Westerdal’s meets 470 former students in court
Around 470 students require about NOK 29 million refunded from Westerdal’s ACT because the private school charged too much in tuition fees.
Thursday the court case between the students and the school in Oslo district court starts. It is the latest revolution in the extensive Westerdal’s complex, which was exposed by Dagens Næringsliv in the autumn of 2015.
The newspaper found that the predecessor to the current school received unwarranted funding from the Government in the period between 2002 and 2012 for several studies that were not approved. Additionally, the school owners illegally transferred in excess of NOK 100 million from three different schools receiving funding to the parent company. Finally that the school charged more than twice as much in tuition fees from students than the law allowed for, over a period of a decade.
It is the latter discrepancy that now will be tried in court. Initially, a total of 1,300 former students originally claimed NOK 110 million after paying too much in tuition fees. The majority of them last year accepted a settlement with the school, which meant that they received a refund of 50-60 per cent of their claim. Around 470 students however rejected the conciliation offer, and they now meet their former school in court with a claim for 100 percent repayment including interest.
The students demand a repayment of approximately NOK 29 million all in all. Berger says that there are both economic and principal reasons why the students declined the offered settlement from the school.
– They think it is wrong that a school that has charged too much in tuition fees should be allowed to keep illegally begotten funds. They believe that the school must face the consequences, says lawyer Morten Hugo Berger to NTB.
Additionally, a group of students who attended three studies, which the school incorrectly stated were approved by the public, requires a discretionary price reduction. The studies are ‘Film and TV’, ‘Scenography and Event’ and ‘Studio 3D’.
– That a study offer is officially approved entails a professional recognition of the study. Since Westerdal’s stated to the students that the studies had the necessary approval, there is a shortcoming when that is not the case, Berger writes in his final submission to the court.
Hurting the school
Westerdal’s believes that the former students are entitled to neither refunds nor price reductions.
– We believe they have no legal basis, they have entered into clarified and binding agreements, says the lawyer of the school Henning Harborg to NTB.
He says the matter is hurtful to the school, which does not want a conflict with its former students. This was also the reason behind the settlement agreement in 2016, says Harborg.
– The former students are an asset to the school, but at the same time it is difficult having to pay for earlier educational offers once more, as it will adversly affect the current study offer. The school has tried to reconcile the two considerations with an amount which I perceive as both being decent and quite generous. Two thirds of the students chose to accept, he says.
One week is set aside for the case, but both parties assume they are done before that.
Facts about the Westerdal’s case
- Started with a series of disclosures surrounding the private school Westerdal’s College – Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology AS (WOACT) in Dagens Næringsliv in the autumn of 2015.
- It was disclosed that the school’s predecessor, Westerdal’s School of Communications (WSoC), gave the authorities incorrect information triggering unlawful state funding, student loans and scholarships in the years 2002 to 2012.
- The Ministry of Education reported Westerdal’s to the police and demanded a repayment of NOK 84 million in unwarranted state funding. Earlier this year, the school entered into a settlement with the Ministry to repay NOK 42 million.
- The Norwegian authorities indicted Westerdals for gross fraud in 2016, but dismissed the indictment due to lack of evidence earlier this year.
- The Ministry also considers a transaction of more than NOK 100 million from Westerdal’s and two other schools to the Anthon B Nilsen Group as being illegal, but have not reported this to the police as the money has been returned.
- Dagens Næringsliv disclosed that WSoC demanded twice as much in tuition fees than the law allows for. This happened during a decade. 1,300 students entered into lawsuits to reclaim the money. Two thirds of the students entered into a settlement with the school last year.
- Around 470 former students did not accept the settlement. They have sued the school for about NOK 29 million and meet the school in court on Thursday, August 24.
- The Control and Constitution Committee of the Parliament opened a case after the disclosures in DN. The majority of the committee designates the case as being reprehensible in their comments.
- In March of this year, Kristiania Westerdals College of Oslo bought Oslo ACT from Anthon B. Nilsen Utdanning AS.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today