Erica Schaper of NHL Stenden thinks that Frisian universities should be able to slowly re-start physical teaching again
Translated by Thomas Ansell
At the moment, only a small number of the thousands of NHL Stenden students can return to the universities’ buildings in order to comply with the various regulations around the Coronavirus. Roughly 10 to 15 per cent of the usual student numbers are currently attending: and Schaper thinks that rules should be made per region. As reported by the Omrop Fryslân.
In Friesland, for example, there are a relatively low number of Coronavirus infections, and Schaper thinks that this should allow a slight divergence from national rules. “It’s not actually about measures in the school itself”, she says, “but in places like public transport.”
At the moment, students can’t use public transport and so lessons must begin at 11:00. “If we could get a bit more room [in the regulations], we could begin lessons at 9:00, and bring in more students again”, says Schaper.
There could also be the potential for giving classes in various different locations, says Schaper. One example of this could be De Fabriek in Leeuwarden, a business development space that NHL Stenden has previously used; which could be used again in the new academic year.
“That [the new year] is an important moment for us, because we’ll have a large number of new students; who don’t have the same bond with the school as existing students. We want them to have something more than just online education in the first phase of their development.”
Where Stenden’s buildings sat completely empty, there’s now a number of small groups of students on campus again; including in lecture halls. Matthijs Rutten, part of the NHL Stenden facilities team, is happy with the development: “it’s great to see some life in the buildings again. A university is a place for people to meet, and we’ve just not seen that in recent months.”
“Normally, there’s around 5,000 people per day here, but now it’s around 300. So, the chances of running int someone you might know are small”, says Rutten. Whoever comes to the building for the first time since the lockdown is given a bag by the facilities team. It contains a flyer laying out the various regulations, a bottle of water (the buildings restaurant is closed), and a stylus pen to press buttons on coffee machines.
In the coming week, the Dutch cabinet will consider whether they can relax social distancing rules in education; Rutten says that in any case, the coming academic year will go on. “Students miss the contact they have with their peers, and the same with staff members. It’s really not the same online”.