Q&A: Fewer university students contest exam results

Summary

Higher education students in Flanders can appeal their exam results to a special external council, but those who choose to do so are in a significant minority

Class action

Higher education students in Flanders can contest decisions made regarding their progression to the next year of studies, including exam results. Once they go through their school’s internal appeal procedure, they can turn to the Raad voor betwistingen inzake studievoortgangsbeslissingen, or the Council for Disputes about Decisions on Study Progress. A council spokesperson explains what it entails.

Are more students challenging their exam results?
In 2016, the council received 699 disputes, including 219 from students challenging their exam results. That’s only five more cases than in 2015. After years in which the numbers rose, we’re now actually seeing a stability.

When do most students appeal?
The appeals are submitted throughout the year, with clear peaks in July, September and October – after the final exam periods. In February, however, the number of appeals drops. We think this is because students hope to pass their exams by resitting them, instead of contesting the results. 

What other trends have you noticed?
More than 60% of the appeals are filed against universities, which is surprising because in the 2015-2016 academic year there were more students registered at university colleges than universities – 118,000 versus 116,000. We don’t have a clear explanation for this, but one reason might be that university students are better informed about their appeal options. 

Have some students actually hired lawyers to dispute their exam results?
Students can be assisted by a lawyer throughout the entire appeal procedure. In 2016, 88 students opted for counsel, so the majority go through it on their own.

When students are assisted by a legal advisor, there is a better chance that their appeal will be considered admissible. We are seeing, however, that more and more universities and university colleges are also hiring lawyers to defend their own interests. 

Photo: Rob Stevens/KU Leuven