Female medical students at the University of Utrecht who claimed they were unfairly discriminated against by an exam board that accused them of cheating have won their case.
A university appeals committee found in their favour. The women were sitting a pharmacology exam when invigilators noticed many of them leaving to go to the lavatory. Four sheets of A4 paper detailing summarised coursework and the answers to previous exams were found in a compartment containing sanitary disposal bags in the ladies' lavatory.
The department of medicine exam board ruled that all of the female students be disqualified on account of what it described as "organised fraud".
A spokesman for the board said it believed it was acting in the students'
best interests. Female students were outraged. Ten women were seen leaving the exam hall to use the toilet during the exam, yet all 33 were disqualified. No male students were disqualified.
Twenty-one students took their complaint to the appeals committee, which found that although the exam board had been right to take action, it had done so in the wrong manner. No distinction should have been made between male and female students, it said.
Although there was relief among the female students at the outcome, some said the university did not do enough to make amends. The women were told while they were still sitting the exam that they were being disqualified. Some left before finishing and others felt that their work suffered as a result. They felt they should have been given the chance to resit the exam.