At the beginning of May, Erasmus University announced that students could attend classes on campus on at least one day a week. At the time, President of the Executive Board Ed Brinksma said that the reopening was necessary because ‘students are languishing in a few square metres called their room.’ He also called on students to do a self-test for coronavirus beforehand. He referred to it as ‘your moral duty’. Free tests can be ordered via zelftestonderwijs.nl.
However, those classes first had to be organised by the faculties. Now, just over a month later, offline teaching has not always proved successful. At Rotterdam School of Management, nearly all the respondents said that they were unable to attend lectures on campus. ESHCC does not offer any offline lectures either, say the students. At other faculties (Law, Social Sciences and Medicine), around half of the students say that they have been offered in-person teaching.
Alone in my room
Many students are disappointed about the availability of offline teaching. “Dreadful. I’m a first-year student and I’ve been sitting alone in my room since October,” one student writes. “When I see how often friends at other universities are able to go to classes, I feel EUR has done very badly,” says another.
However, some students are glad that most teaching has stayed online: “Online lectures are the best thing that happened to me in the pandemic. I have quite a busy life and this saves me five hours of unnecessary travel time. Keep this remote teaching!”
But most students feel that the university has been very slow to offer lectures on campus. Sometimes the lecturers are willing, but they are thwarted by the bureaucracy. “One lecturer who wanted to give an offline lecture this month was prevented by the programme management,” writes an RSM master student.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some compliments have been given too. One law student is very satisfied: “I think it’s gone really well! I get the feeling that everyone is really trying hard and making the best of things. Lecturers are slightly more accommodating towards students, for example with deadlines if someone’s been ill, and students are also a bit more tolerant towards lecturers, for example with marking deadlines.”
Some students say that they avoid offline lectures, among other reasons because they feel that other students won’t keep to the measures. Others live a long way from campus, another reason for choosing the online variant. Consequently, the lecture halls regularly remain largely empty, according to several students. One lecturer says: “It’s hugely frustrating if only one student comes to the lecture.”
Self-testing is not popular either. According to national statistics, 266,000 tests have been ordered, but EUR students only use them occasionally. Of the students who said they attend lectures on campus, 54 percent never take a self-test. Only 15 percent of them always take one. Particularly ESE students are unwilling to take a test: 71 percent refuse. Some students feel the test is ‘not reliable enough’, others don’t know where to order them. Some students say that they don’t take the test because they have already been vaccinated. This is mainly the case among medical students. They also don’t always understand why there isn’t more offline teaching. “At least 75 percent of us have already been vaccinated, because we work a lot in the hospital. I feel it’s ridiculous that I’ve only been to a class at the university once since the relaxation of the rules on 26 April,” one of them wrote.
In a response, Rotterdam School of Management claimed that the number of lectures on campus was ‘rather limited’ because of the large groups in the faculty. According to the faculty, however, there are classes on campus for one or two of the four or five subjects that bachelor students take. “The percentages should therefore be higher than the survey makes out,” writes a spokesperson. The spokesperson recognises the fact that many students tend not to show up to the lectures offered.
Erasmus MC and the ESSB also say they organise lectures. “All students, apart from participants in two research masters, get in-person teaching,” according to the medical programme. At ESSB, all bachelor students get the opportunity to enrol in campus teaching. However, it sometimes depends on the supervisors whether the teaching takes place on campus. And not many students attend this either: only a fifth of the capacity is occupied.
In May, lectures took place in Erasmus University College’s building on Nieuwmarkt. These were attended by many students. However, so many students needed to quarantine afterwards that the study programme switched back to online teaching.