In view of the rising number of coronavirus infections, the government wants to be able to make it compulsory for students to show a Covid pass (CTB) before entering the buildings of their higher education institution.

Student organisations ISO and LSVb are vehemently opposed to this. The institutions themselves have practical and fundamental objections as well.

Circumvention

The government wants to circumvent the opposition and is working on a bill ‘that does away with the right of employee and student participation bodies at educational institutions to approve the use of the CTB’.

This is included in a letter from outgoing Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. The bill will be presented to the House of Representatives next week with a request to take a vote on it in the same week. The Senate can then give its approval a week later.

Current legislation allows for a Covid pass in higher education, but students and staff also have a veto. The House of Representatives insisted on this in the spring, on a proposal from CDA, D66 and GroenLinks. Only Ja21 and DENK voted against.

At the time, the idea behind such a major role for the participation bodies was that “Testing to allow entry serves a purpose only if it is supported by students and lecturers.” The idea was that they would have a choice: lockdown or Covid passes.

Choice

If that choice had to be made, most of the institutions would probably choose the Covid pass. That is the view of the board of Utrecht University, to name but one. The majority of students in Groningen do not appear to harbour any strong objections either.

But higher education institutions would rather not make that choice. The fundamental objection is that access to education should not be dependent on such a pass. Education is totally different from a festival, a bar or a cinema.

In practice, the Covid pass is a QR code. Currently you get a green check mark if you have been vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative. This is known as 3G. The government wants to facilitate 2G as well, whereby testing alone would be insufficient. It is currently unclear whether the government intends to make 2G compulsory in higher education.

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