Six will continue to be the maximum score at resit exams for Law students

Confusion and irritation about 'ignored' advice from the Education Committee

Photo: DUB

When the faculty council of the Faculty of Law, Economics & Governance met in June, DUB was curious about what would be said regarding the OER of the Bachelor's degree in Law. We wondered if the resit scheme would be adjusted or not.

Law students have been complaining for years that 6 is the highest grade they can get when resitting an exam. Teachers only assess supplementary or replacement tests with "passed" or "failed", whereby "passed" is recorded as 6. At other universities, Law courses are less strict in that regard, grading the students according to their performance. 

Earlier this year, many student members of the council voiced their criticisms in a meeting about an evaluation of the scheme carried out by the Director of Education in 2021. His report was positive about an adjustment to the scheme.

The scheme was relaxed that year. Previously, students could score a maximum grade of 6 for the entire course if one partial test was not completed satisfactorily. Since 2021, the average of the partial tests is considered and the maximum of 6 only applies to the test that has been retaken.

However, many students are still dissatisfied, according to the students in the faculty council, who noted that students were rubbed the wrong way by the evaluation report, which stated that the new scheme had "landed well".

OER quickly ticked off
At the beginning of June, DUB read the new OER, to which the faculty council must agree. We couldn't help but notice that nothing had been changed in the resit regulations, even though the OER also includes advice from the Bachelor's programme committee, which is in favour of students getting a maximum of 7 when resitting a test. After all, that's what they do with students at the Master's level.

According to the OC, this adjustment would motivate students to work harder for their resit and prevent them from calling in sick en masse for the first test opportunity. "What does this advice mean?", we wondered. 

DUB called the Education Director of the Bachelor's in Law, Bald de Vries, ahead of the meeting. He said he did not know about the advice of the programme committee. According to him, he had only talked with the education committee about a scheme used in Groningen where students can decide whether they want to have their exams checked (which counts as a first test option) or not. But, in the end, no one agreed with that idea. He says they did not discuss establishing a maximum grade of 7 instead of 6 in their latest meeting about the OER.

A few days later, during the faculty council meeting, Vice-Dean Femke van Esch quickly concluded the discussion about the OER for Law. She stated that the advice of the programme committee only comes from the students in the programme committee. Moreover, the proposal was not in line with previous agreements in the council to have a substantive discussion about assessment methods. Council members made no further comments or asked any questions. 

Was the advice was ad hoc and too late?
After the council meeting, we asked the chair of the programme committee, Geertje Creijghton, about it. She was surprised. According to her, the advice does come from the entire committee, which means both students and teachers. She has not heard yet what exactly happened to the advice within the faculty council.

She believes that the Director of Education should be informed. In the meeting in which the OC discussed the OER, she announced that her committee would provide written advice on the resit scheme at a later date. The Director of Education later confirms having received that message. Creijghton says she will ask the vice dean and the Director of Education about it.

DUB called Vice-Dean Van Esch a few days later. He said he had understood from Creijghton that there had been "a misunderstanding" about the advice. She acknowledged that the advice was not only given by the students in the OC. According to her, this emerged in a preparatory meeting for the faculty council. She regrets not having looked into this any further but partly attributes the confusion to the "awkward route" the advice has taken.

What she means by that becomes clearer when we speak to Education Director Bald de Vries again. He explains that he received the programme committee's proposal before the faculty council meeting. He read it briefly but did not consider it as an input for the OER text that went to the faculty council. After all, such a change to the resit scheme was not on the table at all in the meeting with the OC, when they discussed the OER. There was simply nothing to advise on.

He regarded the piece as an impetus for subsequent rounds of consultation with the OC. In the most recent meeting, which he described as "abrasive", he advised members to prepare such a proposal better as the advice was both ad hoc and too late.

De Vries himself is not in favour of a change at all. In his opinion, the strict regulations for resit tests are an integral part of the faculty's educational vision, which aims to encourage students to participate in the programme intensively and actively from the start.  According to him, the current scheme is also fairer to students who just score enough to pass the first test as they are no longer allowed to retake the exams. “I heard that many programmes are jealous of our system,” he says.

No influence
In the eyes of Vice Dean Van Esch, the confusion about the advice has not influenced the attitude of the Faculty Council. According to her, after the evaluation of the scheme this spring, the faculty council agreed not to repeat the discussion about the scheme again and again.

“We want to take a more substantive look and talk about whether those big knowledge tests with associated resit schemes are still suitable for our education. From that perspective, the proposal feels like a step back. That's why the OC advice was probably not discussed by the council.”

Education Director Bald de Vries also emphasises that a more "reflective" discussion about testing would be much more fruitful. According to him, the first steps have already been taken with the OC and the faculty council.

Student members of the faculty council did not respond to DUB's emails.

Serious signal
Geertje Creijghton is anything but pleased with the state of affairs. According to her, her committee was timely when indicating its desire to comment on the resit scheme. According to her, it is not unusual for written advice to be issued after a meeting.

In her opinion, procedural arguments are now being used to ignore a serious signal from the OC and avoid difficult discussions. “The board can ignore advice from an OC, but this is not a nice way to do it.”

She announced that the education committee will make a new attempt to submit the same proposal next year. “Waiting for a new way of testing is not a good idea. That could take years, while students and teachers want change now.”