Test policy is a logistical nightmare, says Rector


MAASTRICHT. From next week, students can go to university one day a week. The rules according to a new bill: students test themselves beforehand and if they are negative they can enter. If they cannot - or do not want to - show a negative self-test result, the university must provide alternative education. The Executive Board is “not happy” with the latter, to say the least, said Rector Rianne Letschert during the most recent meeting of the University Council.

The pre-corona situation, education within a meter and a half or completely online. Until recently, these were the options that higher education took into account for the coming academic year. Now there is a fourth option. Especially the voluntary nature of testing causes problems. The bill - which is now in the House of Representatives - obliges universities to offer students who are not willing or unable to show a test certificate alternative education. Online or physical. This means two separate groups arise.

The obligation to provide an alternative raises many questions. Will students test themselves if it is not compulsory? Previous experiments with self-tests indicate little enthusiasm. The tests can be ordered for free by students, but wouldn't they prefer to sleep a little longer when they have a lecture in the morning? And how can universities know who has been tested when they’re  in the buildings? Checking at the door is not allowed. How large is the group that cannot or does not want to provide a test certificate? And where should they then go?

Whether the alternative is online or physical; in any case, it leads to enormous planning problems. Roster makers do not know where they stand. “Should we set up separate units and entrances for students without a test certificate?”, Letschert wonders during the University Council meeting. Apart from that, it simply does not fit if there must be several rooms per tutorial group. "It is a very complicated logistical burden."

The new rules are also causing problems for teachers. They must be in two places at the same time - with the tested and untested group - or create an online and a physical program.

On 1 June, the Executive Board will decide what education will look like in the coming academic year. A newly established crisis management team will work out the various scenarios as accurately as possible, the rector reports to the University Council members. Letschert hopes that everyone will be vaccinated in september, so that UM can open fully again. If not, there are two flavors. Education at a meter and a half or the “logistically terrible test situation. An undoable scenario. ”

It is precisely there that there may be an opening in the bill that universities could make use of. This prescribes that rules may only be attached to the presentation of a test certificate if they are “feasible and effective”. Letschert does not think so.

The House of Representatives may also consider the possibility of making a test certificate compulsory, so that those who cannot show it at the door can be refused. That is also stated in this bill.

Test policy is a logistical nightmare, says Rector