"Vaccination is the Way Out of this Nightmare" - Wittenborg President
There will be no social distancing in Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences when the new academic year starts this autumn. This announcement was made by the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, on Friday at a press conference which also anticipates more COVID-19 restrictions lifted later in September.
Classes in the Netherlands are set to start on 30 August. There will however be a maximum limit of 75 students per class and outside of classes in hallways people are expected to wear a face mask. Universities must ensure there are good ventilation inside and general hygiene like washing hands must be observed.
Rutte said the decision was made because more than a million students in the Netherlands have had to make do with improvised education the past year and a half and that it had serious implications not only for their academic progress but also their mental health.
Wittenborg Welcomes Cabinet Decision
The announcement was welcomed by the President of Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, Peter Birdsall, who said: "We had anticipated that higher education would return. The bottom line is that business schools like Wittenborg offer experiential education to students from around the world. What motivates students to study at Wittenborg is the assurance they will be introduced to peers, mentors, companies, work experience opportunities, social structures and all the things that are important to young people who are developing into professionals within a new environment. I believe that it is not possible to offer experiential business and management degrees in an online course.
Not All Online Tools to be Abandoned
"This does not for one moment mean that we will be giving up all the great online tools we have developed over the past 18 months - faculty and students are highly encouraged to keep using Moodle and Teams and Office365 in the interactive way they have got used to in and out of the classroom. We won't however be videoing classes anymore.
"Also, I would like to emphasise that vaccination has brought us where we are now. I expect every student and faculty member and member of the professional staff, who is medically able to, to do the responsible thing - get vaccinated! It's not a guarantee to be immune, it's not a guarantee not to catch covid, but it’s a guarantee that we can move on from this nightmare.
It is estimated that some 71% of adults in the Netherlands are now fully vaccinated and a further 14% have had one dose. Cabinet was cautiously optimistic on Friday about further easing of restrictions.
Should cases continue to drop, the government hopes to also drop social distancing in the rest of society by 20 September as well as bringing an end to the wearing of face masks, including on public transport, and lifting restrictions on the number of people in one space. Finally, by 1 November, it is aiming to drop all COVID-19 restrictions should things progress well.
by James Wittenborg