12 June 2020

Teaching at the Humanities faculty 2020-2021

1. Important Decisions

  • You can rest assured that we will do our utmost to ensure all the teaching can go ahead, in whatever way possible.
  • This means that, in the coming weeks, you can register for courses in Terms 1 and 2 as normal.
  • In our faculty, most of the teaching will be provided remotely, at least during the first semester (Term 1 and 2).
  • A limited number of courses will be provided both online and at the university.
  • In other words, we will be able to organise teaching activities on campus to a limited extent only.
  • In this, we will prioritise first-year Bachelor’s and Master’s students and international students, for whom Utrecht University is new.
  • The introduction for first-year students, which takes place in the first week of September, will be mostly online, but we will also try to make small-scale activities possible at the university where we can.
  • All courses of the Faculty of Humanities in Term 1 will not start until the second week of September (but courses in the Bachelor’s programmes in KI, LAS and PPE may start in the first week of September, due to the fact that courses are offered by multiple faculties).

2. Term 1 and 2

As already indicated, we will do our very best to ensure all the teaching can go ahead, in whatever way possible. This means that, in the weeks ahead, you can register for courses in Terms 1 and 2 as normal. In our faculty, most of the teaching will therefore be online, but bimodal teaching will be organised for some courses, with lectures online and no more than one-third of students attending tutorials in person, with two-thirds of the group doing the tutorial online from home. We will also always need to have the option of reverting back to full online teaching because the circumstances could worsen at any time.

We are currently in the process of determining which courses in Term 1 will be completely online and which will be bimodal. Your course lecturer will inform you of the exact repercussions of this for the courses for which you are currently registering in the first week of July.

3. Right to attend and teach all classes online

If there will be teaching at the university for your course, it is worth being aware of the following: throughout Terms 1 and 2 of the 2020-21 academic year, students (and lecturers) are entitled to have all of the teaching online. This decision was made at university level to cater for at-risk groups: students and lecturers whose health makes it too risky to travel by public transport or attend group classes. They are entitled to attend or teach classes online. This also applies to students and lecturers who, for whatever reason, find it too risky or too difficult to attend or teach classes at the university. For these people, an alternative will always be offered online.

4. Introductory activities

The degree programme introductory activities during the first week of September 2020 are also being affected by the restrictive measures. Many of these activities will need to be online, but because we consider events on campus to be extremely important in enabling our new students to get off to a good start in their studies, the whole of the first week of September will be free of course-based teaching. This will allow more time and space for small-scale introductory activities on campus. As a rule, the courses will not start until the second week of September. This excludes courses in the Bachelor’s programmes in KI, LAS and PPE, which can start as early as the first week of September.

5. The reasoning behind these decisions

It is highly likely that we will need to learn to live with the 1.5-m society until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes generally available. That will probably take at least another 12 to
18 months. As a result, we need to accept that the restrictive measures will remain in force for the whole of the 20202021 academic year and could be made stricter in the event of a resurgence of the virus. With this in mind, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has reached agreement with the Ministry on a national educational framework and the room for manoeuvre that individual universities have within that framework. The specific rules that Utrecht University agrees with the Utrecht safety region (veiligheidsregio Utrecht) are also of major importance. These primarily concern the transport flows within Utrecht (including pedestrian and bicycle traffic) and to and from Utrecht (especially trains and buses). So far, agreements have been made on a (very limited) resumption of teaching activities on campus from 15 June (in other words for the rest of Term 4).

These measures have hardly any effect on us, because all the Humanities teaching (and testing) in Term 4 is taking place online. In the new academic year, the situation will be different. Currently, it remains unclear to what extent the transport restrictions will remain in place after 1 September or whether some (modest) relaxation may be possible. This is unlikely to become any clearer in the short term (e.g. before 1 July). This means we will need to live with this uncertainty as we consider how we intend to configure our teaching in the new academic year.

6. Utrecht University teaching buildings

An assessment has been made of the Utrecht University lecture rooms in order to determine potential capacity if a distance of 1.5 m between users is applied. This capacity varies according to the room, but is roughly limited to 20-33% of the usual maximum. This means that a room with space for 25 will be able to accommodate a maximum of eight people from 1 September. In addition, there is another factor that could limit opening of the buildings: the walking routes from and to the lecture rooms within the buildings. It is extremely important for one-way traffic to be possible, and, if not, for people crossing to be able to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres. A building also needs to have a separate entrance and exit. It remains unclear which buildings in the city centre this problem is likely to affect. As a result, we do not yet know how many rooms will be available and how much capacity they will have. We expect to have clarity on this sometime in the coming weeks.

7. Priorities

In view of the restrictions arising from the 1.5-m society, we have had to decide that most teaching in the first semester of 2020-2021 will be online for the whole of Utrecht University. No final decision has yet been made about the second semester, but it is sensible to assume that the situation will be no different.

Does this mean that there is absolutely no room for teaching on location? Not exactly, but what will be available will be limited. This is why we need to prioritise. We are currently in the process of considering the activities and groups for which teaching on location has the highest priority. These activities include teaching that simply cannot be done online and teaching where contact on location between students and lecturers and between students themselves is an important factor. Despite the fact that this actually really applies to all of our teaching, we have consulted with the directors of studies and are convinced that teaching for first-year Bachelor’s and Master’s students should definitely be given priority. For this group in particular, forming relationships with each other and becoming acquainted with the degree programme is hugely important, with a view to getting off to a good start in a new environment. Testing, insofar as this cannot be done effectively online, also needs to be given priority. Finally, it has been agreed that lectures, loosely defined as teaching (especially for larger groups) in which direct interaction is of relatively lesser importance, will always be online. We are now working with the programmes on more detailed prioritisation.

