Our history

Erasmus School of Law exists 51 years in the summer of 2014. In occasion of the tenth Lustrum in 2013, the beautiful book 'Erasmus School of Law and its predecessors' came out. The book was edited by Prof. Laurens Winkel and Prof. Lodewijk Rogier. This publication provides an overview of fifty years of legal education and research at the Dutch Economic College and the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

  • Foto van Piet Sanders

    Founding father Piet Sanders

    'One founding father was at the cradle of the faculty': Piet Sanders (1912-2012). He is mentioned and praised in many contributions. Sanders - after a relapse in his career, caused by his departure as Secretary General of the Commission General of the Dutch East Indies as a protest against the First Police Action in the fall of 1947 - had the pleasure of arranging a faculty according to his own ideas. He was appointed as professor in 1959 with the explicit task of preparing a new law faculty.

    From 1963 to 1967, he was 'building counsellor' and, long after his retirement in 1981, in fact even until his death at the age of 100 in 2012, he left an important mark on faculty ins and outs. Therefore, it always was a new moment for new faculty directors to contact Piet Sanders, who exerted a great deal of influence, not only because of his great scientific merits but also because of his amiable appearance. The faculty library and the research qualification for faculty staff still named after Sanders.

  • 'When lawyers argue' and other books

    What is presented here as part of the faculty history is not the first history of the faculty. In 1976, the book Portrait of the Rotterdam Law Faculty was published, which is somewhat similar in design to the current memorial book. In that book, legal science as a social science was the central point.
    Two memorial books were published in 1988 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the faculty. The first book wrote about conflict resolution outside the government court. Of course, that theme was inspired by Sanders' great interest in arbitration law. The second book was focused on the people who had shaped the faculty until then. The book was entitled 'When lawyers argue', an allusion to the rather turbulent first period of the faculty in which opinions and views on the organization of education and research often clashed. Broadly speaking, 'When lawyers argue' is about the application of the Veringa Act, the University Administrative Reform Act of 1970, which had far-reaching consequences in the Rotterdam faculty, because the so-called experimentation article was used to give democratization an extra boost.

    Also, much attention was paid to two dominant professors from that period: Jack ter Heide, professor of Introduction to Law, and Louk Hulsman, professor of Criminal Law. There also was a focus on the introduction of a new hierarchy system for academic staff in 1985. From that time on, a university lecturer also had to be promoted. A career within the university became much more dependent on successful scientific research.

    In 1993, following the twentieth anniversary of the Erasmus University, a book was published that mainly dealt with the institutional history of the university. In that book, there also was a focus on the Faculty of Law and in particular to the introduction of tax law education. The book also discusses the various cutbacks in higher education that were carried out in the 1980s and that was also noticeable at Erasmus University, such as the Division of Tasks and Concentration and the Selective Shrinkage and Growth.

  • MUB and MOD

    In the last twenty years, the introduction in 2002 of the Criminology programme, for which there is a great deal of interest, as well as the changes in the regulations on the management of the university and of the faculties are particularly worth mentioning. The Modernization of the University Administration Act came into existence in 1998, in which very many forms of participation that were anchored in the University Administration Act in 1970 were abruptly reversed. The departments thus lost their legal independence. The departments were established in 1970 and had independent powers exercised by professors before 1970. The content of education and research within a department was determined democratically with the participation of students and non-academic staff. After 1998, many powers were transferred to the Dean, who is solely responsible for management and administration. The Dean can, however, delegate certain parts of management and administrative authority. For the faculty, this meant that larger capacity groups were created. There are currently four of such capacity groups: General Law, Private law, Public law and Tax law. The Legal Theory, Legal History, Legal Economics and Social Science Chairs are housed in the General Legal Sciences Capacity Group. Criminology is organized organizationally within the Public Law Capacity Group. Departments function within such capacity groups, which have their own budget, but no financial decision-making authority.

    Since 1998, the University has been led by a Board of Governors whose members are no longer appointed by the Minister of Education, but by a Supervisory Board. Only the members of the Supervisory Board are still appointed by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. This development shows how much the direct involvement of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has declined. After all, until the Pais Act in 1980, where among other things all professors were awarded the title of professors, all professors and professors at the public institutions of scientific education were appointed by the Crown and there was a Royal Decree for each appointment of a professor or lecturer required. The Executive Board is currently appointing a professor, following a procedure in which the sister faculties usually play a modest role in the final phase.

