’What will happen to my BSA?’ Han van Krieken answers students’ questions

19 Mar 2020

Will my exam take place next week? What happens if I can't finish my thesis on time? Students have a lot of questions. Vox collected them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and asked the rector.

’I can absolutely understand that students have a lot of questions right now’, says rector Han van Krieken at the beginning of the Skype-conversation. ’We are trying our utmost best to communicate as many answers as possible to these questions, but we also need to improvise.’

Yesterday evening established that the university is exploring different possibilities of testing for some courses. What does that entail?

’We have asked our teachers to investigate if the third period’s exams can still take place, just not physically on campus. That’s why, depending on the faculty, alternative forms such as a written assignment or oral examinations have been developed. You obviously can’t do an oral exam with one hundred students. But it might be a possibility for a smaller course to do that via Skype. The courses will communicate this as fast as possible to their students. Some can react quite fast, other courses will take more time. Everything has to be clear by the 24th of March. That could include that an alternative hasn’t been found. Then there will be delay.’

Does that also apply to resits?

’That is even more difficult than the regular exams. The resits have all been prepared considering the corona crisis and some of the students have sat them already. However, we want to investigate if we can also find alternative forms for the resits that haven’t been taken yet. We are considering that with the examination boards right now. They are monitoring the quality of the examinations and they have to make sure that the alternative forms of testing have the same quality as the usual ones.’

Why will there only be more clarity on the 24th of March? That’s very impractical for those who have exams at the end of March or the beginning of April.

’I absolutely understand that students want to know whether they are going to have an exam the following week. But that is sometimes not possible. We are trying to deliver the information as fast as possible – the 24th of March is the final deadline. Some courses have already communicated with their students, others will do so over the course of the next few days.’

’I’m advising students to assume that their exams will take place. If they should nevertheless not take place, you have not studied for nothing. Because the exams will take place at a later point.’

What will happen with theses that will not be finished on time? Can these students still graduate in August?

The interview took place via Skype. Foto: Vox

’The corona crisis is an extraordinary situation. Because of that, there is much more flexibility. That is one of the reasons why we have asked teachers to clearly state what’s possible and what’s not. Students who only need a library and literature can start with their master theses. For other master theses, experiments need to be done that can’t be realised right now. For them holds as well: teachers can help, wherever it is possible in any way. Where they can’t, we will search for an individual solution.’

Will students have a delay in their studies because of the corona crisis?

’We are trying our best to prevent delay. For example by organising distant learning. But considering the situation, I’m sure that there will certainly be study delay. To whom that will apply, I can’t tell at the moment.’

Will students who face a study delay because of the corona crisis receive financial aid?

The VSNU (vereniging van universiteiten, red.) is in contact with the ministry to see what possible financial consequences will be and if anything can be done. But here, as well, is the answer not as clear as I would like it to be. I think that most students will understand that.’

Will the BSA be different this year?

’I can almost certainly say that the BSA will be implemented differently this year and that it surely won’t be more strict. It would not be realistic to continue regularly. But how it will continue, we don’t know yet. We are in contact with the ministry and the other universities because of that. We would prefer a universal solution for all universities. Tomorrow morning, we are trying to reach a decision with the other institutions. Until Friday midday, we will communicate about the BSA. The initial goal is to prevent students from being the victims of this situation.’

How are you making sure that a degree now will have the same worth as it had in other years?

’That’s a good and fair question. We are agreeing upon all changes to the curriculum with the examination boards. Their job is to monitor the quality. Teachers and courses are making suggestions, the examination board is investigating whether the changes are guaranteeing the same quality. If that’s not possible, alternatives have to be thought of and there will be delay. We don’t want to jeopardise the quality of our degrees. The examination boards know that they have to work with a certain degree of flexibility and creativity, but that the quality has to be guaranteed.’

’High-quality testing at a distance is possible.’

’I’m convinced that high-quality testing at a distance is possible. There are examples of and literature about that and even a little bit of experience. The question is whether we can implement it in this short amount of time.’

Are students who have to return from abroad because of the corona crisis receiving financial aid? Who can help them with that?

’If there were extra costs, they first have to clarify whether this is covered by their grant. The approved grants won’t be asked back, even if the time abroad has been shorter than scheduled. If there are still problems, we advise to get in contact with the International Office, so possible measures can be considered. If possible, we would like you to keep these questions in mind for a later point, because all these places are very crowded at the moment.’

Is it a good idea to book your summer vacation right now or will the academic year be expanded?

’I can’t say something about that at the moment. Personally, I would advise to not book a summer vacation right now. On Monday, our prime minister has explicitly said that this is a long-term situation. The universities are now developing a variety of possibilities for the fourth period. The RIVM will use the upcoming weeks to make predictions on how long which measures will be needed. I think that there will be more information on the 6th of April. I would in any case wait until then before booking a vacation.’

Do you have a message to the students?

’Think of each other, carry each other through this difficult time. Especially international students who don’t have family close by could use this support.’

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