Students attending universities and universities of applied sciences may be allowed to attend classes on campus one day per week starting from 26 April. An announcement as to whether this plan will be implemented is expected to be made during the press conference to be held on Tuesday evening. In order to curb the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science wishes to distribute self-test kits free of charge so as to allow students to test if they are virus-free prior to coming to campus, on a voluntary basis.

Erasmus Magazine’s survey, which was taken by students between last Thursday and yesterday (Monday), shows that 53 percent of respondents would not use a self-test kit if they can also come to campus without undergoing testing. 40 percent would take the test, and 7 percent have not yet made up their minds (see chart).

‘Tests are the most unpleasant thing ever’

These survey results are in line with the results of the pilot study conducted at Avans University of Applied Sciences, where only 30 percent of the students who had been asked to self-test in order to be allowed to come to campus actually took part in the self-testing pilot study. This raised the question as to whether to make self-testing mandatory.

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These survey results are in line with the results of the pilot study conducted at Avans University of Applied Sciences, where only 30 percent of the students who had been asked to self-test in order to be allowed to come to campus actually took part in the self-testing pilot study. This raised the question as to whether to make self-testing mandatory.

Common reasons why students don’t want to self-test include the following: they find the test ‘too unpleasant’, they think the current restrictions are over the top, or they prefer studying from home to having to self-test to be able to come to campus just one day per week. “Daily testing is not the solution. Students don’t want to have to stick a swab up their noses several times a day in order to be able to attend their classes as usual,” wrote one student.

Another student wrote: “I’ve had to take three coronavirus tests and it’s one of the most unpleasant tests ever. It’s painful and really awful, so I wouldn’t want to do that voluntarily every week, to be honest.” A third wrote: “I’m not thatdesperate to attend in-person classes.” And yet another wrote: “Unnecessary. I myself know when I’ve met someone who might pose a threat or when I’m having symptoms. When I have symptoms, I’m sensible enough to stay at home.”

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‘No big deal’

The students also brought up arguments based on principles, such as infringement of their privacy rights, the right to education and not wanting to be part of a society where people are only allowed to do things if they have tested negative. “This is how tests will gradually become mandatory, one step at a time,” one student opined. Some students also cited the costs associated with the test as a reason why they do not want to self-test (FYI: students will not incur any costs by taking the self-test), or the fact that they have already had the coronavirus or have been vaccinated.

Students who are willing to perform self-tests call the effort to guarantee that they themselves and their fellow students are safe ‘no big deal’. Others are just really keen to return to campus (“I’d do anything for in-person classes”; “I’m rather fed up with my room”) or think it is the ‘nice and considerate’ thing to do. However, some students indicated that their willingness to take the test was conditional on it being easy to get their hands on the test kits.

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So do students think it is a good idea to make self-testing prior to coming to campus mandatory? 34 percent of students say yes, 54 percent say no, and 13 percent are unsure. If performing self-tests were to be made mandatory, 53 percent would undergo testing to be able to come to campus, whereas 40 percent would still refuse to take the test and so lose access to campus. 8 percent are unsure what they would do.

‘Medical apartheid’

Those students who are in favour of mandatory testing cite security as a reason. “I would only come to campus if everyone were to get tested. If you’re allowed to come even if you haven’t been tested, I will feel unsafe.” Many of the students in favour of mandatory testing cite the protection of people at high risk from coronavirus (such as parents and lecturers) as a reason for their belief. “Some lecturers are kind of old. The coronavirus could be disastrous to their health,” one of them wrote. Again, several students said their support for testing was conditional upon there being a proper test distribution infrastructure. Another student wrote that there should be some form of compensation for all those tests, in the form of relaxed restrictions on campus.

Students who oppose mandatory testing cite the right to education and bodily integrity and said that they feared students might deliberately take the test the wrong way, thus causing an unwarranted sense of security. Others fear the risk of false positives if thousands of healthy students were required to administer self-tests. They either do not consider students persons at high risk from coronavirus or they believe that there are better alternatives available: mandatory social distancing and facial masks. One student said it would be a ‘slippery slope’. Two others called it ‘medical apartheid’.

One of the students said that he was fed up with waiting and wanted to undergo testing just to be able to attend lectures: “Mate, staying at home is absolutely doing my head in. Just give me my classes!”

The self-testing survey was conducted from last Thursday and was open until noon on Monday. Students have been invited to participate through various internal channels and the website. 561 people took part in the survey, of which 465 indicated that they were EUR students. Only EUR students are included in the analysis.

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