Litigation Committee

The Litigation Committee at the University of Luxembourg is an independent administrative body tasked with resolving certain categories of disputes between “users” of the University of Luxembourg (i.e. current, former and/or potential students of the University) and the University’s decision-making bodies, by law, via a (quasi-judicial) adversarial procedure. The Litigation Committee was partly inspired by the mediaeval notion of universities according to which the professors and students formed a community and any disputes had to be settled “internally”. The Luxembourg Act of 27 June 2018 concerning the organisation of the University of Luxembourg (hereafter the “Act”) did not opt for the most radical form of this model: the Litigation Committee does not have a monopoly over dispute resolution and does not have the status of a court. The Luxembourg courts retain jurisdiction for the vast majority of these disputes (but not all). However, any (current, former and/or potential) student who wishes to bring a complaint before the Administrative Tribunal must first submit his/her grievances to the Litigation Committee.

 

Composition of the Litigation Committee

Members:

Prof. Dr. Luc Heuschling, President, designated member of the teaching staff

Prof. Dr. Séverine Menetrey, designated member of the teaching staff

Ms. Susanna Zohrabyan, designated member of the student delegation

Mr. Aymeric Le Drezen, designated member of the student delegation

Ms. Anja Lenninger, designated member of the administrative, financial and technical staff 

Deputy members:

Prof. Dr. Robert Harmsen, designated member of the teaching staff

Prof. Dr. Frank Hofmann, designated member of the teaching staff

Mr. Patrick-Claus Leske, designated member of the student delegation

Ms. Nikola Kaserová, designated member of the student delegation

Ms. Maristella Fatichenti, designated member of the administrative, financial and technical staff 

 

Please first read the FAQ below before contacting the Commission by sending an email to:

commission.litiges@uni.lu 

 

FAQ

What is the general mission of the Litigation Committee?

The Litigation Committee at the University of Luxembourg is an independent administrative body tasked with resolving certain categories of disputes between “users” of the University of Luxembourg (i.e. current, former and/or potential students of the University) and the University’s decision-making bodies, by law, via a (quasi-judicial) adversarial procedure. The Litigation Committee was partly inspired by the mediaeval notion of universities according to which the professors and students formed a community and any disputes had to be settled “internally”. The Luxembourg Act of 27 June 2018 concerning the organization of the University of Luxembourg (hereafter the “Act”) did not opt for the most radical form of this model: the Litigation Committee does not have a monopoly over dispute resolution and does not have the status of a court. The Luxembourg courts retain jurisdiction for the vast majority of these disputes (but not all). However, any (current, former and/or potential) student who wishes to bring a complaint before the Administrative Tribunal must first submit his/her grievances to the Litigation Committee.

Who belongs to the Dispute Committee?

Based on the idea that disputes should be settled by the university community as a whole, article 46 (2) of the 2018 Act on the University of Luxembourg provides for the Litigation Committee to be composed of members from the following three categories: professors (two members), current students (two members), and administrative, financial and technical staff of the University (one member). In addition to these five full members of the Dispute Committee there are five alternates.

The members are appointed for a three-year term by the University Council, which also chooses the chair of the committee (article 46 (3) Act).

Ideally, the Litigation Committee should sit with five members for each case (article 46 (2) Act). If some members are unavailable, including alternates, it may sit in a minimal configuration of three members (according to article 46 (3), all decisions of the Litigation Committee require the agreement of at least three members, regardless of their category. Neither the Act nor the UL Internal Regulations stipulate a quorum).

To guarantee the impartiality and independence of the Litigation Committee, some individuals are not eligible to be appointed to the committee (members of the Rectorate: article 8 (4) Act and article 9 (5) Act). Sometimes, official members of the Litigation Committee cannot sit for a given case because of doubts as to their impartiality (see, in particular, article 46 (3) Act).  

The Litigation Committee is currently composed as follows:

 

Members:

Prof. Dr. Luc Heuschling, President, designated member of the teaching staff

Prof. Dr. Séverine Menetrey, designated member of the teaching staff

Ms. Susanna Zohrabyan, designated member of the student delegation

Mr. Aymeric Le Drezen, designated member of the student delegation

Ms. Anja Lenninger, designated member of the administrative, financial and technical staff 

 

Deputy members:

Prof. Dr. Robert Harmsen, designated member of the teaching staff

Prof. Dr. Frank Hofmann, designated member of the teaching staff

Mr. Patrick-Claus Leske, designated member of the student delegation

Ms. Nikola Kaserová, designated member of the student delegation

Ms. Maristella Fatichenti, designated member of the administrative, financial and technical staff 

 

What disputes fall within the remit of the Litigation Committee?

