MATTERS RELATING TO STUDIES AND EXAMINATIONS
In addition to the statutory provision, academic and examination related matters of students in higher education are regulated by the detailed internal regulations created by the individual institutions. These regulations are public to all students, but in many cases it is our Office that informs those concerned of the rules applicable to them. Therefore, in the course of our activity we always try to call the attention of students to the availability of regulations facilitating thereby the effective assertion of their interests.
The rules pertaining to examination are in the most cases laid down in the internal regulations of the higher education institutions in full detail. Despite this, the events at an examination and the grades awarded often touch students to the core.
A student complained about the mark he received for an examination. We informed him that within the meaning of Article 32 (2) (c) of the Higher Education Act the teacher shall have the right to assess the academic activity and performance of students, therefore examination of the assessment of performance at an examination does not fall within the competence of the Commissioner of Educational Rights. However, even this autonomy of the teacher is limited by the procedural rules that are laid down in the law and the academic and examination regulations of the institution concerned. In the event that such an infringement can be proved in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions, then pursuant to Article 34 (4) of the Higher Education Act the student shall be entitled to appeal against decisions or actions of the higher education institution, or against cases when the institution fails to make a decision on the grounds of violation of the provisions relating to student status. In his letter the student mentioned that he would record the examination with a dictaphone. In this regard we called the attention of the student to the fact that apart from possibly violating personal rights, this solution could not be accepted as evidence in case of a review. (K-OJOG-533/2005.)
The obligation to pass a foreign language examination for the award of the diploma frequently proves to be the requirement which is the most difficult to fulfil. Like before, in 2005 our Office again received a considerable number of inquiries related to this issue - both from the students and the higher education institutions.
The Office of the Commissioner of Educational Rights received a number of complaints concerning the TOEIC examination in English (Test of English for International Communication) which the Budapest School of Communication introduced in 2004 as a language requirement for its business communication degree programme. The petitioners found it injurious that the college stipulated as a requirement passing the TOEIC examination with retrospective effect despite the fact that in 2003 when the petitioners were enrolled in the institution the college only required that an intermediate examination in one of the languages selectable on the basis of the academic regulations of the college be passed and that two subjects taught in English be completed. They claimed that in addition to the unlawfulness of the retrospective effect of this change, this requirement imposed considerable financial burdens on the students. As a consequence of our procedure and based on a survey among the students, the director-general of the institution carried out an in-house enquiry in connection with the TOEIC examination. As a result he established that although its introduction as a mandatory subject and passing this language examination would bring several benefits for the students concerned, acting in line with the opinions of the students, as of the academic year 2005/2006 the TOEIC language examination would be featured as an elective subject in the model curriculum. In accordance with the decision of the college, the TOEIC was simultaneously deleted from the range of mandatory subjects. (K-OJOG-269/2005.)
A deputy rector requested information about the actions a higher education could (should) take in case it proved true that the language exam certificate, which is defined as a precondition for the award of the diploma, a student (ex student) submitted was a forgery. If the person presenting the language exam certificate is still a student of the institution, he or she may as well be subjected to disciplinary proceedings. As also indicated by the deputy rector, in such a case the institution may refuse to issue the diploma. On the other hand, the institution is advised to do so only if it is absolutely certain that the language exam certificate is a counterfeit, because the student is entitled to bring the case before the court in order to obtain the diploma, and should the court find that the language exam certificate is valid it may give judgment against the higher education institution. The higher education institution also has the option of reporting the case to the police, in which case it is the investigative authority which shall decide whether a criminal offence has been committed or not. The higher education institution is not liable to lodge a complaint, this is only an option. Article 171 (1) of Act XIX of 1998 on Criminal Proceedings states that anyone may lodge a complaint concerning a criminal offence . It is obligatory to lodge a complaint if failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence. In our case the alleged criminal offence is forgery which is not subject to the obligation to lodge a complaint. Within the meaning of Paragraph (2) of the same Act, members of the authority and official persons, further, if prescribed by a separate legal regulation, public bodies shall be obliged to lodge a complaint - also identifying the offender if this person is known - concerning a criminal offence coming to their cognisance within their scope of competence. The means of evidence shall be attached to the complaint, or, if this is not possible, their safekeeping shall be arranged for. In our opinion a teacher of a higher education institution is neither a member of the authority, nor an official person, therefore no obligation is established by the provisions cited above either. (K-OJOG-643/2005.)
On many occasions our Office is contacted by students with disability who face more problems in pursuing their degrees than their healthy peers do. In the majority of the cases they know little of the preferential conditions and exemptions they are entitled to, hence we make all efforts to assist them with their studies by providing comprehensive information.
