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Covid-19 update 3 July 2020

Various initiatives are being taken to ensure the best and most efficient use of the University of Twente’s buildings from the start of the new academic year. These initiatives have led to an initial assessment of the possibilities currently available and how we can achieve them. We are very pleased to be able to share these insights with you.

Aiming for 40 per cent occupancy on campus

From 1 September, working from home will continue to be an important part of our professional lives: we will work on campus if we can and online because we can. One key lesson learned in recent times is how important personal contact and actually being on campus is, not only in terms of doing our jobs well, but also in terms of the enjoyment and fulfilment we experience in working together.

Our feasibility studies show that an average utilisation of 40 per cent of normal capacity is achievable. In some locations, working while maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres is relatively easy to achieve, but in other places there are bottlenecks.

More detailed studies examining these bottlenecks and ways to remove them will be carried out in the coming period by facility team leaders in close collaboration with health and safety coordinators. They will be establishing a safe working environment based on the university-wide framework. At the level of the faculty or service department, it will be determined who can work where and when.

In the new academic year, we will be able to facilitate a situation in which everyone can make partial use of the campus. Depending on the nature of our work, this will mean that some may be able to be present on campus more often than others. At university, faculty and department level, we will continue to work together to ensure that we do not exceed the maximum occupancy set out in the government guidelines. For each lab, department and floor of a building, a member of staff will be appointed to ensure that the distance of 1.5m can be maintained.

Optimum use of research facilities

At present, the requested use of lab facilities has not yet reached the permitted maximum of 40 per cent of standard capacity. Even so, we are still looking for ways to use our capacity even more effectively. This involves considering every possible solution, including options such as evening sessions and hiring external capacity in order to make the best possible use of all available options.

The impact on education

With 12,000 students to cater for, providing on-campus education with the limited capacity available is undeniably quite a challenge. Our aim is to optimise the number of contact hours that is possible within the safety guidelines. We expect the open layout of our campus to serve us well in the current circumstances. By offering a mix of online and on-campus education, we are succeeding in giving our students a high-quality programme of education.

We are delighted to be able to offer many educational activities on campus again. When allocating space, we are placing greater emphasis on activities such as tutorials, practicals and exams for which the added value of being on campus is greater than for other activities. Lectures will continue to be delivered online, with teaching staff receiving support through the Centre of Expertise in Learning and Teaching to enable them to provide quality online education.

The timetables for the academic year 2020-2021 will differ from the norm. The new schedules can be found in the table below. A lecture day will run from 9.00 to 17.30 at the latest or from 13.45 to 22.00 at the latest. Exams will be held in three blocks: morning, afternoon and evening. The starting time of the first lecture has been moved to 9.00 hours, in line with regional arrangements the university has made with public transport services.

As you can see, the timetables also allow for the possibility of evening sessions. In close consultation with the University Council, it has been decided that evening sessions should be possible under strict conditions. Our aim is to limit these to one evening per week. Teaching will take place until 22.00 at the latest, and no more than eight hours of teaching will be scheduled per day. Where possible, no morning sessions will be scheduled if the previous day’s teaching has included an evening session.

These evening sessions should be regarded as a temporary measure that forms part of the university’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak. As such, it is in line with the working hours’ provisions of the Collective Labour Agreement and the Working Hours Act, and takes full account of the wellbeing of staff.

The campus is also open until ten in the evening for students who wish to use project spaces and quiet study areas.

Be considerate

The limited capacity demands that we show each other a little more consideration than usual when working on campus. For example, when planning your breaks, you will be asked to take the times of other classes into account. By doing so, we can spread the movement of groups as evenly as possible throughout the day and avoid crowded situations in restaurants and other public spaces. We are also looking at technological aids to help keep you informed about occupancy and crowding in various places on campus and in the buildings. And of course we are equipping our buildings with routes and facilities to help users keep their distance and to provide a clean and hygienic environment.

We also ask you to limit your use of public transport. Due to the limited capacity as a result of the coronavirus measures, we as a university have made agreements with the public transport companies. In light of these agreements, we ask staff and students to come to the campus on foot or by bike wherever possible, or by car if the distance is too great, and only to use public transport if there is no reasonable alternative.

Survey on staff and student wellbeing

The measures taken to combat the threat of coronavirus and contain the outbreak have placed many demands on our employees. For many, working from home has involved additional stresses and strain. It is important to us to know how our staff and students are doing. And we are also interested to hear what they think needs to be done to safeguard our wellbeing. In the near future, students and employees will be invited to answer a number of questions on these vital matters.

Looking back and looking ahead

Yesterday we brought 2019-2020 to a close with an informal event to mark the end of the academic year. Looking back on a remarkable period, we can only be proud of how our staff and students have risen to the new and unexpected challenges we have all had to face. It is this resilience that enables us to look with confidence to the months ahead, despite the lingering uncertainty surrounding the prospect of a new wave of infection and possible restrictions to come.

L.P.W. van der Velde (Laurens)
Press relations (available Mon, Wed-Fri)