The alumni demanded a refund of part of their tuition fees, after it appeared that the faculty had charged around 30,000 euros more for its part-time master than was legally permitted.

Administrative decision

According to the civil judge, the claims are not admissible because the case should not have been submitted to him but to the administrative judge. According to the judge, the admission of a student to a university is an administrative decision, taken by the Executive Board. As such, a court case about tuition fees should be heard by the administrative judge, in case the Appeals Tribunal for Higher Education (CBHO) in The Hague. During the hearing, the lawyers of the students disputed that this was an administrative decision. According to them, it concerned the agreement about tuition fees that was taken prior to that decision.

The court did not agree. The students involved must pay the legal fees incurred by Erasmus University amounting to 26,000 euros.

Unpleasant surprise

Lawyer Derk Tromp, one of the five lawyers representing the students, calls the judgement an ‘unpleasant surprise’. “I do not consider this judgement to reflect how the hearing proceeded. These students did not know that this was a decision, so they could not appeal at the time.” According to Tromp, the alumni still want to be compensated, but he cannot yet say whether they will go to the CBHO. “I want to speak to students first and then consult the other lawyers.”

The university is generally pleased with the judgement, but there are also mixed feelings about the confrontation with its own alumni. “The judge has initially decided in our favour, and we are naturally happy about that,” says Rateb Abawi, spokesperson for Erasmus University “However, we regret that we faced our alumni in a court case and we hope that they will accept this judgement. We attach great value to maintaining our relations with students and alumni and will always do our best to nurture them,” says Abawi.

Luxury master

For many years, RSM offered a two-year ‘luxury’ part-time master costing 17,000 euros in tuition fees. In March 2019, the education inspectorate judged that only the legal tuition fees could be charged because the RSM received government funding for study programme. The legal tuition fees are around 2,000 euros, meaning that, in the opinion of the inspectorate, EUR received around 30,000 euros too much over the course of the two years. Alumni from some years were offered a ‘goodwill payment’, but these 146 alumni were not included.

rechtbank Rotterdam

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