Fourth wave also noticeable in the tutorial groups

Fourth wave also noticeable in the tutorial groups

What do tutorial groups look like during this fourth wave?

17-11-2021 · News

MAASTRICHT. The number of positive COVID-19 tests in the Netherlands has risen to above 20 thousand a day. What does that mean for education at Maastricht University? Coughing and spluttering students? Only half-filled classrooms? Observant did a small spot check among a number of tutors at various faculties.

The situation at the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences (FPN) pretty much represents the general picture that arose from the spot check: “At one tutorial this week, only one student was missing,” says Lena Betge, tutor of the second-year Psychology course ‘Functional neuroanatomy’. “At my other group, there were only four of the twelve in the classroom.” COVID-19-related symptoms, they said. “Anyone who is sick may join in online and our block co-ordinator is okay with people who don’t feel safe joining us using Zoom. He feels that it is immoral to force people to come to the campus.”

According to the official UM rules, the latter is not allowed – you should only stay home if you have symptoms – but this comes under the policy of tolerance, president and rector Rianne Letschert stated during the latest University Council committee meetings.


At the Faculty of Law, it also varies per group, says Roel Niemark, lecturer of Criminal Law and Criminology. “The one group is full and the other only has three or four members. The rest joins in using Zoom.” There is no compulsory attendance at the law faculty, so there are no direct consequences. Still, Niemark would prefer if students came to the faculty. “People who join in online look and listen but they don’t actively take part.” There is no hybrid education at the law faculty. The reason for absence: COVID-19 or similar symptoms. “If someone says that, then I assume that it is the case. Although it does seem like the tutorials at half past eight in the morning have more students with COVID-19-like symptoms than those later in the day. But that is a feeling, I don’t have hard and fast figures for that.”


Carla Koopman, block co-ordinator at the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), teaches four groups. She has started to notice that the tutorial groups are becoming less and less full. “There are always one or two who are absent, but this week there were four. Until now, it wasn’t necessary, but maybe this is the time to think about a hybrid education system.” Although the associate professor of Circular Chemical Engineering would prefer not to have the latter. “Online education is less effective. Discussions are so different. Interrupting is more difficult and there is not as much interaction. I hope that in-person education can continue to take place. If necessary, with QR codes, even though I understand that this is a tough issue for the university.”


In Randwyck, at the Faculty of Health, Medicine & Life Sciences (FHML), there appears to be nothing wrong. The attendance figures of Biomedical Sciences show a “very normal picture”, says education director Jan Theys. At the School of Business and Economics (SBE), it is the same, says Ilyas Benmouna, tutor of Accounting and Financial Reporting. He also taught before COVID-19 “and I actually don’t see any difference”. But there is a number of students who participate online, he says. “Two this week, one who has a problem finding a room and one whose roommate tested positive.” In addition, we do have some students who regularly wears a face mask at the table. “Not a problem, of course. I feel it is important that students come to the faculty. Students are more involved in physical tutorial groups.”

Most tutors are not afraid of coming to work. The majority in the spot check is vaccinated and adheres to the measures. None of them have encountered coughing and spluttering students, so the students appear to be following the rules too. Niemark: “I am careful though. I test weekly and try to ventilate well.” One time, I felt it was too crowded. “So, I arranged for another space.”


They haven’t heard anything about students being afraid to attend, the tutors and block co-ordinators say. “Although I can imagine well that this is the case,” says Camilo Erlichman, block co-ordinator at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “I am too. In my groups from last week, there were two confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.” At FASoS, there is no compulsory attendance. Last week, there were only five of the fourteen students who came to the campus in both of Erlichman’s tutorial groups. In that case, the tutor may from now on decide to make the tutorial group meeting completely online for a week, says the last FASoS COVID-19 update.