had not provided pupil data.

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

According to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has denied permission to the chain to open a new planned new school in Norrtälje, north of Stockholm, even though the building that will house it is already half built. The inspectorate has also denied permission to three other schools which the chain had applied to start in 2023. 

In all four cases, the applications have been rejected because the school did not submit the required independent assessment for how many pupils the schools were likely to have. 

Jörgen Stenquist, IES’s deputy chief executive, said that IES has not in the past had to submit this data, as it has always been able to point to the queues of pupils seeking admissions to the school. 

“The fact that Engelska Skolan, as opposed to our competition, has never had the need to hire external companies to do a direct pupil survey is because we have had so many in line,” he told DN.

“In the past, it has been enough that we reported a large queue in the local area. But if the School Inspectorate wants us to conduct targeted surveys and ask parents directly if they want their children to start at our new schools, then maybe we have to start doing that.”

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According to the newspaper, when the inspectorate had in the past asked for pupil predictions, the chain has refused, stating simply “we do not make student forecasts”, which the inspectorate has then accepted. 

However, in this year’s application round, when IES wrote: “We do not carry out traditional interest surveys as we simply have not had a need for this,” the inspectorate treated it as grounds to reject its applications. 

According to DN, other school chain have been complaining to the inspectorate that IES gets favourable treatment and was excused some requirements other chains have to fulfil. 

Liselotte Fredzell, from the inspectorate’s permitting unit, confirmed that the inspectorate was trying to be more even handed. 

“Yes, it is true that we are now striving for a more equal examination of applications. Things may have been getting too slack, and we needed to tighten up.” 

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