The first fully digital PhD ceremony at the UU, screenshots of the livestream

Corona blog: travel costs for April will still be paid in full

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This month, the UU will pay in full for its employees’ regular travel costs, and elections for the University Council will be held before summer after all. Students and employees are advised about alternatives to popular video calling platform Zoom. In this corona blog, DUB keeps track of the consequences of the measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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Friday, April 3

- Although most employees are working from home this week, the UU has decided to pay travel costs for April as usually. If employees had chosen additional compensation for travel costs in their optional model employment conditions, they will receive that compensation as well. At some time mid-April, the university will discuss whether this will change for the month of May, according to the university board in an email it sent to employees and students on Friday.

- In the same email, the UU points out that students and employees should use existing channels like Blackboard or Microsoft Teams as much as possible. The university strongly advises against the use of personal email accounts or WhatsApp. The use of popular video platform Zoom, which is not supported by the university, is problematic as well. ‘When using Zoom, it’s good to realise that there are privacy risks that have not been solved yet,’ the website of IT-support service Educate-It says.

- The Central Election Office of the UU has decided that elections will be held in the first week of June for the student seats in the University Council and faculty councils. At the same time, employees can vote for the vacant employee seats in several faculty councils. Student parties had some discussion these past weeks about whether or not elections should take place in times of corona.

- Summer School Junior has been cancelled. The organisation says that given the current situation with the coronavirus, it’s not sensible to start the preparations. These past years, each summer saw around 500 pupils be introduced to science and the university. The university is still studying whether a smaller version of the programme can be offered instead.

Wednesday, April 1

- The government has extended the measures for curbing the spread of the coronavirus until April 28. That means all restaurants, cafes, theatres, and educational institutions will remain closed until that date. Study associations, student associations, and sports clubs are not allowed to gather either. The UU had already announced it would continue its education online until the start of the summer. This was done to provide clarity to students and teachers. It will possibly make exceptions for practical sessions, residencies, and other internships. More information about these exceptions is expected soon. All UU buildings will remain closed until June 1.

In the press conference on March 31 about the continuation of the measures, prime minister Rutte said: “We’re going through one of the hardest times in our history outside of wartime.” The number of patients is still increasing, and hundreds of people are dying from the virus.

Rutte hopes that by now, everyone has realised the dangers of the virus, including the youngsters who had felt invulnerable before.

- Yesterday, the first fully digital PhD ceremony took place at Utrecht University. Jingyang Liu from the Utrecht University School of Economics defended his thesis behind his laptop. He was supported by two paranymphs and all ‘opponents’ were seated in their respective offices. The Pedel had been able to take her official outfit home with her before the university buildings closed down, which gave the ceremony an authentic feel.

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Tuesday, March 31

- A student of applied physics at the Eindhoven University of Technology is sounding the alarm: he’s worried about his privacy if he’s under video surveillance while he completes an exam at home.
The so-called ‘proctoring’ is meant to prevent exam fraud: through the phone or computer camera, the study programme can check if the student follows the rules. But what happens with their personal data? Can they be viewed by the American company that provides the proctoring software?In an 18-part thread (in Dutch, ed.) on Twitter, the student explains his worries. The university has since responded: students who choose not to participate in the exams will be given an alternative option.

- Students at the University of Groningen (RUG) suggest the university use a pass/fail system for the rest of the year. It would mean the students keep their grade average from before the crisis, and it gives teachers more breathing space in their grading. The corona crisis has led to many students and teachers feeling overburdened, and that pressure needs to be relieved, says student party Democratic Academy Groningen (DAG) from the RUG university council.
The student party has started a petition which it plans to offer to minister Van Engelshoven and university association VSNU. The petition has been signed by 256 people so far.

- Starting Wednesday, April 1, the Uithof tram will run again during rush hour. There’s more room on the tram for social distancing as compared to on a bus, and this way, health care employees who work at the Utrecht Science Park can commute there more easily. Tram 22 to Utrecht CS will run between 6.35am and 8.50am as well as between 2.35pm and 6.05pm; tram 22 to the Utrecht Science Park will run between 6.46am and 8.57am, and between 2.27pm and 6.27pm.

