Faculty of Law: MaRBLe for Lawyers

Bram Akkermans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The Maastricht University Research Based Learning (MaRBLe) project offered a unique but challenging opportunity to the law faculty. Working with undergraduate (or bachelor) students on research was already part of regular, i.e. curricular, teaching activities, but the number of students and collaboration between students and students and staff involved in MaRBLe projects was unprecedented. Moreover, law degree curricula offer additional challenges as the content of these programs is heavily determined by requirements from regulated professional organizations (Ashman, 2011; Claessens, 2011). The best example of this is perhaps the Dutch order of lawyers (Orde van Advocaten (NOVA)), this order determines, together with the Council of Justices (Raad voor de Rechtspraak), a minimum level of subjects that must be dealt with in any law degree program. Students that graduate from both an undergraduate (bachelor) and graduate (master) program in law offered by Dutch universities, receive an additional qualification - named civil effect - that enables them access to these regulated professions. Although certainly not all law school graduates enter into legal practice (Ashmann 2011), almost all law school curricula traditionally fulfil these requirements. Similarly, also tax lawyers have similar requirements for graduated tax lawyers, sometimes combined with the Dutch law qualifications.
From the very beginning the Faculty of Law chose to develop MaRBLe projects as non-mandatory elective courses. This means that mandatory courses, needed to fulfil the professional qualification standards, were not directly affected giving necessary room to create new courses (some exceptions will be explained in section 4).
Besides these regulatory restrictions another factor was that the faculty upholds a strict policy not to create new courses for students without cancelling other courses. MaRBLe projects were, as is part and parcel in the entire MaRBLe project, financed through the SIRIUS grant from the Dutch Ministry of Education and Culture. Also this financial freedom allowed for experimentation with undergraduate learning.
In as much as possible MaRBLe was to be part of the regular curriculum of undergraduate students that were admitted. This was achieved by equating the MaRBLe paper with the bachelor thesis that students would otherwise write as part of their regular programme. Combined with an elective – i.e. non-mandatory - course, this provided enough room to implement a full MaRBLe project. To enable these MaRBLe projects to take place, the Exam Rules of the Faculty were amended. These amendments enables students to follow MaRBLe projects as part of their degree program and set minimum assessment criteria for the MaRBLe papers. The minimum requirement for a MaRBLe paper became the same requirement as a bachelor thesis so that MaRBLe papers could be equated with bachelor theses and students could therefore graduate their bachelor with their MaRBLe paper. However, the content requirements - which require a legal analysis of a problem - were deliberately left out, so that students could be allowed to participate in MaRBLe projects at other faculties. The MaRBLe faculty coordinator functioned as supervisor to ensure this minimum standard was attained.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch-based learning
Subtitle of host publicationCase studies from Maastricht University
EditorsEllen Bastiaens, Jonathan van Tilburg, Jeroen van Merriënboer
ISBN (Electronic)978-33-1950-993-8
ISBN (Print)978-33-1950-991-4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Publication series

SeriesProfessional Learning and Development in Schools and Higher Education


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