The reason is an online exam on criminal law for first-year European Law School students. The block co-ordinator asked the Examination Board for permission to include multiple-choice questions, in addition to the open questions. Not completely without risk in times of COVID-19, when students do their exams at home, without surveillance. But the Examination Board gave the go-ahead after consultation with IT and examination experts. As later appeared, this was against the wishes of the faculty board, which felt that multiple-choice questions were too risky. And that is what they told the chairman of the Examination Board, associate professor Sander Jansen.
According to dean Jan Smits, there was indeed a discussion with Jansen. “It is the Examination Board that makes the decision. It is not the faculty board that does so. They have the authority, they are responsible for safeguarding the quality of exams. We did ask him whether it was a wise choice. As a faculty, we have said from the beginning of the pandemic that we do not want any multiple-choice questions in online exams.” The debacle at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) is still fresh in the memory of many managers at the UM. The Examination Board at SBE declared the results of 1,200 students void last June, because of cheating during an online exam.
Nevertheless, the chairman of the Examination Board stuck to his guns. He was convinced that he had taken the right decision. So, the first-year exam was partly multiple-choice and partly open. Also, an extra open question was added, so that if anything went wrong in the multiple-choice part, the damage would be limited.
Chairman Jansen himself does not wish to say much about the matter. He confirms that he has resigned, but that he did not do so immediately for continuity reasons. He gives a “difference of opinion” about the role of the Examination Board as the reason for his withdrawal. At the same time, he says that he “respects” the faculty board’s opinions.
While some employees see this as an infringement of the autonomy of the Examination Board, others don’t see it that way. Formally, the faculty board did not act outside its jurisdiction, they say. They only wanted to give advice and to warn. Moreover, the role of the Examination Board is closely connected to the new exam vision of Maastricht University. Exams will have a more ‘formative’ nature – things like passes/fails for presentations or writing essays that are intertwined with education. The education programme director will play a greater role in this. Nevertheless, Smits emphasises that the role of the Examination Board will still be “a very important one. They will have the last say about quality.”