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Update #37, 8 May 2020: Coronavirus and UM
We have a long update today, because there is a lot to report. We continue to work from home, but in a number of cases there will be more space made available in our buildings, especially for research. We provide information about the requirements for starting a master’s programme in September. We are again bringing your attention to RIVM measures and to a survey on working from home. The latest story in the ‘We’re open!’ series is also about working from home. Finally, we take a look at international cooperation regarding the coronavirus, the activities of creative students and alumni, and we highlight an interesting webinar by UM professor David Bernstein.
More room for working in UM buildings
Prime Minister Rutte announced relaxation of the coronavirus measures on Wednesday night. In a number of areas, the government is offering more room for leisure and work. As far as the latter is concerned, the basic rule in the Netherlands is and remains that we should work from home as much as possible. This also applies to Maastricht University employees—if the nature and content of the work allows for it, we will work from home as much as possible.
On the basis of that principle, UM has had task forces set up for this purpose for some time now to investigate how more space can be created within our buildings for working, based on considerations of usefulness and necessity, and within the guidelines of the RIVM, of course. The Executive Board attaches great importance to employee participation in this transitional phase being done on a voluntary basis. And if you would like to come to UM for work, you should first consult your manager.
A phased start of research being conducted at workplaces within the UM premises is planned for the second half of May. Where possible, UM will give priority to research by PhD candidates and postdocs in order to avoid as much delay as possible for these researchers who are sometimes in vulnerable positions.
Initially, the start will be concentrated in the Spaaklaan, UNS40, UNS50, Oxfordlaan 55, Chemelot and Venlo Villa Flora buildings, where laboratories are located. The UM buildings will only be accessible to designated employees with a UM card.
The initiative for the start-up lies with the faculty boards, in consultation with the relevant bodies. Further information will follow as soon as possible.
Education will be online until 1 September. When looking beyond that date, however, UM wants to gain experience in dealing with the 1.5-metre rule in a building where education and workstations for staff are combined, and therefore a lot of movement of students and staff can be taken into account. From 25 May, a pilot will be set up for this purpose at the Tongersestraat 53 location. There, we will experiment with the possibilities our buildings offer for responsible activities of staff and students.
It has also been agreed upon with the various faculties and service centres that around that date they will have initial plans ready for a structured and well-managed start-up in the coming months.
Decision on the requirements for starting a master’s programme in September 2020
Prospective master’s students who would like to start in September 2020 have been in a state of uncertainty lately. Normally, you can only start a master's programme after you have completed a prerequisite bachelor's programme (and have met a number of other admission requirements). However, completing a bachelor’s programme according to schedule is currently a challenge in some places.
UM fully understands that the coronavirus crisis is affecting everyone, just as it understands that the cyber attack at the beginning of this year affected UM students. On the basis of this understanding, but above all on the basis of the confidence we have in students, UM has established a policy regarding the requirements for starting a master's programme in September. These rules apply to all students, whether they are following a bachelor's programme at UM or at another university (in the Netherlands or abroad). They also apply to students following a pre-master’s programme at UM or elsewhere.
We have confidence in the educational quality of our fellow institutions, both near and far, which are accredited just like us. Moreover, we have extensive experience in educating international bachelor’s students who generally do very well at our university. We are confident that students who meet the criteria below can catch up and successfully complete their master’s programme. To help with this, we will support each of them in developing a personalised action plan.
The decision is as follows:
- Students can start a UM master's programme in September 2020 if they have obtained at least 80% of the ECTS from the final year of their bachelor's programme (for a 3-year bachelor’s programme, a maximum of 12 ECTS from year 3 may be missing; all ECTS from years 1 and 2 must have already been obtained).
- This applies to all prospective master’s students—students with a bachelor's degree from UM or from another university.
- For students from a pre-master's programme, the UM master's programme will assess whether the student can start on the basis of the prerequisite knowledge that has already been attained. The 80% standard is a guideline.
