Internal appeal procedure Flanders

In Flanders, institutions may formulate comments and/or objections to any enforceable NVAO decision preceding the presentation of a final decision and to any intended decision or assessment report.

The manner in which appeals may be lodged is set out in the NVAO administrative regulations; it is summarised below.The manner in which appeals may be lodged is set out in the NVAO administrative regulations; it is summarised below.


Internal appeals are processed by an Advisory Council that NVAO will set up to this end. The Advisory Council consists of three voting members, among whom an attorney-chair and two experts holding demonstrable experience in higher education or as a member of one or more review committees. The Advisory Council is assisted by an external, independent non-voting secretary. Depending on the case at hand, the Advisory Council may be supplemented with one or two voting substantive members.

Composition of the Higher Education Appeals Advisory Council of the Flemish Community

  • Erik A.N. Derycke, LL M, Chair
  • Prof. Dr Marc Boes, member 
  • Jos Gerards, LL M, member
  • Dr Theo L. Bellekom, LL M, secretary (non-voting)

Erik Derycke, LL M (1949)

earned a law degree at Ghent University in 1972 and has been practising as a lawyer until 2001. In addition, from 1978 to 2001, he has represented the Flemish Socialist Party on, successively, the Provincial Council of West-Flanders, the Federal Parliament, and the Municipal Council of Waregem. In the Dehaene I Cabinet, he held the position of State Secretary for Science Policy (1990) and subsequently the positions of State Secretary and Minister of Development Cooperation (1991-1995). From 1995 to 1999 he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 2001, Mr Derycke was appointed as judge in the Court of Arbitration, which was renamed Constitutional Court in 2007.

Prof. Marc Boes (1946) 

has held several positions at the Law Faculty of KU Leuven University and was appointed as Professor in 1990. His education and research field is administrative law. Prof. Boes retired on 1 October 2011. He is still active in several positions, among which are those of Chair of the Appeals Council for study progress decisions, member of the Supreme Council for Enforcement Policy, Deputy Councillor in the Brussels Court of Appeal, Deputy Member of the Notary Selection Committee, Member of the Recognition Committee of the Flemish Bar Association, and lawyer at the Hasselt court.

Jos Gerards, LL M (1949) 

graduated as a Master of Laws in 1974, specialising in administrative law. He has been working in the higher / academic education sector since 1976. He was involved in the development of Maastricht University from the very start, serving as University Secretary for 15 years and bearing special responsibility for legal counselling. He was closely involved in the drafting of the treaty between Flanders and the Netherlands regarding the transnational Limburg University. He is a consultant of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and of the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU). Furthermore, he sits on the NVAO Appeals Advisory Council in the Netherlands and chairs the Maastricht University Appeals Advisory Committee.

Dr Theo Bellekom (1949) 

is a (certified) external NVAO secretary, in which capacity he is regularly involved in initial accreditations and institutional audits commissioned by NVAO and conducted by panels of experts in the Netherlands. In addition, he serves as Deputy Judge in the court of The Hague (administrative law division). He also chairs/sits on several appeals committees. From 1975 up to and including 2003, Dr Bellekom worked at Leiden University; his last position was that of senior university lecturer in the State and Administrative Law discipline.

Appeals procedure

The board of an institution may formulate its objections in a written appeal, to be addressed to the Advisory Council, care of NVAO. Such appeal must be lodged within a timeframe of 15 calendar days. The timeframe commences on the day after receipt of the draft decision. The board of an institution may be assisted or represented by a legal adviser in appeals procedures. The appeal must, as a minimum, comprise all the following data: 

  1. the name and associated contact details of the board of the institution, viz. a postal address, a telephone number, and an email address; 
  2. the draft NVAO decision to which the appeal pertains; 
  3. a description of the rule(s) and/or standard(s) of propriety deemed violated, and the manner in which such rule(s) and/or standard(s), in the opinion of the board of the institution, has/have been violated. 

The board of the institution may append evidentiary documents to the appeal, if deemed necessary. Such appendices must be bundled and registered on a list of contents. The appeal must be dated and signed by the board of the institution or its legal adviser. 

The Advisory Council assesses the admissibility of each appeal received. 

The secretary of the Advisory Council invites the board of the institution and NVAO to attend a hearing. This hearing is not open to the public. At the hearing, the parties are heard in one another’s presence. 

The Advisory Council confers and decides behind closed doors on the advice to be given. The advice rules on the validity or invalidity of the objections. The secretary will forward the advice to the board of the institution and to NVAO within a timeframe of 15 calendar days following the hearing. In the purview of its justification, it addresses the legal and substantive aspects of the objections point by point, in the light of the standards and principles applicable to the NVAO operations. 

Final decision

The Board of NVAO will take a decision, based on the advice provided by the Advisory Council, which will dictate the subsequent steps in the procedure. A final decision on an admissible appeal will result in one of the following subsequent steps: 

  1. If the appeal is declared inadmissible, the original draft decision and the underlying assessment report will be endorsed definitively; 
  2. If the appeal is declared valid and the advice provided by the Advisory Council is followed in full or in part, the original draft decision or assessment report will be withdrawn; the Board of NVAO will re-formulate the withdrawn draft decision or assessment report;
  3. If the appeal is declared valid and the advice provided by the Advisory Council is not followed, the original draft decision and the underlying assessment report will be endorsed definitively.
The Board of NVAO is under a special obligation to substantiate any decision not to follow an advice from the Advisory Council. 

External appeals

Boards of institutions are entitled to lodge an appeal with the Council of State against decisions taken following an internal appeal procedure. The external appeal must be lodged within 60 calendar days following the date on which the disputed decision was served.