    Nowadays, much more than in the past, the Dean has a leading role within the faculty: the Dean is the only person responsible for the faculty's business for real. Although the Faculty Council still exists, that body does not have more than marginal authority over the budget and personnel policy. Under the WUB, the Faculty Council was authorized to give up confidence in the faculty board. That authority no longer exists under the MUB. Half of the Faculty Council consists of student representatives and the other half consists of representatives of faculty staff. One seat is for a representative of the support and management staff. In the area of the faculty budget and in some parts of the policy, the Faculty Council still has the right to consent. The Council is an official representative body and serves as a consultative body.

    The Dean is currently appointed by the Executive Board for a period of four years and is charged with the administration and with the management of the faculty. Within the financial framework determined by the Executive Board, a Dean has very wide discretion. Certainly, now that the requirements for appointability in legal functions, as previously laid down in the Judicial Organization Act and the Lawyers Act (the so-called requirements for the civil effect), have also lost some importance, that decanal freedom has become even greater.

  • Deans and professors

    In the light of these developments, the Deans of our faculty therefore have placed an increasing stamp on the organization of education and research. The Deans in the last 25 years were: Piet Akkermans (1987–1989 and 1991–1993), Hans Beckman (1989), Rob van Delden (1990–1991), Hans de Doelder (1993–2001), Jaap de Zwaan (2001–2004 ), Marc Loth (2004–2008) and Maarten Kroeze (2008–2012). After his second period as dean, Piet Akkermans was appointed rector magnificus of the university. In 1998, under the leadership of Hans de Doelder, the transition to the new management structure took place. Suzan Stoter has been Dean since the end of 2012. In 2012 she also became a professor of Sociology of Law. Of course, a Dean cannot operate without a certain level of support within the faculty. That is why (since 1997) there have been two-day meetings of professors in Rotterdam during which faculty policy is discussed. These meetings have proved to be very useful, also for the mutual ties within the faculty. These meetings are also attended by two students who participate as non-voting representatives, which has experienced very significant expansion over time.

  • Visitations

    This expansion is especially necessary because the accountability that the university must give to administrative authorities and therefore indirectly to society has been very important. The university has had a lot to explain since the 1970s - look at the well-known article by Herman Vuijsje in the Haagse Post in 1975 about the so-called new exempt persons. University workers are well paid and politics and society demand an ever-increasing account of the time spent. In the past, even in 1963, it was unthinkable that there would ever be a Higher Education Inspectorate, nor was it imaginable that people nowadays measure each other at the universities in a national and international context and report to the outside world in detail about teaching and research. This last operation is called visitation. Such visitations have very important consequences, not only for the working climate at the university but also for the institutions themselves. A poor visitation report on education has an immediate effect on the value of the diploma and can ultimately lead to the closure or cancellation of the relevant study program.

    One of the first visitations of the Rotterdam faculty took place in 1996, with the Visitation Committee led by the well-known Flemish professor Marcel Storme. Since that time, a visitation of education or research has taken place every five or six years, nowadays refined by a mid-term review in between the visitations. Positive educational assessments are necessary for acquiring accreditation for training courses. Every study programme funded by the government at a university must be accredited by an accreditation body, the NVAO, the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organization. That is to say, have been entered in a register. This requires the presentation of a coherent study programme with detailed information about the study load and the educational objectives. These educational objectives must be defined via a fixed system of descriptors. There are of course also mechanisms for checking compliance with these objectives. Very regular surveys are used for this purpose, also among students. The accreditation applies for a period of six years.

  • Innovation in education and research

    In the context of the European Union, efforts are also being made to streamline study programmes to promote exchanges. That is why the bachelor/master system was introduced in 2003, which meant the introduction of a three-year bachelor and a one-year master programme for Dutch university programmes. Dutch universities are an exception to the latter: in almost all other European countries a three-year bachelor's degree is or is being followed by a two-year master's degree. This is the reason that relatively many foreign students come to the Netherlands, also to Rotterdam, to obtain a master's degree. In addition, optimistic agreements were made in Europe about the objectives of academic education. It was agreed in Lisbon in 2006 that half of the population in the whole of the European Union should have attended a higher vocational or university level.

