Most members of the UT community start this week in a lockdown. And that will be case for a while: the lockdown announced before the Christmas holidays will remain in force for the mbo's, universities of applied sciences and universities, while primary and secondary education will reopen. The Outbreak Management Team is already cautiously hinting at a possible reopening at the end of January. Just hang in there.
And in the meantime, it remains to be seen whether higher education will have to deal with Covid passes. The UT is not in favour of this. Apart from that, the UT has yet to really adjust to the new normal. What (lasting) consequences will the pandemic have for education, research, cooperation, meetings, housing, digitisation and wellbeing?
The longer the lockdown lasts, the greater the concerns about the wellbeing of students and staff. As Executive Board Chairman Vinod Subramaniam said just before the Christmas holidays, in an extensive interview with U-Today: ‘‘Corona is still our biggest concern. It seems to last forever. There is a limit to the great resilience of students and staff. The elasticity is gone. We all found a way to deal with it, but this is not healthy in the long run.’
His board colleague Tom Veldkamp expressed similar concerns earlier in 2021, student wellbeing is also on top of the Student Union’s list of priorities and there is extra funding from the National Education Programme for wellbeing. Good will and administrative attention are there, and so is the money. Now all we need is a solution, if possible.
Last year was the UT’s 60th anniversary, but the party has been postponed until 20 May 2022 because of the Covid crisis, in order to celebrate it ‘under suitable circumstances’. The UT will then also be awarding four honorary doctorates, to Prince Constantijn, Jaya Baloo, Debra Roberts and Wim van Saarloos respectively. And who knows, perhaps the previously cancelled UnBEATable festival will be held for students and staff?
A surprise – pleasant to many – during the Christmas holidays: physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf is to become the new Minister of Education, Culture & Science. For years, Dijkgraaf has been critical of science policy in the Netherlands, particularly the funding of free research.
The coalition agreement already indicated that the government wants to invest heavily in this. And he has previously argued for the well-known 1 billion euros extra for science. But critics fear that Dijkgraaf will also have to deal with matters that are further from him. After all, different laws apply in the Parliament than at Princeton. And how is he going to implement the abolition of the student loan system and the compensation of the current ‘unlucky students’?
Time for a gap year?
After all, the coalition agreement also states: the basic grant will return. Not in 2022, but from September 2023, or so that is the intention. It is still unclear how much the grant will be and who will be entitled to it. A tidal wave of first-year students threatens in 2023... Current 6vwo students will undoubtedly consider a gap year from September this year if they only receive a basic grant from 2023. If that is the case, it will have irrevocable consequences for the intake and financing of universities.
And what about the financing of current students who have got themselves into rather deep debts under the current loan system? The new cabinet has set aside one billion euros to compensate these unlucky students/the generation that has been screwed. ‘A drop in the ocean’, according to the Dutch Student Union (LSVb).
Special Bata and Special Olympics
After two online editions of the Batavierenrace, the fiftieth ‘Bata’ has to be a special one, the organisation committee announced: a completely physical relay race, including a finish line and closing party on the campus. Let’s hope that this will become reality. The starting signal sounds on the 29th of April.
Furthermore, this year, the campus will be a Special Olympics village, between 10 and 12 June. A total of 2,500 athletes and their 1,000 or so supervisors will use the campus as their base of operations during the Special Olympics National Games, the largest national sports event for people with a mental disability.
Accommodation for students
Many students looking for accommodation last summer were hit hard: suddenly, there were not enough houses available. Followed by panic, a petition and an urgent advice from the Executive Board to EU students to reconsider their registration if they still hadn’t found a place to live. In short, a housing crisis. To prevent a similar situation from arising, 230 container houses are currently being placed at the Witbreuksweg. This project should be completed by February.
ITC to the campus
Also in the housing category. Provided there are no further delays, it will finally happen this year: the ITC faculty will move to the campus in late 2022. Langezijds is currently undergoing a metamorphosis into a building with inner gardens and a ‘social heart'.
Other locations on the campus are also undergoing major renovations, as well in 2022. Examples include the conversion of Boerderij into a ‘contact centre’, a new workplace for the ET faculty and the conversion of the Citadel, where the current residents will be joined by Strategic Business Development.
Developments in the real estate field cannot be separately from the growth which the UT is experiencing, partly due to sector plans and student numbers. The pressure is such that UT is renting additional premises at Kennispark to cope with the growth. There are also increasingly concrete plans for new buildings on the Es (you know, the meadow next to the large car park where the big GGD tent stood last year).
Kennispark, the amalgamation
With a major investor on board (ASR Dutch Science Park Fund) and plans for the construction of the Fraunhofer Project Centre, and a crossing over the Hengelosestraat, 2022 should be the year that buiding starts on Kennispark. The prospect: the UT campus and the business park must amalgamate into a single ‘innovation district’. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon, but we may be able to see the first outlines this year.