- Students who live in De Uithof can use a parking space at ‘P7 – Jenalaan’, near the Veterinary Medicine buildings, for free until May 31. A previous message said that parking would be free until April 5, but as the university’s education is almost entirely online until the summer, the free parking for students has been extended.

Monday, March 30

- In an internal information email sent on Monday afternoon, the university board states it will not announce any new measures. It’s possible new measures will be announced on Wednesday, depending on the outcome of the parliament’s press conference on Tuesday.

The university board does say that it’s busy, in collaboration with the VSNU and its partner universities, with working out a number of national issues, such as a transitional arrangement (in Dutch, ed.) from Bachelor to Master, progress and compensation in case of delay of (experimental) studies, and elections in co-determination boards.

Together with the National Election Office, and in coordination with the University Council, a proposal is being created for the elections. Last week, DUB already wrote about the student parties in the University Council, which each have differing visions on whether or not to hold the elections. The elections for student members of the University Council and the faculty councils have been postponed – they were originally scheduled for April 20-22.

- Starting today, teachers can attend daily short webinars (intranetlink, ed.) to help them facilitate the preparation of education in block four. In the webinars, teachers will get didactical and practical advice from various experts, and will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

- Sandwich shop Broodje Ben is still present in De Uithof, and open every day to sell their sandwiches. They’re open from 11.30am to 3pm, and are located right across from the University Library.

- Student choir Dekoor recorded their version of the song Send My On My Way by Rusted Root, with all separate parts recorded from their homes and then merged together in one single video. Members of the choir recorded their parts individually with their phones or with more professional microphones, in their kitchens, living rooms, or gardens. In a message accompanying the video, DeKoor says: “All our rehearsals and shows have been cancelled, and it seems as though the world has stopped turning. But music survives, even if we’re not in each other’s physical presence. Being together isn’t possible right now, but it’s still possible to connect. Music helps us, and hopefully you as well, to reach each other, and cheer each other on in these uncertain times.”

 

Friday, March 27

- The majority of classes will be held exclusively online for the remainder of the academic year, the university board writes in a mail to students and employees today. Exceptions may be possible only for courses that require physical attendance, such as practical sessions and internships. More information about those exceptions will be announced no later than April 6. Previously, the university had stated that no in-person classes would be taught at the university until June 1.

- On Facebook, the police ordered students at the Amsterdam student housing complex Uijlenstede to stop organising parties. Residents are now angry (in Dutch, ed.) and wish to file a complaint. They say the only thing that happens was them making music on their balconies, just like Italians are doing in quarantine. The Utrecht-based student housing organisation SSH writes on its website that student parties in student housing complexes are ‘a no-go’. On Facebook, the SSH praises a student home in the IBB complex that’s distributing a poster with anti-corona measures amongst other houses.

- Today brings, once again, numerous sweet actions. The University Fund has set up a successful crowdsourcing action for students in financial distress, and the Faculty of Science donated sterile gloves to the UMC Utrecht hospital.

- Back in the Netherlands, UU teacher Marie-Louise Glebbeek reflects on a turbulent week in which she was stuck in Guatemala with thirteen students. After escaping via Mexico, she guided her group back to the Netherlands. “I function reasonably well in tense situations.”


Thursday, March 26

- It’s Utrecht University’s birthday, and the university has treated its colleagues at the UMC Utrecht hospital today. In a mail sent to all students and employees today, the Executive Board says this was done as a way to express their gratitude to all the colleagues working tirelessly in health care. The university also thanks them for keeping the university and the education running in these special circumstances.

- Usually, the Dies Natalis is a celebration that’s held in the Dom church each year. Professors wear their togas, students wear their fanciest suits, and they listen to speeches from esteemed guest and celebrations of those receiving honorary doctorates. The celebration ends with everyone singing together, and of course, drinks afterwards. This year, everything is different. Not celebrating the Dies is a bigger break with tradition than just deciding to stop singing the Io Vivat and replacing it with a song that better embodies the current state of the UU. This new song was supposed to be sung for the first time today, but we’ll have to wait a little while longer to hear it, now that the university’s birthday party has been cancelled. In an interview with DUB, rector Henk Kummeling explains why the university needs a new song.

