Wednesday 22 September 2021

Ditch social distancing at university, VU chief says

Students clustered together while studying outdoors.

Will students have to keep their distance? Photo: Depositphotos

University chiefs have called on the government allow them to reopen completely in the coming academic year and to ditch the 1.5 metre social distancing requirement.

The government is due to announce the latest changes to the coronavirus regulations at a press conference on August 13, and the education ministry has already suggested that scrapping social distancing was a ‘realistic scenario’.

Much, however, depends on the vaccination rate among students, the pandemic itself and international epidemiological development, officials have said.

VU University chairwoman Mirjam van Praag told NPO radio at the weekend that university is about more than developing knowledge. ‘It is also about developing as a person and finding your place in society,’ she said. ‘None of this is possible if you can’t actually meet people.’

Students, she said, have experienced great difficulties during the pandemic and the lack of physical education has enhanced divisions between students. ‘Education is the great equaliser, and the lack of education means that people who start with a disadvantage will do worse,’ she told the radio station.

Walking moneybags that no-one cares about: international students in lockdown

Ministers had asked universities to draw up two different timetables for September, one with social distancing and one without. A month ago, universities indicated that only one scenario – being fully open – is relevant, and the surge in Delta variant cases has not changed that.

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