Universiteit Utrecht
Coronavirus update 12 November
Dear colleagues,
This is the Coronavirus update of 12 November 2020.
Education second semester
Even if, fortunately, the figures are once again heading in the right direction, we must unfortunately bear in mind that corona measures will also be in force in the second half of the year. Because both students and staff have a great need for clarity, we have made the following decision: in semester 2 we will maintain the current parameters, which are based on national agreements between universities and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. That is to say:
  • We maintain the basic principles when setting up education with limited education on campus as well as online education. Only small-scale meetings can take place, large groups of students are avoided. For meetings on location, we give priority to location-based education, forms of education in which students work together and have contact with teachers, first-year students and (smaller) groups of students for whom community building is very important.
  • Students who are unable or unwilling to attend on-site education can follow education (including testing) in an alternative manner during the second semester. For example, online or at a later time.
  • Students who are unable to take the test on location due to quarantine will retain their right to a first test opportunity (and a re-sit).
  • If a student is unable or unwilling to take a test via online proctoring, the student will take the test in an alternative manner, without prejudice to the number of test opportunities. Please contact your programme for this. Please note: this may cause a study delay.
Getting together and meeting safely
Both students and teachers feel a great need to be together and to meet each other. We also believe that this is crucial. Of course, it has to be safe and fit within the rules set by the government. In the course of block 1, we evaluated the occupancy of the classrooms. We found that students adhere effectively to the rules, that in practice there are few bottlenecks in the buildings, and that the use of space can be optimised: we can make more intensive use of some of the teaching rooms. That’s what we are going to do. Programmes will make their own choices about the subjects and exams they offer on location within the university's established priorities.
Binding Study Advice (BSA)
We are regularly asked whether the BSA standard can be adjusted because of the current situation. At the moment we see no reason to apply a generic leniency measure. All first-year students are offered a full programme and in the past academic year, first-year students hardly suffered any study delays. This applies across the board at universities in the Netherlands and also at Utrecht University. Of course, we continue to closely monitor our students' study offer and study progress.
PhD ceremonies temporarily with fewer guests in the University Hall
The national measures aimed at reducing travel movements are also particularly important for the situation in the University Hall. We have noticed that around 200 people came to Utrecht every day to attend PhD ceremonies. On a regular basis, some of those present did not comply with safety regulations, despite repeated reminders. This caused risks for other attendees. That is why we are forced to take additional measures.
PhD ceremonies in the University Hall can only take place with a limited number of attendees. Only the PhD candidate with possibly a partner and parents, the (co-)supervisors, the chairperson (and possibly paranymphs) are invited to the University Hall. The other committee members will take part in the ceremony online. Other guests and interested parties have the opportunity to follow the ceremony via a live stream. Of course, we would have liked things to be different, but given the circumstances, the measures taken are necessary.
One-off payment of EUR 300 for working from home
Many employees are currently working from home. The university is supporting in various ways. For example, we advise you on how to set up your workplace properly and contribute in the right equipment to work from home. In addition to this, employees who are employed by Utrecht University in the month of November 2020 will receive 300 euros net. This amount can be spent on optimising working from home at your own discretion, so that you can continue to work at home in a healthy and responsible manner. You will receive this amount with the salary payment in November. Read more about this payment and the conditions on the intranet.
Commuting expenses allowance 2021
As a result of working a lot from home, we hardly ever travel to university anymore. At the moment, the university still pays you a commuting expenses allowance, even if you work from home. The level of compensation is unequal because the travel distances are different. Until 1 January 2021, the tax authorities will allow us to pay this untaxed. After this, a new situation will arise on which we are now making agreements with other universities.  You will hear more about this soon.
In closing 
In the previous mail, we proposed to plan the week of 4 January as free as possible from appointments and, if possible, to take leave. Many people responded enthusiastically, but we also understand that for some of us, this is not an option. For example if you have a deadline for a research request. It is mainly an appeal to allow yourself and your colleagues a quiet start of the new year in the first week of January. A week that is not immediately filled with all kinds of obligations and a full mailbox. We also realise that the school holidays start the week before Christmas. If you can and if you want, you can (also) take days off during that week before Christmas.

Kind regards,
The Executive Board,

Anton Pijpers, President
Henk Kummeling, Rector Magnificus

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