On the afternoon of Monday 18 May, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, spoke with the Board of the University as well as UG staff members and students as part of an online working visit. The UG community’s experiences of the lightning-fast transition to distance teaching and online exams was at the top of the agenda. Other agenda items included the question of what the aspects that we wish to take from the crisis going forwards are. What obstacles are students and academics facing? What will teaching look like in Groningen in the coming academic year? And how are the students doing?
In the first part of the meeting, the full Board of the University (Jouke de Vries, Cisca Wijmenga, Hans Biemans and student assessor Tjitske Schokker) met with Van Engelshoven in Google Hangouts. An important point was making teaching more flexible. According to the Board of the University, this is needed in order to get through the coronavirus crisis but is currently difficult to implement due to all sorts of regulations at the degree programme level. The Board stated that it is precisely through making teaching more flexible that educational institutions can become more incisive and resistant to crises. The Minister echoed this by indicating that making teaching more flexible is up for discussion. Of course, the University of the North concept also came up in conversation. Van Engelshoven was positive and encouraged the Board of the University: ‘I believe in the University in the North concept; definitely develop this further.’
In the second part of the working visit, Stephan van Galen, Sander van den Bos, Rutger Klein Nagelvoort and Mervin Bakker joined the discussion. They focused on expectations regarding student intake in September, as well as the anticipated difficulties concerning international exchanges and the transition from Bachelor’s to Master’s degree programmes in relation to the limitations resulting from the Higher Education Act. The Minister consequently invited the UG to provide input for emergency legislation regarding softening the regulations for transitioning from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s degree programme during this period.
In the final part of the meeting, plenty of attention was paid to students. Three international students joined the conversation:
Van Engelshoven was very curious about the ins and outs of international students’ lives over the past 10 weeks and asked about Ester Alda’s experience regarding distance learning in particular. ‘I am happy that I am back home with my family, but I miss Leeuwarden. In June, I need to return to move out of my student room. I hope that that will be possible. Distance learning is going very well. Many compliments to UG lecturers’, responded the Icelandic student.
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