MAASTRICHT. Will the university be able to open its doors like normal in September? Or will the 1.5-meter distance still be a leading factor? The University Council’s education and research committee heard this week that the UM is preparing itself for both scenarios.
“Of course, I hope that we are allowed to open completely, but we dare not take that course yet; too risky,” rector Rianne Letschert said to the University Council committee. That is why we have a working group looking at two “September scenario’s,” the chairman of that working group, Nicolai Manie, informed. What is as good as certain: the full online option – the situation in which the UM now finds itself – will most likely be a thing of the past by September.
Should the 1.5-metre society still exist after the summer, the UM will have to avail of extra buildings to provide all students with the opportunity of (partly) attending the tutorial group meetings on campus. That takes a lot of organising, says Manie. At the moment, faculties are investigating how much (extra) space they will need. “It looks good on paper, but in reality, it is a different story.” Whether use will be made of rapid and self-tests after the summer is not clear yet.
It is crystal clear, however, that the decision will have to be taken well before the summer. Letschert: “We will have to inform the students at the beginning of May whether at least part of the education programme will be on campus and that they are expected to be in Maastricht at the beginning of the academic year. After all, we are not a distance university. Our motto continues to be: on campus if possible, online if we have to.”
At the same time, the rector is making an exception for students who cannot travel because of COVID-19.
Staff also needs to know what is expected of them, Letschert emphasised. “We want to prevent our employees having to work through the summer. The date that we make the decision – fully open or hybrid - is crucial, although we don’t want to act too soon. Imagine that we go for the 1.5-metre option and the government then says we can open completely.”
Get rid of proctoring
Whichever of the two scenarios it will be, fully open or hybrid, the rector will do all that is in her power to have the exams held in the MECC or other buildings in the new academic year. She wants to be rid of taking exams at home and the associated proctoring, she said to the University Council, even though it will continue to be a possibility for students incurring travel restrictions and not being able to come to the UM.