Almost every company or organization has information that must not fall into the hands of third parties or competitors. If you do an internship or carry out research at a company or organization, you could have access to this information. To stop you from disclosing confidential information, a company or organization may require you to keep such information secret. What information is confidential will differ from one company or organization to another. It could be anything: information of a commercial, technical or financial nature. It will usually be information that is of value to competitors.

A duty of confidentiality is commonly laid down in a clause in the internship or graduation agreement or in a separate agreement - usually referred to as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or confidentiality agreement - that in some cases has to be signed in addition to the internship or graduation agreement.

Before signing an internship or graduation agreement and/or NDA it is important to check the duty of confidentiality against the following points:

The requirement of access to and retention of internship reports and final theses
Your internship or graduation project concludes with an internship report or final thesis that has to be submitted to your TU/e supervisor(s) and/or the thesis committee for assessment. It must also be possible to submit the internship report or final thesis for quality-control purposes to the Examination Committee and/or the review committee (NVAO).

The duty of confidentiality laid down in the internship or graduation agreement and/or NDA must not be phrased in such a way that the TU/e supervisor(s) and members of the thesis committee, Examination Committee and/or review committee are wholly or partly unable to read your report or thesis.

An example of a clause that is unacceptable:
'Following assessment, all confidential documents (with the exception of one copy for filing in the internship provider's secure records) relating to the internship project shall be returned to the internship provider by the student and/or destroyed on the instructions of the internship provider.'

The result of this clause is that the Examination Committee would not be able exercise its duty and power to guarantee the quality of your final assessment (i.e. your internship report or final thesis), and your degree certificate could therefore not be issued.

Time limit
A duty of confidentiality has a time limit. A company will usually require you not to share any confidential information with third parties during the internship or graduation project and for a certain number of years after its completion.

TU/e does not accept perpetual confidentiality in relation to internship reports and final thesis.

TU/e policy is that internship reports and final theses must be openly available. If a company nevertheless wishes to impose a temporary embargo, TU/e will accept a maximum confidentiality period of two years.

An example of a clause that is unacceptable:
'The student is not permitted to publish articles about, or in relation to, confidential data on the project or publicly disclose anything on the subject in any form.'

This clause does not state any time limit, which means that the duty of confidentiality is perpetual. Ensure, therefore, that the internship agreement states a time limit on the duty of confidentiality in relation to internship reports and final theses.

Time limit for final theses
TU/e has a fixed policy on final theses. In brief, this is as follows:

  • A final thesis must be placed/published in the TU/e library.
  • If a company or organization considers that commercial interests could be harmed by publication of the thesis, it may impose a temporary embargo for a maximum of two years. This means that the thesis must not be published, and therefore must not be placed in the TU/e library, for two years.
  • If the company/organization deems it necessary to impose an embargo for more than two years, the company/organization will have to submit a substantiated request to the dean of the department. The dean may decide to extend the confidentiality period by a maximum of another 3 years.