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“Ten complaints are not more important to the faculty than one”

“Ten complaints are not more important to the faculty than one”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Janneke Swinkels

The one grumbles among friends (or on Facebook), the other complains to the lecturer – answer key in hand. Sometimes just to get a better grade for themselves, sometimes to improve the education programme. Whatever the reason, complaining is normal for most students. Observant asked 25 students about their experience. The following are a few reactions.

Simona Klinkhammer (28), second-year student of Psychology, feels that in her year complaining has gotten “somewhat out of hand. A small group in my year see problems in everything, even in questions that cannot be interpreted differently. Complaining for the sake of complaining. I fear that this will lead to a situation in which student complaints are taken less seriously.” She has also complained once or twice, as a member of a group. “One of us wrote an e-mail on behalf of a dozen or so of us to the block co-ordinator criticising an exam. It was both about linguistic errors and the content.”

Adriana Vitale (24) doesn't complain just for the sake of complaining. The master's student of European Tax Law, and European Law School alumna says, “We pay for lessons, so give me the added value. I don't want lectures in which someone is reading from a book. Use it to explain the subject matter from the tutorial group meeting. In the bachelor's programme, it was fine for me to just pass subjects, but now it is more important to understand everything. For later on, when I'm working.” She complained directly to her tutors. “They are young and easier to approach. Maybe we complain more in the master's, because we – students and lecturers – know each other well. Afterwards we can continue on as before.”

First-year student of Economics and Business Economics, Victor Hokkanen (19) once filed a complaint with the Examination Board about an exam; for some multiple-choice questions, an incorrect answer was marked s correct. He looked up the relevant passages. “Quite a job,” he feels. “You can't e-mail the Examination Board so you have to put everything in a pigeon hole at the faculty. I never received an answer. The Examination Board was apparently not very interested. I have heard that there has to be a certain number of complaints before the board takes any action, but I don't know the exact number. Numbers most likely matter, but some students don't complain because others have done so already.”

Tessa Porskamp (21), third-year student of Medicine, international track, has complained about eight times over the past two-and-a-half years. But not because others do so. “A single complaint is sufficient; ten complaints are not more important to the faculty than one.” Porskamp distinguishes two types of complaints: specific problems, for example when answer keys are incorrect and she can prove so with a source (a quote from an exercise book) that another answer is correct. These complaints are usually accepted, resulting in either the question being dropped or several answers being regarded as correct, which results in a higher grade. The second type of complaint is about the exam itself: the kind of questions, a strict focus on certain subjects at the expense of others, et cetera. “This usually doesn't do much for you personally, but it may help students in the following years.”

Mignon Schichel

Read the news article about complaining at UM here and an interview with Prof. Jaap Bos about dealing with threatening e-mails and aggressive students after an exam here

ADDITION:

In the ‘complaints special’, a student from the School of Business and Economics said that he submitted a complaint about a test to the Board of Examiners, but never received an answer. This was incorrect. The Board of Examiners is not the party that deals with this type of complaints in the first instance, and states that they never had contact with this student. For more information about procedures, see the SBE website.

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