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29.06.2021 | KPMG Law Insights

VG Kassel: University is under no obligation to verify timely registration for examinations.

VG Kassel: University is under no obligation to verify timely registration for examinations.

In a nutshell

In a decision dated September 24, 2020 (Ref.: 3 L 1216/20.KS), the VG Kassel ruled that the university is generally not obligated to inform students that they have not registered for an examination effectively or on time. This also applies if the examination is the last opportunity for the person concerned to repeat it. Especially because students can check for themselves with a small effort before the registration deadline if the registration was successful. The freedom of students to organize their studies (registering for courses, registering for exams, etc.) means that students also have the responsibility to take care of their needs in a timely manner and also to know the examination regulations. The university is free to process registrations via a digital system and to link the failure to meet the registration deadline to the intended legal consequences (expiry of the examination entitlement and thus the end of the study program).

Background

The plaintiff was a student at the defendant university and had the last opportunity in the winter semester 2019/2020 to pass the exam “Statistics II” in the third attempt. According to his testimony, the plaintiff had correctly registered for the exam in the HISPOS data processing program operated by the university on Dec. 19, 20019. The test should be conducted on 17.02.2020. 09.02.2020 was the deadline to register for the exam. On Feb. 11, 2020, the plaintiff checked his registration in HISPOS and found that he was not registered. He applied for admission to the exam directly to the defendant on Feb. 12, 2020.

The university rejected this request. It was possible to see from the technical data that the defendant had logged in on the date in question, but he had apparently not registered for an examination. There were also no known technical problems at the time in question.

The examination regulations contain a provision (§ 5 para. 6 of the examination regulations for the degree program) which states that the examination must be taken in the semester following the last failed attempt if it is offered. As a result of the failure to register on time, the plaintiff’s entitlement to the examination had finally expired. He thus had no further opportunity to continue the course of study. The plaintiff does not consider this regulation to be justified under constitutional law (Article 12 of the German Basic Law – freedom of occupation) because of its far-reaching effects.

The parties now essentially disputed the question of whether the plaintiff had registered and, if not, whether he should have been reminded by the university to register for the exam or at least made aware that he should check his registration.

The plaintiff filed an application for a temporary injunction with the aim of obliging the university to admit him to the examination as soon as possible.

Decision

The court decided the emergency motion in favor of the plaintiff: it stated that § 5 para. 6 of the subject examination regulations does not meet with any constitutional objections, since the ordinance authorization from § 20 para. 2 No. 6 HHG in conjunction with. § 20 para. 2 No. 12 HHG also encompasses the consequences of non-compliance with the deadlines, which is also justified with regard to Article 12 of the Basic Law.

The plaintiff had also not been able to sufficiently substantiate that, contrary to the defendant’s statements, the data processing program HISPOS had incorrectly failed to save his registration. Thus, the university’s decision not to admit the plaintiff to the examination did not constitute an inadmissible decision on the basis of Section 5 (5). 6 of the examination regulations. The university should not have allowed an exception.

Since the plaintiff could have checked whether the application, which was so important for him, was successful without much effort, the university was not under any obligation to remind him or to ask him to check his application, the court ruled. Nor does anything to the contrary result from the university’s obligation to offer a fair procedure in view of Article 12 of the German Constitution. Precisely because the students are quite free in the organization of their studies (registration for courses, registration for examinations, etc.), they are obliged to take care of their concerns independently and to familiarize themselves with the essential regulations.

In view of the court’s clear statements, no other decision is to be expected in any main proceedings that may still be pending.

What can readers take away?

Universities are not required to notify students if they have not registered for an exam; even if it is the last exam opportunity for the individual. Students must verify, especially with a computerized administrative program, that enrollment has been effective.

 

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