Coronavirus and the education sector

Schools will remain closed until at least the end of the May school holidays.

Frequently Asked Questions about coronavirus and higher education

Some higher education staff may be called upon to assist the healthcare services. This may leave institutions for higher education unable to offer their full educational programmes. How should this situation be dealt with?

Some staff who teach medical or healthcare-related courses at universities or institutions of higher professional education (HBO) also have jobs in healthcare or wish to offer their services to that sector. In the current circumstances, the healthcare system may make a greater claim on their time. If this is the case, their healthcare duties are more vital than their teaching duties. Institutions for higher education will need to find appropriate solutions.

How are higher education institutions providing teaching to students?

Up to 28 April inclusive, education will be provided remotely as much as possible.

Higher education institutions will remain physically open so that researchers can continue their work. But the measures against coronavirus make it impossible for students to follow their courses as normal. Universities and universities of applied science (HBOs) are expected to give students an opportunity to continue their studies at a later time, or to provide alternatives such as online lectures. It is up to institutions themselves to decide what forms of course delivery are most appropriate in each case. If alternatives are not feasible, a fitting solution will need to be found.

When will we know more about a possible extension of the measures?

The government will decide whether to extend the measures in the week leading up to 28 April. At this point it will become clear what this will mean for educational institutions.

Are students allowed to go to the campus and use facilities such as libraries, or gather in small groups, e.g. for a practical exam?

Higher education institutions have suspended all on-site educational activities where teaching staff and students are physically present in the same location at the same time. This includes lectures, classes, working groups and examinations. The institutions are not obliged to close their buildings. Whether or not the library remains open to students is for each institution to decide, provided they comply with the general instructions of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the municipal health service (GGD). An exception has been made for certain final examinations and assessments where physical presence is required, such as the public defence of a master’s or doctoral dissertation. These may take place, provided the RIVM and GGD instructions are followed closely.

Can higher education examinations scheduled between 16 March and 28 April still go ahead?

As far as possible, education will be provided via distance learning. It is up to individual institutions themselves to decide what forms of course delivery are most appropriate in each case. If examinations can be arranged online, they can still go ahead as planned.

How will the measures in higher education affect prospective students, now that on-site activities for them have been cancelled?

Many prospective students are now unable to attend activities on site, such as selection days or matching events, due to the measures taken to combat coronavirus. Institutions for higher education should, as far as possible, provide alternatives for this group. The registration deadline will be moved from 1 May to 1 June, to give prospective students more time.

Do students who are studying or doing a work placement abroad need to return to the Netherlands?

That depends on where the student is. Students in areas where an outbreak has occurred must comply with local measures, which means they might not be allowed to travel. If that is not the case, it’s up to students themselves to decide whether or not to return to the Netherlands. They may wish to discuss this with their educational institution.

If a Dutch student abroad needs help, who should they contact?

Dutch students abroad should contact their own travel insurer first. If necessary, they can also contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 24/7 Contact Centre by telephone on +31 247 247 247, by WhatsApp on +31 6 8238 7796 or on Twitter at @24/7BZ.

Can students from outbreak areas come to the Netherlands to undertake a work placement or to study?

Students in areas where an outbreak has occurred must comply with local measures, which means they might not be allowed to travel. It’s a decision that the educational institution or employer concerned must make themselves, in consultation with the local organisation.  Each case is unique and will depend in part on the medical and security situation on the ground. It might be helpful to contact the relevant municipal health service (GGD). If students or trainees decide to come to the Netherlands, it’s important to ensure they’re well informed (see www.rivm.nl/covid19).

How will RIVM’s advice and the national measures affect teaching and work placements for students on healthcare courses at institutions for secondary vocational education (MBO) and higher education?

  • If a student is on a work placement, the healthcare institution decides whether the student can assist with patient care, without compromising the safety and health of patients, staff members or the student. Students also have the option of telling the educational institution and the healthcare institution that they want to end their work placement or clinical placement.
  • Current guidelines require all physical teaching activities at higher education institutions to be cancelled. Work placements and other course-related activities that take place outside the institution may go ahead unless the employer or organiser has to cancel the activity in connection with the coronavirus outbreak. Medical and healthcare courses that involve students working in a healthcare institution, such as a university hospital, a general hospital or an extramural healthcare institution, form a special category. In some cases, students on work placements and clinical placements will need to stay at home, so that the institution can focus on providing healthcare. In other cases, they will be needed at the healthcare institution because they have a large part in providing patient care.
  • If relevant, the educational institution will decide, in consultation, whether and how any new tasks relate to the goals of the work placement or clinical placement.
  • If a student’s work placement, clinical placement or other activity is cancelled, they may still work at a healthcare institution as a student volunteer. In this case, separate agreements must be made between the healthcare institution and the student, for instance about insurance. Healthcare institutions are advised to consider carefully whether a student can work there as a volunteer. And they should inform the student that this work is not a continuation of their previous course-related activities and that they will not be assessed on it.

Will the binding recommendation on continuation of studies (BSA) still be issued at the end of the first year of study?

At the end of their first year, based on the number of study credits they have attained, students in higher education receive a binding recommendation (BSA) on whether they may progress to the next year of their course. Due to the measures in place to combat the coronavirus outbreak, first-year students may be unable to obtain the required number of credits. It has been agreed that universities and universities of applied science (hogescholen, HBO) will take into account the unusual circumstances in which their students are currently studying. Anyone who cannot meet the BSA requirements because their studies have been interrupted or delayed by the coronavirus outbreak will be granted an extension. They can progress to the second year and try to meet the BSA norm in the 2020/2021 academic year.

I’ve got financial problems. What should I do?

Students may encounter financial difficulties, for instance because their part-time income has stopped but they still have to meet regular costs, such as rent. The Education Executive Agency (DUO) is making every effort to help, taking account of personal situations wherever possible. Students can increase their student loan, and if necessary, back-date it to the start of the current year of study. They can also apply for a tuition fee loan. Students can make these arrangements online on MijnDUO.

I can’t make my student loan payments right now. What should I do?

Former students who are repaying a student loan may be unable to do this because their income has stopped. If so, they can suspend their payments by applying for an interest-only period. The maximum duration of this period is 5 years within the entire repayment term. Even if they have already used this option or have already agreed a payment scheme,  DUO will try to accommodate their needs.

Is 1 May still the deadline for prospective students who want to register for a course?

The deadline for registering for a higher education course has been extended from 1 May to 1 June. This makes allowances for anyone who has been unable to register by the earlier deadline due to the coronavirus outbreak. Because of the current situation, certain course matching activities may not be able to take place. Higher education institutions will therefore no longer be obliged to check the suitability of prospective students, although they will make every effort to do so.

I’m in the final year of my secondary vocational education (MBO) course but my scheduled completion date has been delayed a little due to coronavirus. Will I still be admitted to a university of applied science (hogeschool, HBO)?

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, some MBO students may be unable to complete one or two subjects or finish their work placement before 1 September. But they may still be admitted to an HBO course. They will be given an extension to fulfil all the MBO requirements and obtain their MBO qualification before 1 January 2021. 

Educational institutions say they receive information from various sources, including the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and local authorities. If they perceive any inconsistencies, they give priority to following RIVM’s advice. Is this correct?

Yes, the advice given by RIVM should always be followed. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science makes every effort to align its information accordingly.