If it were up to Erasmus University, it would continue the ‘Nominal is Normal’ (N=N) examination system, says spokesperson Sandra van Beek. Earlier in a case between a law student and EUR, the education judge deemed that N=N might be in conflict with the law. Erasmus University is not worried.

“The court case was not specifically about the rule, but about whether the Examining Board had been too strict by not taking the student’s personal circumstances into account,” says Van Beek. “Even if the case had been about N=N, the university would still not have seen any reason for concern,” she continues. “Because N=N is about much more than a binding study advice (BSA). It’s a combination of activating education, fewer resits, compensation as well as BSA. It was introduced to help students progress in their studies. Research has shown that the group which passed the BSA (of 40 credits) now passes the first year in one go.”

Mitigating circumstances

Doubts about the legal validity of N=N were sown by an education judge in the judgement of a preliminary injunction in a case brought by a student at Erasmus School of Law (ESL). The student felt that the Examining Board should not give a binding negative study advice due to personal circumstances (a cousin’s suicide and the resulting concentration problems).

The judge decided that the Examining Board probably should have taken the personal circumstances more into account. But in that decision, reference was also made to N=N. In his judgement, he also noted that it “[is] also important whether the norm, which essentially means that a student must pass his/her studies and therefore complete the whole year without delays […], in view of the goal and essence, is compatible with the statutory requirement that a binding negative study advice can only be given if a student is unsuitable for the programme.”

No definitive decision

Because this is a preliminary injunction, the student may continue studying at ESL until the definitive judgement. That should follow in current proceedings on the merits, but that has been sidelined. Because the student has since transferred to another university, that case will not be heard.