8. Education quality

As part of this process of setting priorities, we have also made an important decision: prioritising first-year courses, for example, must never be allowed to be to the detriment of the quality of other courses (whether they are online, as will often be the case, or on location). In other words: a situation in which lecturers have less time available for second-year and third-year courses because more lecturers are needed for first-year courses will not be allowed to happen. We believe that all students are equally entitled to good education.

Providing good teaching in the 1.5-m society, and striking an effective balance between online teaching and teaching on location, is a difficult task and is asking a lot of both lecturers and students. We will continue to do our best to provide good teaching, but we are also aware that, to some extent, we will need to make do with second-best in the year ahead. For good quality teaching, it is essential for there to be genuine interaction between lecturers and students who can see and speak to each other in the same room. For this reason, we aim to return as soon as possible to a situation in which all of our teaching is provided at the university. Like most students, we very much regret that any such return is likely to take some time.

9. Exception to Bachelor’s-before-Master’s rule

Everyone has been working hard to enable as much teaching as possible to continue in Terms 3 and 4. As a result, many students have been able to complete their Bachelor’s degree programmes on time. However, coronavirus situation may have caused you to get behind. For this reason, it has been decided to adopt a more lenient approach to admission to Master’s programmes: for this academic year only, Bachelor’s students who have not yet completely finished can still be admitted to Master’s programmes under certain conditions.

If you have been provisionally admitted to the Master’s programme, but will not yet have completely finished your Bachelor’s programme by 1 September due to the corona crisis, you can still start your Master’s. However, this is conditional on you having a deficit of no more than 15 EC and having incurred the delay in Term 3 and/or 4. If you meet the conditions, you should apply by 17 August using our form.

10. Financial compensation for delayed studies

The national government is making a once-only compensation payment to every Master’s student graduating in the period between September 2020 and January 2021. This payment is equal to approximately three months of course/tuition fees and amounts to €535. You will receive this compensation automatically if you are still enrolled in September 2020 and graduate by 31 January 2021 at the latest and it will be paid out in the first quarter of 2021; you do not have to take any action in order to receive this compensation. To be clear: this scheme applies for all Master’s students, and therefore also includes international students, part-time students and students who pay the institutional tuition fee rate.

If you are in receipt of a supplementary student grant and it expires in the month of July, August or September 2020, you will automatically be eligible for an allowance of €1,500 that will be paid out by DUO in September. There is no need to take any further action in this case either.

For non-EEA students, Utrecht University has also introduced a separate scheme: anyone who is unable to graduate in this academic year (2019-2020) as a result of the coronavirus crisis will not have to pay the institutional tuition fee rate in 2020-2021, but the statutory rate only for the period (in months) required to complete the missing curriculum components. More information on this will follow in due course. All Master’s students will also be notified about this separately.

For additional information with regards to financial support in circumstances beyond your control see https://students.uu.nl/en/practical-information/financial-matters/financial-arrangements/circumstances-beyond-your-control.

11. Relaxation of cum laude rules

If your degree programme overruns this academic year because of the coronavirus situation, this should not be allowed to mean that you are no longer eligible for the cum laude degree classification. For this reason, the faculty intends, on a once-only basis, to relax the cum laude rules concerning the duration of studies for both Bachelor’s and Master’s students. This proposal needs final approval from the Faculty Council, which we hope to achieve on 26 June. The amended rule will mean that, if you usually need to graduate within the planned duration of studies in order to be eligible for cum laude, you will now have five months longer to do so, in other words until 31 January 2021.

Of course, it is important to note that the other conditions of eligibility for a cum laude degree classification continue to apply. These conditions can be found in Article 6.2 of the Education and Examination Regulations (OER).

12. Reopening of city centre Utrecht University Library and house rules in the UU-buildings

From 15 June, the library in the city centre will reopen, with limited opening times. It will again be possible to borrow and return materials. You can keep up to date with these
developments on the university library’s website: https://www.uu.nl/en/university-library/practical-information/university-library-during-coronavirus-measures.

Furthermore, a limited number of study places will be available from 15 June onwards in the city centre university library. These have been allocated at the recommendation of study advisors to students who have shown to have insurmountable difficulties with studying at home. More information will appear in due course on a separate UU website. If you have any questions, please contact your study advisor.
You can find more information regarding the corona-related house rules of the UU-buildings on the following website: https://students.uu.nl/en/practical-information/corona-and-education/house-rules-in-buildings.

13. Studying from home: intervision for students

Due to the current situation the wellbeing trainers of the Faculty of Humanities offer weekly "studying from home" - intervision groups on Thursdays. The group will be English spoken. In this group you can share experiences and get inspiration on studying from home, or maybe even from your home country, and added stress and loneliness that some students encounter during the corona crisis. For more information please see https://students.uu.nl/en/hum/wellbeing-trainers-humanities.

14. Final remarks

This whole situation is far from ideal; we fully understand this, as do all our lecturers. All of us would love to see interactive teaching on campus. But it is simply not possible. This is the best we can offer in the circumstances. Despite all of this, we hope that you will continue to be part of our faculty community in the same enthusiastic and engaged way as ever. Without engaged, enthusiastic, but also critical students, good teaching is simply unimaginable!

Stay connected online via #UUgotthis,
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/humanitiesuu
Twitter https://twitter.com/HumanitiesUU

Finally: stay in touch with and support each other. We wish the very best of health to you and those close to you.

On behalf of the Faculty Board,
Kevin Postma, student assessor
Ted Sanders and Peter Schrijver, Vice-Deans