“I think tailor-made solutions is a vague term”
MAASTRICHT. Student members of the law faculty council are anxious about the transitional regulations for the group who are following the ‘old’ Dutch Law programme, but who still have to resit exams – the programme has changed considerably since September. There are reports of study pressure, uncertainty and fear of not making it. Vice dean Sjoerd Claessens tries to convince them that “nobody will be left behind”.
The brand-new bachelor’s of Dutch Law started in September. The classic content and associated exams have had a major overhaul. This is the reason why it is impossible to have students doing the old curriculum just transfer to the new variant, vice dean Claessens explains in an interview with Observant. Running parallel programmes is not an option either. Besides, he wants to prevent students from following the old curriculum “until the end of time”. “We want to keep the momentum going.” The faculty will help them achieve this, was Claessens’ message in the latest faculty council meeting in February.
“We will do everything in our power to enable everyone who started the old curriculum to graduate within the old curriculum.” It wasn’t the first time that he asked students to have faith in a good outcome. There was also a discussion on the subject in the faculty council back in October.
For second- and third-year students who still have to pass ‘old’ courses, the transitional regulation means that they still have two opportunities to complete the exam successfully. After that, it is down to ‘tailor-made solutions’. Taking the subject again including the tutorial groups, however, will no longer be an option. And there lies the biggest hurt. According to council members Caspar Bottemanne and Jur Schilp, it is a tremendous “blow”. “It all comes down to self-study and that is tough, certainly with a tricky subject such as Metajuridica,” says Schilp, a third-year student. “The faculty provides the students with an information session lasting an hour and a tailor-made solution – that is all it says on paper. But I feel that tailor-made solution is a vague term. What does that mean? Also, what about intermediate assignments, which previously counted towards the final result? Have they been dropped?”
How does Claessens feel about the criticism? “It is true that we are vague about tailor-made solutions, we ourselves don’t know yet. It depends on the number of students who haven’t passed the subject after two resits. Maybe an oral exam if it concerns two people, but an extra written exam when there are more? I can’t really say anything more. Moreover, the block co-ordinator and the board of examiners also have a say in this.” At the same time, the faculty’s vagueness is meant to discourage students from making strategic choices. “Some do a poor job of the written exam because they know that ultimately they will be given an oral exam in which they are better. “That is calculating and we don’t like that attitude,” says Claessens.
According to the student council members, the faculty would do better to come with a more creative approach and detail the regulation more precisely, so that their fellow students know where they stand. “At the moment, it is much too inadequate to make choices for the upcoming academic year,” says Schilp. Tutorial group meetings for all those doing resits, and providing them with tutors’ results, would all help, they say. Through sheer insecurity students are planning, outside the study, to organise tutorial group sessions themselves, say Bottemanne and Schilp.
Schilp also feels that the faculty is creating a climate in which extracurricular activities are discouraged. He has noticed that students “choose the safe path. If you know that this year is the only year that you can get education and lectures, then the choice is quickly made. You won’t accept a board membership of a study association, for example.” While the student council members believe that extracurricular activities (association, student jobs, voluntary work, work placements) are of “unmistakable importance” for students’ development. “In addition, it gives you the possibility to set yourself apart from others later on on the labour market.”
Vice dean Claessens: “This is a full-time study programme, forty hours a week, which requires commitment. Extracurricular activities are on top of that."