The education judge has questioned the legality of the Rotterdam system ‘nominal is normal’ (N=N). This became apparent from a provisional ruling from the Committee for Higher Education in The Hague.

With ‘nominal is normal’, first-year students need to achieve sixty credits in one go in their first year. The judge made the provisional ruling (‘preliminary injunction’ in the case (Dutch) against the Erasmus University by a law student who had received a binding study advice (bsa). For now, the university needs to allow the student to re-join the study programme because, according to the judge, chances are high that he should not have received a negative bsa.

‘Against the law’

The student’s personal circumstances played a role in the judge’s considerations. But it is possible that EUR’s credit system is in conflict with the law. A bsa is intended to assess whether a student is suitable for his/her study programme, explained the judge. But Erasmus University uses the system to increase the study tempo. In the first year, students have to achieve all sixty credits and are allowed to compensate for any failures.

The question is whether the ‘objective and intent’ of the N=N system can be supported with the legal requirement that a first-year student can only be dismissed if he/she is unsuitable for the study programme.

Controversial system

The Rotterdam system is controversial because in the first, year students are allowed to compensate any failures with a higher mark. According to the university, this does not affect the level, but critics doubt this.

The ruling from the education judge was spotted (Dutch) by Frank Hendriks, lawyer from Hobéon advice agency. The definitive ruling is yet to be made. Only then will it be clear whether Erasmus University and other institutes will be able to use the N=N system.