The lack of time between the examination and Christmas makes it impossible for some non-European students to fly back to their parents’ home to celebrate Christmas with their families, they wrote in a three-hundred-strong petition to the faculty.

Logistical disaster

Around five hundred students have to sit the examination. The students don’t understand the faculty’s decision because previous examinations did take place online. “International students actually have two options: they either fly home or they do the examination. There won’t be many flights on 23 December to enable the students to get home in time for Christmas,” one of them wrote.

But the faculty is holding its ground. Programme Director Adri Meijdam explained why in an extensive e-mail to the students. “The students in the master programme are also largely international and they also have an examination close to Christmas, so if we do this one online we expect we’ll have to offer the same to them too. We also think that it’s undesirable to treat Bedrijfskunde (the Dutch language bachelor degree, ed.) and IBA differently, so we’d also have to offer them the opportunity to do their examination online.” Meijdam is also concerned that the resits after Christmas will then also have to be taken online to keep the conditions the same. All in all, it would be a logistical disaster for the study programme.

Infection risk

IBA student Liam Vance simply doesn’t understand this. “First of all, the number of coronavirus infections is currently really high. Such an offline examination threatens the lives of vulnerable groups. Secondly, all examinations until now have been online and that didn’t result in any logistical problems. And this examination two days before Christmas is the only exception.”

The student is celebrating Christmas with his family in Germany so travelling home is no problem for him. His main objection against an offline examination is the risk of infection. “Students have a lot of parties and this means they run a huge risk of being infected. The faculty also states that we can ‘largely’ sit a metre-and-a-half apart during the examination. That should be an absolute minimum.”

Vance is mainly worried that he will infect his grandparents during Christmas if he catches the coronavirus during the examination. He understands that the study programme won’t reverse its decision about the examination, which is why he’s pleading for mandatory face masks in the examination hall. “If they make FFP2 masks mandatory, I’d change my opinion.” FFP2 face masks are not mandatory for non-medical staff in the Netherlands, unlike in Germany.

Survival mode

Meijdam understands the students’ objections. “I really feel for them. But you also need to understand that we are in survival mode at the faculty. If we reverse this, believe me we’ll open a Pandora’s box,” stated Meijdam.

Face masks won’t be mandatory, explained the programme director, and the study programme also can’t conduct a coronavirus check at the door. “It was also a tense time for us waiting for the cabinet’s decision, but there is no maximum for the number of students allowed in the examination hall.” According to Meijdam it should be easily possible to achieve the one-and-a-half-metre distance in the hall.

Meijdam does emphasise that exceptions are possible. If students need to self-isolate or if there are travel restrictions, students can sit the examination online with proctoring. They do need to indicate this in advance though. “Getting home too late for Christmas isn’t a good enough reason.”


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