The Center of Middle Eastern Studies broke the rules when they last-minute organized a course on IS and failed to give student representatives a chance to influence the course content. That is the conclusion from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ).
In October 2015, the Student Union for Humanities and Theology (HTS) reported the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) to the Swedish Higher Education Authority. One month earlier, the Center of Middle Eastern Studies had presented a 7,5-point course with the title “Islamic State and the future of the Middle East”. But CMES didn’t follow the rules when composing the course.
The IS-course would be taught about two months later, during the same term. However, according to the rules of the University, the Faculty Boards have to review, set and approve the syllabuses of any course a month before the final day that one can apply for a course. This would have been March 15th. The course and syllabus were thus presented almost half a year too late.
Moreover, CMES never gave the representatives in the student union the opportunity to be involved in reviewing and evaluating the syllabus, which is an established student right. Instead, HTS was only informed about the existence of the course when it was presented.
As there also had been previous problems with student influence at CMES, the Union decided to report the case to UKÄ. This body now established that the students indeed were right in their criticism. The University has broken its own rules regarding student representation in the case of the IS-course.
UKÄ also states that while students have the right to influence their education at CMES, this right is not regulated fully in the University’s policy documents. UKÄ thinks that the University should compose guidelines in order to ensure student influence at CMES.
HTS’s vice-chairman Daniel Kraft and chairwoman Amanda Bjernestedt are happy with the report of UKÄ but have some critical remarks:
“They have a view of the situation that is comparable to ours,” Daniel says. But Amanda Bjernestedt adds: “Their reply has come very, very late and we have reminded them several times.”
She also adds that she thinks that the problem is not a lack of regulations:
“At a university-wide level there are indeed not so many rules for student influence regarding course syllabuses, but this is organized at a faculty level. It is more about really following the regulations that already exist.”
Both board members do agree that the situation of student influence has improved since last year. So far, there have not been any problem with late course plans or the ignoring of student influence.
“We have a student council at CMES, student representatives and for the first time also a student health and safety representative. Earlier, it was hard to find people for these positions. And our contact with the Education Coordinator at CMES is good too,” Daniel Kraft says.