From now on, all lectures will be online. Photo: DUB

Classes online only, many UU activities cancelled

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The government wants universities of applied sciences and universities to provide all education exclusively on an online platform for now. The UU is following this advice, and is also cancelling a number of activities, including the Dies Natalis, Meet the Professor, and orations. PhD ceremonies can still take place if less than a hundred people will attend. *Update: read the mail the University sent Thursday evening*

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Yesterday afternoon, the government announced additional measures in the fight against the corona virus. Events with more than a hundred people, including fairs, concerts, and sports games throughout the entire country, are to be called off.

Limiting face-to-face instruction
Dutch higher education will not lock down, for now, but the government is calling for institutions to offer their classes online only. All classes and exams are cancelled for this Friday. The options of offering those classes online as much as possible (starting next week) are being investigated now.

The university has also decided to cancel large events. The Dies on March 26, for instance, will not take place, and neither will the University Day which was planned for a few days after the Dies. Meet the Professor, when professors – in togas – visit primary schools, is cancelled as well. The organisers hope to be able to offer a digital version of the event.

University not locked down – but work from home
For primary and secondary education and mbo (vocational schools), the government sees no reason to close schools as of yet. So far, there aren’t many infections there, the environment isn’t as international, and children aren’t the biggest risk group, prime minister Mark Rutte explained in the press conference yesterday afternoon. The government also wants to prevent a situation where parents who work in health care, police, and fire departments have to stay home because they have to take care of their children.

Many other European countries, such as Austria and Denmark, are closing all universities and schools because of the virus. “Each country chooses its own measures,” Rutte said about the differences. Petitions calling to close universities and universities of applied sciences are gaining more and more support in the meantime. As of right now, over a hundred people have signed the petition for Utrecht.

People throughout the country are urged to work from home as much as possible, and to avoid large groups. Those who are experiencing symptoms, like a cold, coughing, a throat ache and/or a fever, should stay home regardless. The measures will be in place until at least March 31.

Criticism of UU communication
The students of the Vrije Student party sent out a press release yesterday afternoon, in which they state they feel the UU is responding too slowly to the corona virus, and doesn’t communicate about the measures often enough. “The lack of a general update from Utrecht University itself is currently leading to quite some confusion amongst students,” the party writes. In the meantime, many are calling the crisis team with questions.

After the prime minister’s press conference, the Executive Board had a meeting which eventually led to a decision that was announced around 6 pm. This will be sent out to the faculties.

The student world has also listened to Rutte’s remarks. Numerous conferences are cancelled. After the USC and the Woo already announced they’d cancel all their activities, now Unitas has also announced it would close its doors indefinitely. “We’ve chosen to close for the health of our members and others. With these measures, we contribute to the safety of our society and we hope to further limit the spread of the virus,” says president Godelieve de Wijer in a message to the association’s members.

*Update: click here for the mail students ands staff received on Thursday evening.

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