Strict lockdown for higher education as well

Universities have to close, which affects teachers and students at WUR.
Universities are also closing their doors. Photo Aurora, Guy Ackermans

On Saturday evening, the Dutch government announced a lockdown. Universities and universities of applied sciences also have to close. The lockdown will continue throughout the Christmas holidays and perhaps even longer.

The experts in the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) had advised the Dutch government to order a strict lockdown in order to prevent the rise of the omicron variant of the corona virus. This new variant is spreading rapidly. The government has followed this advice. Although little is yet known about how dangerous the new variant is, the government wants to avoid enormous pressure being put on hospitals and intensive care units. Educational institutions may be able to reopen again on 10 January at the end of the Christmas holidays. The government will decide this on 3 January. Other sections of society will remain in lockdown until 14 January. 

Interim examinations

For the time being, students and staff will not come to campus. As in previous lockdowns, exceptions will be made for vulnerable students and certain practical courses. Interim exams and other tests will take place, and the libraries at the educational institutions will remain open. The government hopes to provide boosters, a third vaccination, to as many people as possible in the weeks ahead. This will give people better protection against the corona virus, said Jaap van Dissel (director of infectious disease control at RIVM) at Saturday’s press conference.

Fortunately, in-person interim examinations are still possible and university libraries will remain open.

Pieter Duisenberg, Universiteiten van Nederland

At the beginning of the new academic year, demissionary minister Van Engelshoven had said that institutions of higher education would not close again. That promise has now been broken; the government has pulled the emergency brake. The earlier measures this autumn (like the evening lockdown) hardly affected higher education. There was some criticism that the corona policy being followed in higher education gave little consideration to the spread of the virus. Because of the attendance requirement, some students felt forced to go to interim examinations or classes even if they had corona-like symptoms.

1.5 metres

But the government did not want to impose a stricter policy. Even the 1.5-metres requirement did not apply to higher education. The only real limitation was that no more than 75 students could come together in lecture halls. And now again a lockdown. The two national student organisations the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) and the Dutch National Student Association (ISO) understand the situation but they don’t like it. ‘The mental health of young people is under enormous pressure because of the corona crisis,’ says Ama Boahene, chair of the LSVb. ‘Closing higher education will result in more young people suffering from loneliness and psychological complaints.’

‘The closure of higher education is an unexpected letdown; being so close to the Christmas holidays, we’d hoped that we’d be able to finish the year in person,’ says Lisanne de Roos, chair of the ISO. ‘But we’re still hoping that, if we bite the bullet now, in-person education will be possible again after the Christmas holidays.’

‘Just as for the rest of the Netherlands, this is an enormous disappointment for our staff and students,’ says Pieter Duisenberg, chair of the Universiteiten van Nederland, ‘but of course we respect the government’s decision. Fortunately, in-person interim examinations are still possible and university libraries remain open.’


Late in the afternoon of Monday 20 December, teachers at WUR will receive an email about the impact of the lockdown on their teaching in period 3. Regulations applying to all WUR students:

  • Interim examinations/examinations (no limitation to group size) will take place as planned.
  • Practical courses and laboratory work (including work for theses) will continue.
  • A distance of 1.5 m is not required during the above activities, but everyone is asked to keep as much distance as possible from one another.
  • The library in Forum will remain open.
  • Independent study locations remain available but for a maximum of 75 people per space and at a distance of 1.5 m. Reservations required.
  • In-person PhD ceremonies and inaugural lectures can be held in the Aula without an audience. Alternatively, they can be held online.

Regulations for all staff:

  • All previous measures remain in effect.
  • Work from home unless this is absolutely impossible.
  • Research at WUR locations can continue.
  • All non-essential facilities on campus are closed.
  • Sports at Sports Centre de Bongerd are not possible except for top sports and outdoor sports with only 2 people at a distance of 1.5 m.
  • The Student Service Centre’s winter programme will be adjusted.

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