16 November 2018 • HOP, Hein Cuppen
Battle on English-taught education in the academic institution’s court
The Higher Education Appeals Board (CBHO) calls Leiden University back in line. The Examination Appeals Board should have assessed whether it was right that a subject for which a student requested exemption was taught in English.
The Leiden law student had asked her faculty’s Examination Board if she could take another subject instead of the compulsory English-taught subject Public International Law. Given functional disabilities, English-taught courses were hard for her to follow. She was afraid that she would otherwise not earn her bachelor degree.
The Examination Board refused her request, after which the student went higher up and approached the University’s Examination Appeals Board. She also appealed on the grounds that the subject for which she had requested exemption was unjustifiably taught in English. She called upon the law which states that education and exams should in principle be in Dutch unless “the specific nature, design or the quality of the education or the origins of the students make it necessary.”
The Leiden Higher Education Appeals Board deems that it does not have the jurisdiction to pass judgement on this, but the judges of the national Appeals Tribunal for Higher Education (CBHO) think differently. It may be the case that a student may not appeal directly against university regulations on English as a teaching medium, they say, but should a case arise, such as this one, that generates a debate about the rules, checks must be done on the validity of the appeal and whether or not it contravenes higher regulations or principles.
On these grounds, the CBHO quashed the decision of the Leiden Appeals Board which now has to review the case again. The Higher Education Appeals Board made no substantive judgement about the individual circumstances that the student is appealing on. The discussion and the legal battle about the use of the Dutch language is mostly now playing out at national level. This legal ruling is opening the door to more individual cases.