AMSTERDAM - Despite the Delta variant causing many coronavirus infections in the Netherlands, the universities in the country plan to start the new academic year open in full. They do not want to enforce social distancing among their students, and would rather not oblige students to get tested for the coronavirus before being let in, the universities said to Nieuwsuur.
"We want to be completely open again," Pieter Duisenberg, chairman of the association of Dutch universities VSNU, said to the program. "And that has to be at the top of the priority list. We would like to reason from how we make that possible."
The cabinet asked the universities to prepare for two scenarios of reopening - one with social distancing, and one without. A few universities have prepared for multiple scenarios, but most are sticking to the plan to reopen fully. "Working out two side-by-side scenarios is too much of a burden on staff," Duisenberg said.
Eindhoven University of Technology went ahead and prepared for three scenarios - no social distancing, social distancing, and complete lockdown. But Tilburg University did not. "What the government asked for is not feasible," a spokesperson said to Nieuwsuur. A spokesperson for Utrecht University said that "after such a year, we could not expect lecturers and schedulers to develop two scenarios."
The universities would also prefer not to test for access, but will do their best to implement it if they have to. "We also see the new reality," Duisenberg said. "If the cabinet says: introduce testing for access, we won't be happy, but we will cooperate." He added that it would be a "gigantic logistical task". "We are not a festival site with one entrance. The campuses in the Netherlands have many different buildings. And think of the places where the faculties are located throughout the city."
"You can't force people to get tested," Duisenberg added. And several universities already indicate that it is not feasible for them to organize a parallel education program for students who refuse to get tested. "We cannot require lecturers to give their lectures twice, the workload is already enormous."