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Aside from treating the employees in the academic hospital, the UU launched its English website #UUgotthis today. On the website, you can find numerous stories from the past two weeks – since the start of the corona crisis. One of these stories is an interview with one of the four people creators of the hashtag #UUgotthis, Marij Swinkels from the Faculty of Law. #UUgotthis has since been adopted by the entire university as a sign of unity for all UUers, and symbolises that all UUers are there for each other. The website has several tabs to explore, where you’ll also find five DUB articles, under the tab Our (off)campus reporters.
 

Wednesday, March 25
- It was to be expected after the government announced new measures on Monday night: all education at Dutch universities will be held online until June 1. Utrecht University is keeping open the option of returning to in-person education after that date. That means the start of block 4 will fall in the online period. This Friday, March 26, the university will announce further information about issues like practical sessions and examination in block 4.

- All employees will also have to work form home until June 1. The university is looking into options for providing equipment or materials to those who need it for working remotely. Employees can also buy accessories to facilitate working from home. More information is expected on Friday. Employees who can’t work from home, for instance because they need to care for their children, will receive word from the UU before April 6 on how the university will handle this. Until April 6, there are no consequences for holiday time or salary.

- PhD candidates and researchers with temporary contracts who face issues with deadlines because of the corona crisis, will soon receive word on how to handle the situation. The Executive Board wants university-wide regulations for all these people. They’re also looking into the possibility of establishing national agreements.

- Those whose PhD ceremonies were scheduled before July 1, will receive personal communication. The PhD ceremonies scheduled before April 6 have been cancelled, but now that the government measures will be in place for a longer period, the university board wants to see whether the ceremonies can be replaced by virtual ones. This could also apply to orations and farewell lectures.

- Scheduled university events between now and July 1 will be cancelled if this means cancellation fees can be avoided. If this is not the case, the decision whether or not to cancel the event can be made at a later time.

- The elections for the university council have been postponed as a result of the corona crisis. The question now is whether any voting at all can be done this year. There is some disagreement about the topic between the four student parties. Three of them think it might be better to skip the elections for once, and stick to the current distribution of seats. But UUinAction thinks this is a bad idea. Co-determination boards are still holding meetings, albeit online.


Tuesday, March 24
- Meet the Professor becomes Stream the Professor. Now that all schools have closed, it’s no longer possible for UU professors to visit primary schools. In order to still ensure that the 3,600 children in the three final years of primary school are introduced to professors’ work, the meetings will instead be held online. The professors won’t just be doing a single video call with their classes: each Wednesday, one professor will be in the picture, and all children will be able to ask them questions. Aside from the children, it’s possible for basically anyone to watch along. As it’s a livestream, children will be able to ask the professors questions as well. The first professor is Debbie van Baarle, medicine professor of ‘Immunology of vaccinations, especially strategies for viral infections’. The live stream starts tomorrow at 11am, on this channel.


Monday, March 23
- Students of University College Utrecht have started a Facebook page for translations of messages from the NOS about the coronacrisis. The likes are flooding in.

- The Primera in De Uithof will remain open, with adjusted opening hours. The store will be open on business days between 12 and 5pm.

- Sandwich shop Eat Out has opened its doors again, after being closed last week. The adjusted opening hours are 11am to 8pm every day, including the weekends. You can only grab food and drinks to go. Mert, co-owner of the store, says: "Last week you had to have a permit for serving food to go, but that's not obligated anymore." The shop also serves Indian curries now.

- Residents of Utrecht Science Park can park their cars for free on parking lot 'P7 Jenalaan' (see image) until April 5th. Normally you would have to pay the maximum daily fee of eighteen euros to park your car on one of the parking lots of the UU. Because students now mostly stay indoors and have to permanently park their cars somewhere, the UU wants to cater to their needs.

Friday, March 20
- In an email to all students and employees, the UU states that first-year students who fail to pass the minimum number of classes because of the corona crisis and would therefore receive a negative binding study advice (bsa), will still be able to pass to their second year. That doesn’t mean, however, that all first-year students can claim a bsa extension.

