A seat in the Dutch House of Representatives. Photo: Flickr

Students and staff granted veto on Covid test certificate

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A negative Covid test as the price of admission to campus: in a worst case scenario, this could be the future of higher education. However, a majority in the House of Representatives has just given student and staff councils the last word on any such measure.

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If vaccination and testing programmes fail to halt the spread of the virus, universities and universities of applied sciences may require students to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test before being admitted to campus.

A law enabling universities to do this has just been passed by the Dutch parliament and will now be subtmitted to the Senate. Even so, the government hopes that restricted access will not be necessary in higher education. These new provisions are designed for emergencies only.

Real support
However, members of the House were keen to take possible objections by students and staff into account. They may well object to restricted access on principle or because they do not trust the system. 

Three parties – D66, GroenLinks and CDA – stated jointly that “access based on testing only serves a purpose if the measure has real support among students and teachers”. Together they put forward an amendment to the bill that makes the use of test certificates in higher education subject to the agreement of staff and student councils.

Proof
The amendment was welcomed by a large majority. Only DENK and JA21 voted against it. The Socialist Party inadvertently joined them, but later rectified their mistake. So if the COVID-19 pandemic flares up again, the choice will be between attending class with proof of a negative test or online education for everyone.

The House of Representatives is far from keen to rely on test certificates in higher education. A motion by DENK against denying students access to school or university based on vaccination or a Covid test won support from a sizeable minority of 50, thanks to the backing of SP, PvdD, SGP, FvD, PVV, JA21, Den Haan and DENK itself.

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