Students unfairly excluded from exams: ‘Those duped by MyStudymap should complain’
Students who failed to confirm their registration in MyStudymap on time cannot just be excluded from participating in exams, according to the Examination Appeals Board. ‘Even if you were in the wrong, that doesn’t justify the possibility of being unceremoniously kicked out of the room.’
Sebastiaan van Loosbroek
Wednesday 14 June 2023

For several months now, MyStudymap, the new registration system for courses and exams, has been a real pain in the neck. In November, Humanities Faculty Council member Elizabeth den Boer expressed her concerns after the education administration offices received ‘hundreds of e-mails from stressed students’.

The main issue: reconfirming the registration. Those who fail to do so in time are automatically unenrolled. However, Den Boer pointed out that many students do not know they have to reconfirm their participation in the exam or do so too late. In some cases, it seems the system itself is not working properly and students are wrongly unenrolled.

After coverage in Mare, more complaints followed at other Faculty Councils. Lecturers had to turn students away from exams because they had not reconfirmed their participation in time, resulting in study delays.


In some cases, this is unjustified, says the Examination Appeals Board (CBE). The CBE is an independent appeals body where students can go if they disagree with a decision taken by a Board of Examiners, a Board of Admissions or an examiner.

However, remarkably few students lodge appeals. Over the past few months, only six students have appealed to the CBE for being excluded from participating in an exam because they failed to confirm their registration on time. Four of those six cases were settled before a Board of Examiners. The remaining two appeals resulted in a decision by the CBE. One of these was in favour of the student.

What was the situation?
CBE chair and assistant professor of administrative law Olaf van Loon: ‘A first-year law student argued that he had enrolled for an exam but something had gone wrong in the system. Although we were reasonably convinced after the hearing that he had not enrolled for the exam and therefore had not received any reminders to confirm his enrollment, we still believe that first-year students should not be automatically excluded from participation.’

‘We felt that the first-year student’s interest was greater than those of the university’

‘You have to weigh up the interests of the university against those of the student. The university’s interests include efficient use of rooms and staff, for example. The interest of first-year students is to receive their binding study advice (BSA). In this case, we felt that the first-year student’s interest was greater, as we considered the risk that he might otherwise encounter problems too high. Our decision is binding, so the Board of Examiners has to comply with it. What that means in this case is that the exam, which he did get to sit, will be assessed after all.’

CBE member and assistant professor of history Adriaan Rademaker: ‘Moreover, the Course and Examination Regulations (OER) of the Law School state: “By enrolling for the course component, the student simultaneously enrols for the corresponding exam.” This is a rule applying to all bachelor’s students that has been in place for several years, even before the introduction of MyStudymap. This student did register for the course, so formally he was also registered for the exam. But whether the OER is correct or not, that balance of interests remains in place.’

What was the outcome of that other case?
Van Loon: The other case involved a master's law student who also claimed to have enrolled for the exam, but had not received any of the numerous reminders. We were unable to check this, but during the hearing it became clear that she had not reconfirmed her enrollment. We declared her appeal unfounded, so the exclusion from the exam remains valid. We decided to do so because the study delay will be limited and she the binding study advice is not a concern for her. Plus, the student in question is a master’s student, who has more experience with how things work here at the university than a first-year student.’
But MyStudymap is new to all students.
Van Loon: ‘Because of the BSA, we believe that the interests of all first-year students outweigh the interests of the university. That is what we decided. For all other students, it works out to their disadvantage for the time being. But if we receive new appeals that may involve study delays, we might also want to reconsider the position of non-first-year students.’

‘Even if you were in the wrong, that doesn’t justify being unceremoniously kicked out of the exam’

Rademaker: ‘Similarly, if senior students can’t complete a certain course, this may mean that they’re not allowed to start another course. But we can only do something when students lodge an appeal. It all depends on that.’
Two appeals in a few months’ time is not a lot, yet many students are experiencing problems using MyStudymap. How can that be?
Van Loon: ‘Students are usually familiar with the Board of Examiners; that’s where you go first if you want to object to something. But many students don’t know that there's a CBE where you can lodge an appeal if you disagree with a decision made by the Board of Examiners. Some of my colleagues have had to remove crying students from the examination room because they hadn’t confirmed their registration, but unfortunately these students didn’t lodge an appeal either. Maybe fear is also a factor: if I oppose the lecturer of the Board of Examiners I have to keep working with for another three years, won’t they hold that against me? However, in my experience, that fear is unjustified.’

So doesn’t the Board of Examiners inform students that they can turn to the CBE?
Van Loon: ‘Under every decision it is stated that you can lodge an appeal.’
Rademaker: ‘In small print.’
Van Loon: ‘Another reason is that students often think: it’s no use because the Board of Examiners or the examiner probably know better. Or: I was in the wrong so I’ll just forget about it and retake the exam next year. But the crux of our decision is: ‘even if you were in the wrong, that doesn’t justify the possibility of being unceremoniously kicked out of the exam room. There always has to be a weighing up of interests.’

Rademaker: ‘Students tend to feel like the decision of a lecturer or the Board of Examiners is set in stone. They would do well to know that this is not the case. You always have to check whether there is a legal basis for being excluded from an exam. That’s not to say that anything is fair game and you can’t lose, but students should be more aware that they don’t have to be victims of the system.’

Don’t you worry that the number of appeals will skyrocket after this interview?
Van Loon: ‘That’s not the intention, but it is the task of the CBE to stand up for the legal protection of students. That’s why it’s a free and accessible procedure that allows students to quickly find out whether they’ve been wronged.’

Rademaker: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if next year, there are far fewer problems with MyStudymap. A few years ago, uSis was the new system and students forgot to go through all sorts of administrative steps. It was a terrible system, but nevertheless, the number of user errors quickly decreased.’

Van Loon: ‘And there have already been some changes. For example, if you haven’t completed the entire registration process yet, you will no longer see a green bullet but instead an orange one. So I don’t want to give the impression that the Executive Board is determined to keep a system in place that is extremely disadvantageous to students. But as reported in Mare: they don’t want to get rid of it either.’