- In all cases, individual UM master's programmes may have more specific, but not stricter, requirements.
- At the start of the master’s programme, students who have not completed their bachelor’s degree will establish with the programme when their prior education will be completed (in any case, it must be completed during the 2020-21 academic year).
- The generally applicable admission requirements will remain in force, such as language requirements or that the content of the student’s prior education must be appropriate for the chosen master's programme.
In the near future, the above information will be worked out in further detail at the faculty and programme levels and communicated through existing UM channels.
RIVM guidelines for working at UM
We would like to bring the RIVM guidelines once again to the attention of those who have to come to work from time to time.
You should work from home (and therefore not come to the office) if:
- You suffer from the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Light cough
- A temperature increase up to 38 degrees or a fever (higher than 38 degrees)
- You OR one of your housemates suffers from fever and/or shortness of breath on top of the symptoms listed above. You can only come to UM after everyone at your home has no symptoms for 24 hours.
If the above is not the case and you have to go to a UM building, we kindly ask you to observe the RIVM hygiene measures:
- Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water (e.g. when you go out, when you come back or when you have blown your nose)
- Cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow
- Use paper tissues, then throw them away and wash your hands
- Don’t shake hands
- Stay 1.5 metres (2 arm lengths) apart from others.
YERUN: International cooperation on the coronavirus
Also within YERUN, the Young European Research Universities Network co-founded by UM, there is intensive collaboration on issues related to the coronavirus. For example, four members (including UM) are part of a large international consortium called GEFACOVID (Analysis of GEnetic FActors influencing infection with SARS-Co-V2 and progression of COVID-19), see also Update #27. The consortium hopes to gain a better understanding of how the virus behaves and which genetic factors determine the immune response of patients.
Scientists and technologists of YERUN member Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) developed and validated a simulator to study the development of COVID-19 cases in Europe. More about these and other YERUN projects related to the coronavirus crisis can be found on the YERUN website.
Reminder: survey for those working from home
In an earlier update, we asked all of you to participate in an anonymous short survey about vitality and working from home. With this survey, you are helping UM and master’s student S. Cernuschi. The survey focuses on the question of whether employees exercise more when working from home. It is precisely during this period, in which we are working from home on a large scale, that it is good to measure this.
Creative students develop coronavirus workbook
UM master’s student in Mental Health, Estelle Stappen, developed a coronavirus workbook for children for her former internship at Talenti a Casa (a mental health practice for ages 0-18). She did this together with the current intern from Radboud University Nijmegen, Fleur Naus. “We also wanted to dedicate ourselves to the well-being of children while keeping a distance”, says Stappen, who is currently completing her master’s thesis. The workbook (in Dutch) can be downloaded for free.
UM alumni share their coronavirus routines, tips, tricks, initiatives and stories
The UM Alumni Office has collected stories from a number of UM alumni and in the latest edition of the alumni newsletter, they share their routines, tips, tricks, initiatives and stories related to the coronavirus. For example, check out the vlog of Tamar Valkenier, who travels the world as a ‘full-time adventurer’ and knows what it’s like to go ‘back to basics’. Or visit a livestream concert of Marike Jager on her Instagram account. In the coming period, the Alumni Office will share more ‘alumni coronavirus updates’ via their social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram).
We’re open! Make working from home work for you
Are you experiencing fatigue, headaches, irritability, or sleep problems? These might be symptoms of stress caused by the unfamiliar demands of working from home. Angelique de Rijk, professor of Work and Health, is concerned about the situation we’re in right now and how to get back to normal. She put her expertise in research into burnout and sustainable employability to good use, and wrote an article on how office workers can cope with stress during the coronavirus crisis. You can read more about this in the We’re open! story series.
Webinar David Bernstein
On Wednesday 29 April, David Bernstein, professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, gave a webinar on staying mentally healthy in times of the coronavirus. The recordings of this webinar are now available for anyone who has missed it or wants to revisit it: