At the start of the summer, Minister of Education Ingrid van Engelshoven asked universities to develop two timetable scenarios: one without any COVID-19 measures and one that complies with social distancing measures.

With the University of Amsterdam leading the way, many universities responded immediately saying that this was practically unfeasible. Timetabling at a university is far too complex to operate with two different variants. The government will not be issuing a definite decision regarding which scenario will be adopted until 13 August.

No matter what

In the meantime, the situation in the Netherlands has changed considerably. The Delta variant is spreading rapidly and it’s code red again for the Netherlands on the European risk-level maps. That still hasn’t changed the view of the universities, says Duisenberg. “We want to open without restrictions no matter what,” he says. “And that’s what needs to be at the top of the list of priorities. We want to think in terms of how we’re going to make that possible.”

Duisenberg has left the door slightly ajar for a ‘testing for entry’ option. But according to the VSNU President, that would be ‘a massive logistical challenge’. “We’re not a festival ground with an entry point. There are a lot of buildings on Dutch campuses, and don’t forget places where the faculties are located all over the city. And no, it wouldn’t be just for a week. It would really be for a longer period of time.”

Keep in mind that mandatory testing isn’t possible anyway. Duisenberg: “That means we’re obligated to offer a viable alternative.”


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