MAASTRICHT. Online education or hybrid after all? A decision will be taken very shortly about what period five – April to June –will look like. Rector Rianne Letschert made this promise to the University Council last Wednesday.
The rector sketched the dilemma: nobody knows what the world will look like at the beginning of April; will COVID-19 have been driven back sufficiently, or will there still be a strict lockdown?
Nevertheless, the university wants to decide next week whether the education programme in period five – starting at the beginning of April – will in principle be partly on campus again or will take place online.
After all, what students want is clarity: is there any point in coming to Maastricht? If so, can I travel? If not, is it worth cancelling my room? But staff also want to know where they stand, some said in the University Council, which was asked for its opinion, as had been done with the faculty councils. The worst conceivable scenario is that all hybrid education is cancelled and the whole programme has to be put online. That would only increase the work pressure for staff, which is already sky-high, reckoned council member on behalf of the academic staff (wp), Jenny Schell. Unnecessary work should be prevented, thought Raymond Luja (wp). “We hope to be able to shift to hybrid education soon, but that requires a lot of work, even just changing the timetables.” Just like Mark Govers (wp), he pleaded for a quick decision. Govers: “At FHML, preparations for period five are already starting next week.”
Council member Jan de Roder (wp) brought up another point: “Colleagues are becoming more and more worried, partly because of the B117 variant – chances of infection are greater, and it is faster – about teaching on campus. I was glad to do so in blocks one and two, but now even I am worried for the first time.” The rector fully appreciated the concerns and emphasised again that the UM “would not force anyone to come to the campus. It may be that tutors work from home and the students – should the COVID-19 regulations allow – get together at the faculty. Or five students on campus and the rest, including the tutor, via a screen.”
Students want to come to university
What do the students want? “They really want to come to the university,” said student council member Luc van Galen. Whether it’s for a study space in the university library, a work meeting with a small project group or a tutorial. The fact that the tutor may participate from home, doesn’t seem like a problem to him.
The rector emphasised that she would also prefer education “on campus as much as possible, but we must consider students and staff.” De Roder was glad with the last remark. “I am glad that the rector mentioned students and staff. The dean of University College recently said in Observant that for him, student interests weighed heavier.” The rector with a meaningful smile: “As a result of that article, I had a good talk with the dean.”
She promised to make a decision next Tuesday.