Wednesday 23 June 2021

Study goes viral: what to expect at Dutch university in times of Covid19

There will be social distancing in libraries  Photo: Depositphotos

With university introductory weeks starting mostly online, due to coronavirus measures, institutions have told that this first semester will look different from ever before.

At Delft university of technology, for instance, ‘most studying and working will take place outside the TU Delft buildings’, according to its new protocol, and people are asked to walk (preferably) or cycle around campus. To help spread out numbers, study days will start at 8am and last until 8pm, and on-campus teaching groups will be fixed groups of 10 to 20 students. All incoming and outgoing exchange programmes, however, are cancelled.

A spokeswoman told that although it does not yet have final numbers, international enrolments are similar to previous years, while about 30% of classes for first year students will be ‘in real life’ and about 20% of classes for other years.


At Utrecht University, in fact, they expect to see an increase in student numbers for bachelor’s and post-graduate studies, both from national and international students. ‘The increase in numbers of applications is over 10%, but not everybody who applies actually starts,’ said spokesman Maarten Post. ‘It will no doubt also depend on how the situation evolves (the number of contaminations and travel restrictions).’

It aims to offer around 30% of teaching on campus, giving priority to first year students but stresses that as far as possible, everything should happen from home. It has a web page with advice from house rules in buildings to help with study delays in corona time, in English (and including tips to bolster mental health and fitness).

There are no figures yet for student numbers at the University of Amsterdam, but it has information for how the year will look for different courses available online. Its message is that ‘whether you are following education online or on campus we guarantee that all your classes and exams will go ahead.’

Virtual welcome

For medical students, for instance, course opening lectures will be organised onsite at the AMC teaching hospital and sometimes students will need to use software that is only available there. Meanwhile the ‘intreeweek’ welcome, from August 24 to 27, has seen all in-person activities cancelled but will involve an ‘extensive online platform’ to give all new students a virtual welcome.

At the university of Groningen too, there has been a ‘light’ increase in applications overall for 2020, although official figures won’t come out until October, according to a spokeswoman.

For people who can’t make it to the Netherlands at all due to visa or other restrictions, there will be a hybrid programme so they can start with their degree entirely online. The mayor of Groningen has appealed for all arrivals to follow quarantine and safety rules to limit a rise in infections, and the university will continue to update guidelines via its website.


There’s a positive outlook at the University of Maastricht too, a popular location for international students with extensive programmes in English. According to a survey sent to students registered for this year, 95% reportedly say they still want to come; this is better news than earlier this year when international education bureau Nuffic estimated that 20% of students would postpone university places across the Netherlands.

To encourage people to arrive from all areas of the globe, Maastricht has launched a special service with its local GGD health body to guide and test those coming from locations judged ‘red’ and ‘orange’ for risk.

Teun Dekker, professor of liberal arts and sciences education, who is deeply involved with the international community, told that he expected the vast majority of international students to turn up. ‘At the end of last year, most international students went home, but were able to participate in their classes remotely,’ he said.


‘Obviously, there were some issues with time zones and internet connections but it worked pretty well. For this year, my sense is that most international students are coming back to Maastricht. Maybe 10% are staying home, and will participate via the internet.’

He added that although online studies were more tiring for students, and they missed college social life a lot, the quality of their work actually increased at the end of last year (including their time for reading recommended tomes like Simon Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches).

According to a Nuffic study in July, doubts about travel restrictions and visas were the most likely things to deter international students but Maastricht hopes that many will overcome these challenges. ‘Interestingly, we are seeing more students enrolling, and this seems to be a national trend,’ added Dekker. ‘My hunch is that students who would normally go on a gap year are now going straight to university.’

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