In general, the remit of the Litigation Committee does not cover all disputes between students and the University. For example, the committee may not rule on any complaints by students regarding inappropriate behaviour by a member of teaching or administrative staff (for example harassment, violence, etc.). For complaints of this nature, students should contact the superior in this context, namely the Rector, and/or make direct contact with public authorities such as the police or the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The remit of the Litigation Committee is limited to ruling on the validity of certain formal decisions taken by some University bodies.  

The nature of these “formal decisions” is laid down in article 46 (1) of the 2018 Law on the UL, which provides two categories:

“Article 46. Litigation Committee 

(1) A Litigation Committee is set up by the University Council with the following powers: 

1. to rule on appeals against disciplinary sanctions decided by the Rector; 

2. to rule on appeals against decisions taken on the basis of the provisions in articles 32 to 37 and article 39.”

The first category is “disciplinary sanctions”, formal decisions taken by the Rector concerning a student. 

The second category of decisions is broader and more varied, encompassing all the formal decisions taken in connection with the teaching provided on Bachelor, Master and PhD programmes and the research undertaken by students enrolled on a PhD. For example, a mark awarded by a board of examiners may be contested before the Litigation Committee. Similarly, a secondary school pupil who is not admitted to a programme (a decision based on the numerus clausus principle) or a student who is excluded from a given study programme may appeal to the Litigation Committee. A decision may only be contested before the Litigation Committee if it was taken on the basis of one of the specified articles in the Act (articles 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 39 Act).

Who may (or must) bring a matter before the Litigation Committee?

The 2018 Act (articles 46, 47 and 48) remains relatively evasive as to who may bring a matter before the Litigation Committee. It goes without saying that anyone who does so must have a legitimate reason. The UL Internal Regulations give more details about potential complainants, stipulating that “users” of the University of Luxembourg may bring matters before the Litigation Committee (par.[370] Internal Regulations version 2019). In this context, “users” should be understood to mean not only students currently enrolled at the UL but also former UL students (in some cases, in accordance with article 44 (1) and (2) Act, former students may be subject to disciplinary sanctions including the withdrawal of a degree because of fraud). “Users” may even include potential UL students: a secondary school pupil who has submitted an application for enrolment at the University of Luxembourg and whose enrolment is rejected on the basis of articles 32, 33 or 34 Act may (or even must) refer the matter to the Litigation Committee. 

The Act determines the remit of the Litigation Committee in terms of specific types of decision, meaning that anyone affected by a decision of this nature (the “recipient(s)” of the decision) may refer the matter to the Litigation Committee. 

In principle, the referral of a matter to the Litigation Committee is a right. The user is free to choose whether or not to contest a decision or sanction. There is one scenario, however, in which referral to the Litigation Committee is an obligation, and there is also a second point to bear in mind in this respect (see the next section).

Two points to note regarding the referral of matters to the Litigation Committee

First, anyone who wants to contest “sanctions” or “decisions taken on the basis of articles 32 etc. Act” before the Administrative Tribunal of Luxembourg must first refer the matter to the Litigation Committee (article 47 (2) Act; article 48 Act). Failure to comply with this condition is very likely to result in the Administrative Tribunal declaring the claim to be inadmissible. Referral of the matter to the Litigation Committee is therefore a prior obligation; users are prohibited from lodging an appeal directly with the Administrative Tribunal and bypassing the Litigation Committee.

Second, unlike more severe disciplinary sanctions, lesser disciplinary sanctions (i.e. a reprimand, a warning, temporary exclusion from one or more courses or temporary exclusion from the institution; see article 47 (2) and article 43 (1) Act) may only be contested before the Litigation Committee. For this latter category of sanctions, exceptionally, the Chamber of Deputies has explicitly ruled out the possibility of referring matters to the Administrative Tribunal (article 47 (2) Act). In these scenarios, referring the matter to the Litigation Committee is the only avenue for appeal (at least within the Luxembourg system).

Is it possible to appeal to another body before referring the matter to the Litigation Committee, and is there any point in doing so?

The answer is yes.
Under Luxembourg administrative law, in general it is possible to contest an administrative decision of any kind before the person or body responsible for the decision. This is known as an “application for administrative review”. For example, if you are contesting a mark decided by the board of examiners, the application for administrative review involves sending your complaint to the board of examiners and the relevant professor. Questions and problems can be resolved in this way without the need to embark on the more complicated procedure of bringing the matter before the Litigation Committee (e.g. correcting a factual error, etc.). There is of course no obligation to submit an application for review, but the Litigation Committee recommends doing so.
If the review is unsuccessful, you may still then bring the matter before the Litigation Committee (in this case, you are appealing to the Litigation Committee against the decision to reject your administrative review; your appeal must be lodged within a time limit of no more than one month or 7 days – see below for the calculation of deadlines).

