“We are doing everything we can to be fully open again on 1 September”, said recently Annetje Ottow, the President of the Executive Board, at the University Council. That would also mean full lecture halls but whether this is possible is not clear yet. The faculties are expected to prepare for different scenarios, from an “optimal” one with reduced measures to more constraining scenarios in the case where sanitary conditions worsen before September.
Or at least, this was what had been announced in the “scenario-letter” sent by the resigning Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven to the House of Representatives at the end of April. Since then, the government announced a new framework for the re-opening of higher education on Friday the 18th.
While the “most likely scenario” remains one where all lectures can take place on campus and the one-and-a-half-meters distance rule is removed, the government now demands double preparation and heightened flexibility.
Higher education establishments are now expected to “prepare for a situation where the 1.5 meters rule is abandoned, while also having a scenario prepared in case the 1.5 meters must remain”, a framework outlined in a letter sent by the Ministry last week.
Inevitably, this delayed final decision does not please everyone. The institutions now have to wait several weeks before being finally informed. This forces universities to prepare for two scenarios and plan for both offline and online classes, a highly inconvenient framework that requires double planning and scheduling. What education will look like is still very uncertain, causing a lot of discontent in higher education.
NO LIMIT FOR EXAMS
However, there are still “some complementary measures, such as voluntary (self)testing and the implementation of a maximum group size” that remain. According to the Minister, this may mean that “no form of physical education could be given above 75 people”.
Even if this rule is later deleted, “a maximum for group size could be adopted at the national level, depending on the size of the area occupied for teaching. There are exceptions. No limits are set for “tests, exams, and self-study”.
In any case, Leiden University is preparing to reopen without limits on the number of students. But in a memo to the faculties, the executive board did write that the scheduling “must take into account a maximum of 75 students in a lecture hall.
ACCESS TO OFFLINE BY DRAW
“For larger groups of students, each programme must organize alternatives and ensure fair access for all students. This can be done by a draw or by the voluntary enrolment of students for either campus or online lectures.”
But discussions over the offline/online combination are still ongoing. There is a “plan to ensure that at lectures where more than 75 students are present, student assistants can support the teaching staff to use streaming equipment and, when necessary, to install a portable streaming set”. At the same time, Leiden also announced that “there will be no restrictions for exams, tests and self-study” and that “these can be planned offline”.
In collaboration with Adriana Fernandes