- In the same email, the UU says it will soon provide more information about whether education will also be organised online in block 4 – which starts on April 20. The university will make a decision no later than Friday, March 27.

- International students and employees who are staying in Utrecht in these trying times, can get support from each other via the Facebook group UU Social Distancing Support International Students & Staff. In the group, several Dutch students and employees are offering to become language buddies, so the internationals can work on improving their Dutch online.

- Next week, University Spar in De Uithof will close its doors indefinitely because of the virus. Because the educational institutions are closed and people are staying inside as much as possible, the store is seeing a sharp drop in the number of customers. This weekend, the small supermarket will still be open during its regular hours.

Thursday, March 19
- Veterinary Medicine has made some adjustments to its clinics because of the coronavirus. The veterinary hospital is still accessible 24/7, but only for emergencies. Furthermore, everyone will need to ring the doorbell, as the door is no longer always open. Non-emergency care is only offered to animals for which delayed treatment could cause severe negative effects to their health. The necessity of treatment will be assessed by specialists. Animals can only be brought in and visited by a maximum of two people, and only by those who are not experiencing corona-like symptoms.

- De Uithof may be a ghost town, but Foodtruck Tour de la Frite is still open at the Coimbrapad opposite the University Library. Because the residents of De Uithof seem to be especially fond of French fries, they’ve extended their opening hours, until 7pm.

- Rector Henk Kummeling addresses students in a video message posted to Facebook. He compliments the student for the special initiatives to help others, and the positive sounds he’s heard about online education.

- Bad luck! You finally graduated, but you can’t organise a ceremony. Utrecht University is currently looking into how they can compensate for missing out on a party. An option is to organise a ‘festive moment’ when the time comes that it’s once again allowed to do so, says the UU press officer. In the meantime, your diploma can be sent to your home. Recent graduates will be informed.

- These are usually the months in which prospective students come to the university for their mandatory matching day. The faculties are solving the physical aspects of this problem by – if desired – organising online activities instead. All prospective students will receive an email from their chosen study programme. Very little damage is being caused to the selection procedures for selective Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes, as well as programmes with enrolment restrictions (numerus fixus), as nearly all interviews have already been held. Only the Master’s programme for future doctors-researchers, Summa, is experiencing issues because the procedure was scheduled for last week. The programme will now test its prospective students via ‘proctoring’. Proctoring? You’ll see that word being used frequently now. It means that you can monitor students taking a test online.

- Teachers who have questions about their online education can now join a Q&A session organised by the Centre for Academic Teaching (CAT), to be held every morning on the team site. “We’ve seen that many teachers have questions, or that they’d like to share their experiences. You could see that happening on Twitter, for example,” says Rik Vangangelt of the CAT. This morning, Sanne Frequin was a guest in the Q&A session. This week, as you can read on DUB as well, she taught a class to thirty students. This morning, there were 53 people in the chat box. After a short interview, the teachers could ask personal questions the conversation raised, but technical questions were also asked. Tomorrow’s guest is Leonie Heres of the Law faculty. The conversations are scheduled for 10 am and can be found on the CAT website.

- From March 20 on, the tram will no longer run between the Utrecht Science Park and the Utrecht Central Station. This is one of the adjustments in the operating times transport company U-OV has announced. The recommendation is to use bus 28 instead. (Photo: Juul Verheijen)

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- This morning, Leiden University announced it would not provide any face-to-face education, and no in-person exams, until the end of the academic year. University magazine Mare announced this this morning. DUB has inquired whether the UU is to follow this example. The university of Maastricht is also considering online education until the summer.

Wednesday, March 18
- University teachers and IT employees supporting the online education at universities are allowed to bring their children to daycare facilities. They belong to the category of ‘vital professions’ the government has established.

- Teachers have to inform their students by today how their education will take place in the upcoming weeks. Classes will have to take place online because of the corona crisis. Click here to read about how three teachers are handling this challenge, and click here to read why the UU was already ready to assist and guide teachers.