A petitioner requested information on the legal regulations applying to students with dyslexia. We called her attention to the fact that the relevant provisions are set out in Decree 29/2002 (V.17.) of the Minister of Education on the conditions of equal opportunities required for enabling students with disability to pursue their studies. According to Article 10 ( b) of the Decree students with dyslexia may replace a written examination with an oral examination, and if on account of their disability they are not able to meet the requirements of the written component of the state-accredited 'C' category foreign language examination , they may be granted partial exemption from passing the 'B' category (written) language examination. Furthermore, longer preparation time shall be ensured for such students than that established for students without disability, for written tests the use of a computer shall be allowed, and for the examination they shall be provided with the necessary devices (e.g. typewriter, speller, dictionary of definitions, thesaurus). Additional general exemptions or preferential conditions pertaining to students with disability are also set forth in the Decree. The Annex to the Decree determines the rules pertaining to the establishment of disability. Accordingly, if a student suffered from disability already during his or her public education and as a consequence he or she enjoyed preferential treatment at educational and school-leaving examinations, the expert opinion attesting the establishment of the disability, its degree, and whether it is permanent or temporal shall be issued by the National Expert and Rehabilitation Committee for Speech Assessment which is competent on the basis of the type of disability, or by the Expert and Rehabilitation Committee Assessing Learning Ability which has competence at the place of residence. Based on the above, the petitioner had to obtain the expert opinion establishing the disability in the first place so that in accordance with the decision taken within its competence, the higher education institution could ensure for her the preferential conditions regulated in the Decree. (K-OJOG-112/2005., K-OJOG-254/2005.)
Article 5 of the Decree stipulates that higher education institutions shall be liable only to decide whether they provide the preferential conditions to their students or not. According to Article 2 (1) of the Decree students with disability shall have the right to file an application for preferential treatment. Pursuant to Article 5 (1) of the same Decree the application shall be adjudged by a committee set up for this purpose. Within the meaning of Article (2) students shall also be entitled to appeal against the decision of the committee. However, the committee or in the case of an appeal the head of the higher education institution shall not make the decision on the basis of equity, but shall be free to decide, taking into account the arguments presented, whether the institution grants preferential treatment. The legislation only stipulates the provision of preferential conditions as an option for higher education institutions but not as an obligation. Under the aforementioned provisions, the student may be exempted from passing the 'B' category language examination if the higher education institution so decides. No lawful exemption may be granted from the obligation to take the 'A' category examination. The higher education institution would thus violate the law if it also exempted the student from the latter obligation. (K-OJOG-1304/2005.)
During 2005 a number of correspondence students or students receiving distance education contacted our Office with their problems and comments concerning the arrangement of contact hours, examination dates and consultation sessions. We reached the following conclusions with regard to the complaints.
Pursuant to Article 70/F of the Constitution the Republic of Hungary guarantees the right of education and thus the possibility of pursuing studies in higher education to its citizens. A decisive principle of the enforcement of the latter right is that it is not an inherent right of citizens but is available to them on the basis of their ability. Decisions regarding participation in higher education are informed by several factors, since in addition to the individual objectives and the financial conditions of the candidates these are also influenced by social interests (thus general demand for the degree), and - especially in the case of correspondence training - the demands of employers. Applicants must therefore ponder a number of circumstances that could affect their studies in the future when they decide how much time, funds and paid or unpaid leave from the workplace they will need for the pursuit of the studies of their choice. Naturally, the factors influencing the outcome of studies may change over the years for the student, the employer and the higher education institution alike. At the same time, these changes obviously cannot bring about the transformation of the entire training system in line with the prevailing demand, nor could these lead to the occasional revision of the employer's criteria. In determining the dates for examination and consultation, besides the individual requests of students, several other interests must be reconciled. Therefore, the principles pertaining to the maintenance of the coherence of the training provision system are in particular relevant in the case of correspondence training, and students are to schedule and plan their studies within this framework. (K-OJOG-1173/2005., K-OJOG-1214/2005.)
In connection with the petitions filed on distance education we also informed the petitioners that under point z) of Article 124/E of the Higher Education Act distance education is a form of training provision which is based on the interactive relationship of the teacher and the student and the independent learning activity of the student with the help of a set of specific information and communication technology tools of teaching and knowledge transfer and learning methods , the duration of which and the ways of verifying knowledge transfer and the fulfilment of academic requirements are determined by the higher education institution in an agreement concluded with the student on an individual training schedule. Within the meaning of this provision, the schedule of distance education is a flexible arrangement based on the mutual agreement between the higher education institution and the students involved in the training and therefore the Higher Education Act contains no rules that are binding in respect of its timetable and the determination of consultation and examination dates. (K-OJOG-915/2005.)