Students fear great discrepancies between first years

| HOP, Bas Belleman

While some cities are going fully digital for their introduction weeks, first-year students elsewhere will at least get a bike tour around town. Student organisations LSVb and ISO stress the importance of ensuring that all first-year students get off to a good start.

The new academic year will be unlike any other year. The introduction weeks will largely take place online and education also will not be entirely the same as before. A lot has to be done remotely.

No wonder the national student interest groups (LSVb and ISO) are keeping a close watch. They fear that first-year students will drop out prematurely if they are not properly introduced to student life.

Finding your way

This is why they will be publishing a range of recommendations, starting today. The tips include helping students find their way around campus, and making sure they know where to turn to should they have any problems. It is also important that first years get to know their fellow students and – if they are new in town – start to feel at home in their new surroundings.

Aren’t institutions concerned about this at all? Yes, says Freya Chiappino, vice president of the National Student Union (LSVb). ‘Our main concern is that big differences could arise between cities. Of course every city is different, but first years should be welcomed in the same way everywhere.’

‘Vulnerable’ groups, such as vocational students who go on to enrol in higher vocational education programmes should be given extra attention, particularly in the first 100 days. But in this new situation, lecturers – who are already working hard enough as it is – may not have enough time for this.

Corona proof

Institutions will of course be aware of this. For months they have been concerned with the question of how many students will be allowed in their classrooms, what their hours will be and how they can ensure that their introduction weeks are corona proof.

But student organisations also want to achieve something else with their call for action: to get attention from the political arena. With the elections just around the corner, they want to make sure the next coalition will be spending more money on higher education.

For years, higher education has witnessed structural budget cuts, claims Chiappino. As a result, there was not enough room to absorb the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. ‘We have only just realised what a tremendous loss this is.’