Universities of Applied Sciences and universities prefer their students to be on campus now that’s allowed again. But, according to the NSU, they’re going too far. Ama Boahene considers the strict enforcement of the mandatory attendance requirement to be “inappropriate” considering the high number of coronavirus infections.
The government advice is still: stay at home if you have any symptoms. This advice can, however, have huge consequences. In the Parool newspaper, psychology students at VU Amsterdam have been complaining about the lack of online alternatives for attending tutorials. A student who should actually have been self-isolating attended a lecture to prevent study delay.
Students at Utrecht University feel just as obliged to attend campus, even if they actually should stay at home. This was stated in an e-mail seen by RTV Utrecht. They’d been informed by the Social Sciences faculty that study delay would otherwise be unavoidable.
In Maastricht, law students were concerned about coming into contact with students infected with the coronavirus during examinations, but still turned up as they were worried about study delay. According to the university magazine Observant, over 200 students have signed a petition to hold the December examinations online instead of in a large congress centre with many others.
The same applies to VU Amsterdam. There, 2.5 thousand students have now signed a petition asking to sit their examinations at home, reported Ad Valvas.
According to Boahene students are often afraid not to use an examination opportunity. And if they miss too many lessons, they can be deregistered for a course. To identify the scale of the problems relating to the attendance requirement, the union started a helpline for students last week.
Things haven’t gone unnoticed in The Hague either. The SP has stated that the health of students and lecturers is being endangered by the mandatory attendance requirement and has asked the minister if she also considers this requirement to be “absurd”.
In theory the solution is simple: an online alternative to ensure that students can still follow the lessons if they need to stay at home. But, according to the National Student Union, “hybrid education” didn’t get off the ground in practice everywhere or was put aside again once the lecture halls reopened. “This is very surprising and a waste,” stated Boahene. “Most rooms have recording equipment and it’s not that hard to use it,” she stated.
Minister Van Engelshoven stated yesterday during a debate on digitalisation that universities are still searching for a new balance between online and in-person education. Many people were in favour of in-person education, as it is better for student welfare and improves lecture quality.
In the debate, the minister had to reassure the House of Representatives that online education would never completely replace in-person education. But she also didn’t want to immediately ignore the advantages of online education. “For many students it also means that they can decide more easily how, what or when they study,” was an example she gave.
“The National Student Union is still a huge advocate for in-person education,” stated Boahene. “But especially because we want to keep the lecture halls open it’s vital that lectures are safe and that there are online options for students who need to self-isolate.”