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The Netherlands: student rights regulated by law

A recent study concluded that the legal position of students should be set in law; on 27 February 2019, in a Letter to Parliament the Minister for education accepted this conclusion.

Education agreements, concluded between VET students and their school, were expected to strengthen the negotiating position of VET students in their dealings with schools. A study commissioned by the ministry of education concluded that education agreements did not achieve this goal. On the contrary, they failed to put schools and students in an equivalent position, entailed excessive paperwork, and the legal position of the students hardly changed. This is also apparent from complaint reports published by the national union for VET students. The main issue is that students are not aware of their rights and obligations, as they neither read the agreement carefully, nor understand its impact or potential. As researchers do not foresee that students’ negotiating position will improve by feeding them with more and better information, they propose to abolish the education agreement and set students’ legal position in law, as is already the case for other student rights.

In the Letter to Parliament, the Minister proposes the legal position and protection of VET students to be regulated by law. Legal procedural requirements with regard to suspension and removal will limit the schools' freedom to set their own rules; all VET schools will have to apply the same procedure. The Minister also proposes to set in law the right of (school) support for students with a handicap or chronic illness. With their rights set in law, VET students will be in a better position to claim their rights.

How will student rights be enforced?

An independent complaints body will be set up, in addition to the existing schools’ complaints committees. The setup of this body is an important development for students, as until now their only option in the event of a conflict was going to court.

Education agreements

Education agreements were introduced in accordance with the 1996 Act on VET aiming to increase the policy autonomy of VET schools, which had to be shared with local stakeholders, such as teaching staff, local businesses and students. An education agreement covered the rights and obligations of schools and students, and administrative details, such as the title and level (1-4) of a vocational training course and the learning pathway (dual or school-based). It was assumed that an agreement would be more than an administrative formality, encouraging both parties to abide by what was agreed on and to hold each other accountable.

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Rechtspositie mbo-studenten verbetert zonder onderwijscontract

Onderwijsovereenkomst verdwijnt, geen extra administratieve lasten voor scholen