- Not all students have the option of working from home: faulty internet connections, or a far too crowded house… for that reason, some universities and universities of applied sciences are making a limited number of study spaces available. The general rule is: keep your distance. And of course, you can only come if you have no symptoms of the virus. Rotterdam University of applied sciences has opened a number of buildings. People who wish to work there, have to sign in first. Around 60 students are now studying in those buildings. The University of Amsterdam has also made some study spots in their faculty buildings available to students ‘if they have no other option’, but there aren’t a lot of students using them. The same goes for the Radboud University. The University of Twente has arranged a special room, in which the tables are placed at a distance from each other, for health reasons. There, too, very few students are present. Most other universities, including the UU, have closed their doors. (HOP)

- The university tried its best to bring a little colour and cheer to De Uithof… and now there’s no one to enjoy it (photo: Juul Verheijen).

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- Students and teachers at Utrecht University should bear in mind the likeliness that next block’s education, starting April 20, will also be offered online, and that their exams will also be conducted online. The university board says this in an email it sent on Tuesday afternoon to all employees and students.

- In the same email, the board writes that the UU, in collaboration with all other Dutch universities, is working on the creation of a national regulation about the binding study advice (bsa) in times of corona crisis. Another discussion topic is how to limit possible study delays as much as possible.

- Internships (be it scientific or not) and residencies of medicine students at Utrecht University are suspended immediately, says the university board in an email to all students and employees. It remains unclear if these can be resumed next block, and if so, how.

- All university buildings are closed starting today. Only a select number of laboratories and the Administration Building remain open. From Thusday, March 19 on, you need permission from your manager or dean to enter one of these buildings.

- The university board urges people to be safe while working from home, and to ensure that your computer is secure. It also warns for phishing emails which can hijack your computer when you click the link in the message. The phishing emails are taking advantage of the corona crisis. People need to be alert, says the board in an email to all students and employees.

Tuesday, March 17
- Caterer Sodexo and the University’s Corporate Office are sending all the food (that remains after closing the canteens and sending home employees) to the doctors and nurses at UMC Utrecht. This is done both to reduce food waste and to lend moral support to the hospital staff. #UUgotthis

- Yesterday, Governance teacher and DUB blogger Marij Swinkels launched a new hashtag: #UUgotthis. Posts that are being shared with the hashtag show the solidarity at the UU.

 

- In a new mail to students and employees, the university announces that a large number of the university’s building will close after all, starting this Thursday. People who wish to come pick up belongings will need to do that on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday: more information in response to the mail published on DUB.

- A group of UU students of Cultural Anthropology is stuck in Guatemala, after the country has closed its airspace. The UU is in touch with the group and with the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

- In an interview with DUB, UU president Anton Pijpers says the UU has the goal of preventing study delays for students as much as possible. The education and exams for block 3 should be completed within that block wherever possible.

- The Open University is organising a crash course on ‘online education’ for teachers. The crash course consists of three digital evening classes, of which the first starts tonight at 7 pm. The classes are an hour each and can be found at www.ou.nl/ddguide. You can ask questions during and after class, and it’s also possible to watch the class at a later time. The class on Tuesday is about activating education, Wednesday about digital lesson materials, and Thursday about guidance and supervision in a digital learning environment.

- Mural painter and Senior Lecturer at the division Farmaco Epidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology Rob Heerdink painted a new mural on the wall of his home at the Adelaarstraat this weekend, about the corona virus. He’d seen rainbow drawings created by Italian children, with the message ‘everything’s going to be all right’, he says in an interview with internet medium DUIC (in Dutch, ed.). “With this mural, I want to send a message of encouragement to people (and children) in Utrecht.” But do stay home, he adds. Heerdink says it’d be a great idea if children and/or students were to draw their own rainbows and hang them from the windows.

- Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences announced today that it would postpone its binding study advice. “That means everyone will be able to continue their studies,” the website reads. It’s possible some freshman students receive a negative advice, but they will not be sent away. At the UU, the binding study advice is one of the subjects that are talked about in the crisis meetings, but the university is awaiting the national agreements between the ministry and the association of Dutch universities.

- Nearly everyone who works at Utrecht University has to work from home, and nearly all communication is done via the cloud. For that reason Jeroen Fokker, IT teacher, sent this symbolical photo from 2015 to the DUB editors. “UU moves to the cloud,” he writes. The photo was taken when the UU logo on the roof of the Buys Ballot building was being installed.

