New teaching rooms are OK
‘It was quite a hassle to get here’
When student Laura (19) heard she was going to have a class at the Administration building, at the Utrecht Science Park, she was confused for a minute. “Isn’t that supposed to be an administrative building? Is this correct?” As a matter of fact, it was. Last week, a work group for the Global Sustainability Science programme took place in the Van Lier en Eggink hall, a space formerly used as an event venue. Now, it is one of the locations UU has deployed to address the shortage of classrooms.
Last December, Utrecht University realised that the schedules for the 2022-2023 academic year would be hard to complete. The reasons include the growing number of students, the renovation of the Heijmans van den Bergh building, and a decrease in the number of available rooms in the building at Bolognalaan avenue. All in all, UU was fifty classrooms short of the demand.
Since then, additional spaces have been devised across the university. Some of the places where UU has created new classrooms include the University Library in the Utrecht Science Park, the building at Israëlslaan avenue, the Androclus building, the UCU campus, and the Administration building, to name but a few. In addition to the already existing buildings, the university has also put new locations into use, such as the ones on Daltonlaan avenue, 500 and 700.
The Van Lier Eggink hall in the Administration building
With 65 new classrooms, UU has finally managed to overcome the shortage. Still, the students and teachers of the Global Sustainability Science programme did notice that the university had trouble accommodating all the students. Helger (21), a student assistant to the programme, says that the classes take place in a different room every week. “The schedule on MyTimetable is not correct for this study group, so students must use Blackboard to find out where they'll have their class.”
For Laura, this took some getting used to: “I’m new at UU so, at first, it was pretty hard to find out exactly where my classes were going to be. After a few weeks, you get the hang of it, but it would be easier if I could see my entire schedule in a single place.” Helger has noticed that a lot of students are arriving in class late because the ever-changing locations are not always easy to find. “That’s why we’re usually letting the group start a bit later.”
UU is renting a few floors in the building located at Daltonlaan 500 and 700, where students of professional vocational education (MBO) study. Sam (18) and Aaliyah (19), both students in Educational Sciences, are satisfied with the premises. “I even took some pictures of the gorgeous view from the seventh floor of Daltonlaan 500,” says Sam, who finds the buildings "super modern." The students are equally glad about how easy it is to get there. It’s right next to the bus stop, from which one can easily spot the banners with the UU logo.
The main difference, compared to other locations currently being used by UU, is the presence of MBO students. Aaliyah: “There are a lot of young people, especially young boys, walking around. It’s a completely different image than the one we have at Social Sciences, where it’s mostly girls.” Math student Flore (22) sees the benefits of this mixture: “Normally, students from the university don’t run into MBO students. I think it’s positive that we’re now sharing a building because it lets people see that we’re all students and we’re all equal.”
The variety of locations has generated a few logistic problems. “It was quite a hassle to get here,” says Sam, who had a class at Jaarbeurs square before having to get to Daltonlaan. “We had 30 minutes between classes, which is not enough time if you're travelling by public transport. We were allowed to leave early, but we didn’t want to, we wanted to follow the whole class. So, we didn’t get here on time.”
Students Jasper (26) and Anne (20), of the Dutch Language & Culture programme, had the same problem last year, when their classes alternated between the Drift, in the city centre, and the Utrecht University College (UCU campus. “We had to go from Drift to the UCU campus in fifteen minutes, which is impossible on a bicycle,” Jasper explains.
Luckily, they no longer have this problem. Now, most of their classes take place in the extra rooms UCU made available to students from the city centre. Although Anne loves the buildings on the UCU campus, she still prefers having classes at Drift. “I live in Overvecht, so the bike trip to the UCU campus is quite long. Besides, UCU is not so easy to reach by public transport.”
Dining Hall, UCU
Head of Student Affairs Marieke de Bakker explains that face-to-face classes were given priority in the considerations regarding the quality of the schedule. “It would have been easier to offer part of the classes online or in the late evening, but that's not ideal. That’s why we’ve tried to complete the schedules as well as possible with as little travel time as possible between the locations but classrooms aren’t up for grabs.”
The rooms currently being used are only a temporary solution. The university forecasts the number of students to keep on growing over the next few years, which is why it must find structural solutions to the classroom shortage.
There were plans to transform the dining room at the University Library in the city centre into a classroom, but that space turned out to have a limited capacity. Instead, the university decided to rent a space at the conference and meeting centre Zalencentrum Vredenburg, especially for students in the city centre.
The completion of a temporary building at the parking lot on Padualaan avenue has been postponed to October 1. Until then, these rooms will be replaced by several others, including those in the Administration building. Once the building on Padualaan is finished, the existing schedules will be changed so that the new building can immediately be taken into use.