    All this had to have consequences for the general level of the programme. That is why postgraduate programmes have now been established for access to the legal profession and to the judiciary. In 2012, the Erasmus School of Law switched to a new education system, in which the student's self-motivation comes first. In this so-called Erasmus Law College (ELC), students themselves have to look for knowledge through "problem-based learning". The most important teaching meetings are led by a tutor and problems, set by the academic staff, are dealt with via a certain way. Lectures have a supporting function. An important role is also reserved for the teaching of legal skills, which are practised in practicals. This change in education has been modelled in particular by the Law School of York University in the United Kingdom and the Psychology programme of the EUR. The aim of this educational innovation is not only to improve students' motivation and a much-needed increase in the time they spend on their studies but also, in particular, to increase the 'profit' of education, one of the most important external success indicators of university programmes. The performance agreements that the Association of Dutch Universities makes with the Ministry of Education are also in line with this. These agreements can also be felt very strongly at the faculty level.

    Research has been streamlined for years in the sense that it focuses on a limited number of themes, for which the research resources, in particular, are used. On the other hand, the research of individual members of the academic staff is tested once every two years, whereby the criterion is that at least three scientific articles are published each year. This is the Sanders qualification which has already been mentioned.

  • A lot has changed in fifty years

    In short, enormous changes have occurred in the Rotterdam Law Faculty in the last fifty years. The faculty started out as a legal learning environment where dialogue with social sciences such as economics and sociology should exist more than in traditional faculties. In those early days, until 1970, the relationships that had grown in the 19th century still prevailed, following the example of Berlin's Humboldt University.

    Professors jointly controlled and met in the Senate. Scientific staff had hardly been appointed yet and student numbers were extremely low from the current point of view. Studying was an elitist affair and there was only a very modest scholarship system. Then the period of "1968" came with increasing student participation and a huge expansion in their numbers. At the same time, much scientific staff were also appointed in Rotterdam, who received a civil servant statute and thus enjoyed a high degree of legal protection.

    After the Veringa Act (the University Administration Reform Act, the WUB) of 1970, it was all over with the omnipotence of professors. The power in the faculty was exercised by a Faculty Council composed jointly in Rotterdam and everyone could be heard in the meetings of that council. The departments also had their own legal regulation. For example, at the express wish of the students, standards were introduced for the study load of subjects.

    The study advisers, originally intended to monitor the study pace of fellow students, were given more tasks and there was much more support staff in a faculty office. A reversal already occurred in the 1980s. In 1980 the study programme at all faculties, except the medical one, was in principle limited to four years. This was a prior announcement of regulation and an attempt to control the ever more expensive funding of the universities. In the midst of this time full of changes and, in particular, an increase in scale, the 25th anniversary of the faculty was commemorated in 1988.

    In the course of the 1990s the faculty, partly due to the increasing external control and the abolition of what may have been a bit more advanced university democracy, became more like a traditional legal faculty, where the main focus is on legal core subjects. Like other legal faculties, much more attention is paid than in the past to European law in all its facets. Nevertheless, there are still visible accents of Rotterdam in education and research, which are discussed in more detail in the following chapters. Similarly, the independent critical and creative (ICC) lawyer who was a model in the training in the 1970s, is still present in the background as an ideal type.

    The new problem-based education tries to address this independent critical and creative student on his/her responsibility and aims to make students enthusiastic.

  • The current programme

    Whoever speaks of the legal education of Rotterdam, thinks of the highly successful globally recognized initiatives in the field of education and research in the legal economy, of the critical, transversal, but very valuable and original private-law writings of Jan van Dunné, of Hulsman's abolitionism in the past, of the new Criminology programme and of the impulses that were given by various faculty units (private law and criminal law, social sciences) in the field of legal psychology. Some of the original socio-scientific orientation of legal research is still visible today in the updated private and criminal investigation programme.

    Alumni from Rotterdam can be found in much more traditional legal positions such as judges and lawyers, than before. For example, there are two Attorneys-General at the public prosecutor of the Supreme Court who have studied in Rotterdam. In mid-2013, the fifty-year-old faculty consists of 48 full-time or part-time professors, 21 special professors, eighteen associate professors and 38 associate professors. In addition, there are 47 PhD students and the support and management staff consists of 64.6 FTEs.

    Today's university has little peace of mind: the organisation must always be prepared for policy changes that can be initiated at different levels (Europe, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the university and the faculty). The current Erasmus School of Law is prepared for these possible changes. 

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