- Several people noticed that the letter the UU Executive Board sent to all students and employees on Sunday was signed by president Anton Pijpers and rector Henk Kummeling. Why wasn’t it signed by vice chairwoman Annetje Ottow? DUB enquired. It turns out Annetje Ottow is recovering from a non-corona-related illness, and isn’t able to work for the time being.

- Students created the website ‘just people who want to help people’. The website brings together demand and supply of those who can use some help, and others who are offering. The initiative is being shared far and wide via WhatsApp and other social media. It’s being promoted in several app groups, and already, more than 800 volunteers have applied to the website. Elderly people who can’t go outside anymore to go grocery shopping can receive assistance from others who are willing and able to do this for them. The website is open to volunteers throughout the entire country. On Instagram, the initiative already has more than 3,700 followers. They’re asked to hang a toilet paper roll from their window, showing the world ‘you’re only human’.

Monday, March 16
- The students of the University Council were critical of the UU on Thursday. Today, in an open letter, they thank all the teachers at the UU for the way in which they tackled the transition to digital education this weekend. It has been noted that students already have online lectures and online consultations with their teachers. "The teachers at the UU have succeeded in switching almost entirely to digital education over the weekend in order to prevent students from delaying their studies. Of course, not everything will go smoothly these first few days. Programmes will be overloaded, Internet connections will be lost and certain digital tricks will require some practice". But in spite of this, the students of the University Council find the energetic working methods of the teachers and supporting staff members worthy of a big compliment.

- Student Educational Science Leonie Schiphorst says on Instagram that she’s working on a thesis with two fellow students. They skyped with their supervisor as the three sat behind a single laptop. Whether the latter was a smart idea, they’re not sure.

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- Research financer NWO is pausing all activities, according to its website. Interviews with people who requested grants are cancelled. Scientists will have to wait in uncertainty for months longer than usual.

- Employees who came to the Administration Building this morning despite the advice, were told to indicate whether their presence was truly necessary. DUB has also started working from home. Send in your own study/work-from-home photos via our email or social media.

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Sunday, March 15
- In an email sent to all employees, the UU asks its employees to work from home as much as possible. Only people involved with vital processes are allowed to come to work. Employees abroad are advised to return home. The canteens in the university buildings will close completely after all, whereas earlier, the plan had been to only limit the opening hours of a limited number of locations.

- The government announces new measures: schools and day-care centres will close for all children of parents who do not work in vital sectors. Bars, restaurants, movie theatres, and gyms are also forced to close.

- The UU advises all its students abroad to return home. Previously, this advice only applied to students in dangerous territories.

Saturday, March 14
- Mayor of Utrecht Jan van Zanen asks students via social media not to go out. Apparently, the cafes were still full on Friday evening. Students should try to have fun at home instead.

- Scientists in Utrecht and Rotterdam think they may have found an antibody for the corona virus. UU research leader Berend-Jan Bosch tempers the high expectations.

- The organisation of the Rag week announces that the charity action week, which was scheduled to take place in the week of March 16 at numerous associations and organisations, is cancelled. The intention is to raise money at a later date.

Friday, March 14
- In an email, the university tells all students and employees that students are supposed to stay home. The libraries close. Teachers have to inform students before March 18 about the plans for their education and exams. The measures will apply until at least April 20, when the new block begins. Employees are advised to work from home as much as possible.

- Students at University College Utrecht go on spring break, and are told not to return for now. Their education will continue online until late May; the campus will remain open.

- Following the example of the USC student association and their Woo bar, which closed on Thursday, other student associations announce their closure as well.

- Among others, sports centre Olympos and cultural centre Parnassos pause all activities for the time being. The most important student rowing match of the year, the Varsity on April 5, is also cancelled.

- De Uithof has turned into a ghost town after the UU’s announcement late Thursday evening that all educational activities are cancelled for the time being, as are events. The announcement comes after the government’s urging to offer educational activities online as much as possible.

Dossier coronavirus

virus-4835301_1920_0.jpgClick here to read all articles DUB has published about the consequences of the corona virus for Utrecht University and Dutch higher education.
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