What can you request from the committee? What powers does the committee have?

The Litigation Committee begins by examining the admissibility of the request. If the request is admissible, the committee acts in the same way as a court: it examines whether or not, under law, the contested decision complies with all the applicable rules. Either it confirms the decision (and rejects the appeal) or it admits the appeal and, in this case, it may either amend the decision (replacing the contested decision with its own decision) or rescind the decision (the decision is rescinded; the decision-maker must take the decision again in line with the legal framework determined by the Litigation Committee).

When should you appeal to the Litigation Committee? What is the time limit?

Appeals must be filed within specific time limits.
In principle, if a matter is referred to the Litigation Committee after the applicable deadline, the appeal is inadmissible. In this case, users also lose their right to refer the matter to the Administrative Tribunal, since it must first be referred to the committee. However, in specific cases (force majeure, etc.), on an exceptional basis, the Litigation Committee may accept an appeal after the normal deadline.
The 2018 Act stipulates two different deadlines. If the appeal is against a “disciplinary sanction”, the deadline is very short: “seven days from the date of notification of the decision” to impose a sanction (article 47 (1) Act). If the appeal is against a “decision” within the meaning of article 46 (1) 2° Act (“decision taken on the basis of articles 32 to 37 or 39 of the Act”), the deadline is longer: “one month” from the date of notification (article 48 Act).
Since there is no specific information in the Act or in the Internal Regulations regarding the calculation of deadlines, the usual rules of procedural law (administrative litigation procedure, Code of Civil Procedure) apply.

If a user wishes to contest a “disciplinary sanction” decided by the Rector, the deadline, as indicated, is seven days “from the date of notification”. Since notification (i.e. when the UL user is informed of the content of the decision taken) may take many forms, the starting point of the seven-day period may vary:
• if the recipient is notified in person (the paper version of the decision is handed to the recipient on University premises), the time period begins on the day after the day on which the decision is handed to the recipient (e.g. if the recipient receives the decision on 8 January, the period begins on 9 January at 0.00am);
• if the recipient is notified by registered mail with notice of receipt, the period begins on the day after the day on which the letter arrives at the recipient’s home (e.g. if the letter is delivered on 8 January, the period begins on 9 January at 0.00am);
• if the recipient is notified by standard mail, the period begins on the third working day after the day on which the letter is posted (based on the postmark), unless the recipient can prove that the letter did not arrive by this date (e.g. if the letter is postmarked Tuesday 8 January, the period begins on Friday 11 January at 0.00am; non-working days are Saturdays, Sundays and official public holidays);
• if the recipient is notified by email, the (seven-day) period begins on the first day after the day on which the email was sent, unless the recipient can prove that the email did not arrive by this date (e.g. if an email is sent on 8 January, the period begins on 9 January at 0.00am).
The seven-day deadline includes all days, even Saturdays, Sundays and official public holidays. But if the seventh day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or official public holiday, the deadline is deferred until the next working day. For example, if the seventh day falls on a Saturday, the deadline is the following Monday at midnight (i.e. the ninth day). The time period ends at midnight on the final day.

The “one month” time period expires on the same date the following month as the day on which the period began. For example, if the registered letter arrives at your home on 8 January, the period begins on 9 January at 0.00am (see above on determining the start date) and comes to an end on 9 February (at midnight). If the same date does not exist the following month, the period expires on the last day of the month. For example, if the registered letter arrives on 30 January, the period begins on 31 January, and the deadline is the last day of February (28 or 29) because there is no 31 February. If the last day of the “one month” period falls on a Saturday, Sunday or official public holiday, the period is automatically extended and the deadline is deferred until the next working day.
To ensure compliance with the deadline, the complainant simply needs to send a written message (by email) to the chair of the committee within the time period, setting out the main points of the appeal (what decision is being contested and why?). Even if this first email does not contain all the details needed, the appeal is considered as having been filed within the deadline, although any missing details must be provided as soon as possible (e.g. items of evidence, finalising and adding details to a complaint, etc., by a deadline set by the chair of the committee in his/her email reply).

How should an appeal be presented?

The complainant should send an email to the chair of the Litigation Committee, to the following address: commission.litiges@uni.lu.
The secretariat of the Litigation Committee will send an email as soon as possible confirming receipt of this first email and indicating the date on which it was received. If you do not receive a reply, you should send your email again.
The chair of the committee will then contact you by email to let you know whether you have provided all the necessary information for your appeal and if anything more is needed. In the latter case, he/she will set a deadline by which you will need to provide any missing information or documents. He/she will also outline the next stages in the procedure.
You may also send your appeal by post with notice of receipt. The letter should be sent to:

Président(e) de la Commission des litiges, 
Secrétariat de la Commission des litiges,
Maison du savoir, 2 avenue de l’Université,
L-4365 Esch-sur-Alzette.
Please note that you will also need to send an email even if you choose to file your appeal by post! Communication between complainants and the Litigation Committee is generally by email, to facilitate dialogue and ensure that the procedure can be carried out swiftly and efficiently.

Your first written contact (by email or post) should provide the following detailed information (please subdivide your message according to the sections A, B and C outlined below):

A | Information about you:
Last name, first name, email and postal address, ideally a telephone number, your position in relation to the University of Luxembourg (enrolled, former or potential student).

B | Information about the contested sanction or decision:
- Date of the decision/sanction: date/month/year
- Form and date of the notification (receipt) of the decision or sanction: day/month/year (if applicable: time)
- Person responsible for the decision or sanction (Rector, board of examiners, course director, etc.).
- Official name of the programme (“Bachelor/Master in...”) and (if applicable, the course) in relation to which the contested decision was taken.
- Nature of the decision: “disciplinary sanction” (article 46 (1) 1° Act) or “decision taken on the basis of articles 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 or 39 Act”)
Content: attach/enclose a photocopy or scan of the contested decision.

C | Essential information about your complaint
You should outline your grievances regarding the decision as precisely, clearly and thoroughly as possible. Your complaint should be based on legal arguments; it is not enough just to say that the decision is “unfair”.
You should explain exactly what you are asking the Litigation Committee to do (e.g. the board of examiners gave you a mark of 8/20; you think that there has been a mistake and that you should have received a mark of 11/20; you are asking the Litigation Committee to award you the latter mark).
Allegations are not enough; they need to be proven! Include evidence or items that may be used to constitute evidence to back up your claim.

What language should the appeal be written in? What are the working languages of the Litigation Committee?

The University Act adopted in 2018 does not include any systematic exceptions to the Language Act of 24 February 1984. The only activity for which a “multilingual” system that departs to a certain extent from the traditional trilingual system provided by the aforementioned Act of 24 February may be applied by UL bodies, under article 31 (6) Act, is the “teaching of study programmes”. So none of the provisions adopted by the UL regarding the specific language arrangements at the UL (Internal Regulations, version 2019: par.[4]; UL Study Regulations approved by ministerial decree of 21 May 2019: articles 37, 51, 59 and 62) concerns the Litigation Committee. Relations between any claimant (an individual) and the Litigation Committee (an administrative body) remain governed by the aforementioned Act of 24 February 1984, especially its articles 3 and 4. These authorise the use of French, German or Luxembourgish for requests to administrative bodies. Under the same Act, the administrative body should, “as far as possible”, reply in the same language.
So the claim may be written in one of these three languages. In practice, given that the applicable legal texts are written in French, the Litigation Committee strongly encourages claimants to use French.

What is the committee procedure once the appeal has been filed?

The Litigation Committee adopts an adversarial procedure.
If the matter is particularly complex, there may be a written phase before oral proceedings are held. The chair of the committee informs the parties of the arrangements for the procedure.
Once the appeal lodged by the complainant has been finalised, it is sent to the other party (responsible for the contested decision: the Rector, board of examiners, course director, etc.).
If there needs to be a written adversarial phase, the chair of the committee invites the other party to react to the appeal in writing. This written response is immediately sent to the complainant. While complying with the adversarial principle, the chair of the Litigation Committee may ask each party for further details and submit questions for reflection by both parties.
For the oral part of the procedure, the Litigation Committee invites both parties to attend a hearing. The date of the hearing is set and communicated by the chair of the Litigation Committee. At the hearing, an adversarial debate takes place between the parties and between the parties and the committee.
Each party may attend the hearing accompanied by the person or people of their choice. In particular, each party may be assisted by a legal adviser (lawyer, etc.), who may speak.
After the hearing, the Litigation Committee meets to discuss the case. The members of the Litigation Committee decide independently, in accordance with the law; they are not bound by any instructions. The decision of the Litigation Committee requires at least three votes in favour from the members present (article 46 (3) Act).
The duly reasoned decision is sent by email to the complainant and to the other party. It confirms, rescinds or amends the contested decision.

Can the decisions of the Litigation Committee be contested?

Except in certain cases (lesser disciplinary sanctions, see above), decisions of the Litigation Committee may, in turn, be contested by seeking a judicial review in the Administrative Tribunal within a time limit “of one month” (see information on calculating time limits above) from the date of notification of the decision (article 47 (2) Act, article 48 Act).

Examples of anonymized decisions of the Litigation Committee:

Prof. Dr. Luc Heuschling
Full professor
Katja Kümpel
Administrator