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Update #40, 29 May 2020
In this update, we inform you about the international exchange programmes for this fall, tell you a bit about the (practical) education that can take place in the buildings again to a limited extent after 15 June, show you a video about the initial experiences with the pilot in the SBE building, and point out the new blog of Martin Paul and two new articles in our story series 'We’re open!'.
At Maastricht University, we want to prepare as well as we can for the upcoming academic year and will do so by gaining as much experience as possible in the coming months, ranging from testing various educational models to analysing the actual usage possibilities of our buildings.
This description may conjure up the image of 'clinical operations', looking at AV facilities, square metres, timetables, student numbers, etc. This is partly the case, but to a very large extent it is not. When testing and considering the selection of educational models, it goes without saying that the possible effect on the workload of staff is also being taken into account as an extremely important criterion.
We are well aware that 'work pressure' is an issue that many of our staff have been working on for years, and this issue has not lost any of its significance during this corona period. On the contrary, it has taken on even more importance in recent months.
We are giving extensive consideration to how we can use special facilities to offer UM employees a safe working environment. In the coming months, we will also have to consider how we can meet the needs of employees who, because they belong to a specific risk category, will (predominantly) have to continue working from home as long as the coronavirus persists.
The safety of staff and students is paramount. We owe that to you.
International exchange in fall semester 2020
Annually, UM receives a large number of exchange students, divided over the fall and spring semesters. UM also sends a large number of students abroad for study and internships. International exchange programmes form an important component of many UM study programmes, contributing to students’ academic and professional development, etc.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted these international exchange flows. UM students currently abroad as part of their outgoing exchange programme have been repatriated with the support of national governments and partner universities. The same goes for students from partner universities spending their semester abroad at UM.
For the fall semester, which is due to start in September 2020, UM has decided to continue incoming and outgoing exchange programmes, unless:
- Travel restrictions by the Dutch government prohibit student travel from and to Maastricht;
- The partner university decides to cancel incoming and outgoing mobilities;
- The student him/herself decides to cancel the exchange. This needs to be done before 1 July 2020.
In case the exchange needs to be cancelled due to one of the reasons listed above, UM students will be offered alternatives for completing the number of ECTS study credits. These can include:
- Participating in an online exchange programme, if the partner university provides this opportunity;
- Participating in minor programmes at the UM faculties;
- Postponing the exchange to the spring semester, if the capacity at the host and home faculties exists to do so.
UM, together with the Dutch government and relevant internal and external experts, is closely monitoring the situation. In addition, together with the Association of Dutch Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), UM is maintaining close contact with the Dutch National Agency Erasmus+ and the European Commission regarding the continuation of and arrangements for the European Erasmus+ exchange programme. The European Commission has already signalled great flexibility regarding the execution of the Erasmus+ exchange programme in the coming 2020-21 academic year. This week, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel has indicated that in case of travel restrictions, for example, Erasmus + beneficiaries could start their exchange virtually and complement it with face-to-face interactions as soon as this is possible. In addition, the European Commission has confirmed that the current Erasmus+ Force Majeure regulation, providing financial compensation to students that need to abort their exchange programmes due to COVID-19, will be extended to the fall 2020 semester.
Students are being continuously informed about new developments by the International Relations Officers at each of the six UM faculties.
Education from 15 June
On 19 May, the Cabinet relaxed the previously announced ban on physical education in a limited number of areas. The general rule is that educational activities, including examinations, which can take place at a distance, should continue to take place at a distance. From 15 June, there will be slightly more space within university buildings for educational activities that are impossible or difficult to organise remotely. The Cabinet is referring in particular to education in laboratories/practicals. Within Maastricht University, this is currently only relevant to some programmes of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences (FHML). The faculty is currently considering how this can be implemented. At the other faculties, education will remain entirely online until 1 September.
Video about initial experiences with the pilot in the SBE building
On 25 May, UM started a number of pilots for working within the '1.5-metre regulations' prescribed by the government. In Randwijck, researchers can work under strict conditions. In the building of the School of Business and Economics at Tongerseweg 53, experience is being gained with employees working within the framework of the RIVM guidelines. The safety and health (physical and mental) of our employees are paramount in the implementation of the pilots. It is important to know that employees are only participating in these pilots on a voluntary basis.
For the purpose of the pilots, protocols have been drawn up to which everyone in the building must adhere. Physical adjustments have been made in the flow of foot traffic, the distance between desks, the supply of disinfection materials, etc.
In this video, Monique Merckx, Head of Marketing and Communication at SBE, and Paul Hick, Building Manager, Cluster Manager IT and Facilities at SBE, show how work is being done in the SBE building at Tongersestraat 53 during the pilot. There is one-way traffic everywhere, footsteps on the floor and traffic signs indicate which direction to walk and who to give way to, and signs in the various rooms show how many people are allowed inside at a time.
Martin's blog #9: Back to work in pandemic times
Executive Board Chairman Martin Paul follows the news about the corona crisis and comments on it in a personal capacity in his blog. Today, his ninth blog post in this series was published: Coming back to the workplace in pandemic times.
We’re open!: The significance of the oil industry for science and cross-border workers with no corona safety net
Within all of the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus, teaching and research are continuing at our university. In the story series We’re open! you'll find two more great examples this week. First, an interview with Prof. Cyrus Mody about the deep interwovenness of the oil industry with scientific research and innovation. Also, the institute ITEM compares the Dutch, German and Belgian rules of support for independent entrepreneurs and the problems the differences create for cross-border workers.
UM closed during long Whitsun weekend
Maastricht University will be closed on 1 June (Whit Monday). We wish everyone a very nice long weekend!