Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and higher education

Higher education institutions (universities and HBOs) are providing remote forms of teaching, and ensuring that research activities can continue where possible. From 15 June institutions are allowed to offer limited teaching on site.

Any educational and research activities can only take place if everyone stays 1.5 metres apart and follows the other rules introduced on the advice of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the municipal health service (GGZ). Institutions have drawn up plans for this. Staff and students may not come to the institution if they have symptoms that could point to the coronavirus.

Higher education after the summer holidays

Can I go to my higher education institution (university or HBO) in the new academic year?

Yes. From the start of the new academic year, more on-site educational activities will take place at higher education institutions (universities and HBO). This is only possible if the instructions of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) are followed closely. And if educational institutions stagger their teaching activities so that students do not place a burden on public transport at peak times. The 1.5 metre rule must be followed at all times – between students as well as between students and staff.

Start and end times will be staggered so that students can travel to and from the institution at different times of the hour, day and week. Educational institutions will inform students of the modified schedules and the regional or institution-wide rules for staggering student presence on campus. Some teaching activities will still take place online.

Will I be able to attend all my classes in person in the new academic year?

No, unfortunately this won’t be possible. Educational institutions will inform students of the modified schedules and the regional or institution-wide rules for staggering student presence on campus. Some teaching activities will still take place online.

Will on-site educational activities still be limited to certain times of day in the new academic year?    

No, the time slots during which on-site activities could take place (between 11:00 and 15:00 and after 20:00) only applied from 15 June until the start of the summer holidays. Educational activities in the new academic year must be scheduled in accordance with new rules. Educational institutions will inform students of the modified schedules and the regional or institution-wide rules for staggering student presence on campus.

Does the 1.5 metre rule also apply in higher education institutions?    

Yes. At higher education institutions, everyone must stay 1.5 metres from others, both indoors and outdoors. All rules set by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) apply to higher education institutions. Students and staff with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 must stay at home. Each institution has drafted plans to spread students over the building and over the day and week, so that the rules can be complied with. Educational institutions will inform students of the modified schedules and rules for staggering student presence on campus.

How can I travel to my higher education institution (university or HBO) in the new academic year?    

Students should preferably use their own means of transport to travel to their educational institution. If this is not an option, they can use public transport. Institutions have made agreements with local public transport providers on staggering classes and lectures over the day so that students do not all take public transport at the same time. Institutions will inform students of the local or regional agreements regarding the use of public transport.

I fall into an at-risk group for COVID-19. Do I have to attend classes at my educational institution in the new academic year?

Educational institutions are taking various measures specifically intended to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Students who fall into an at-risk group can ask their institution about the options available to them.

Can students travel on public transport during peak hours in the new academic year?

Yes, students can travel during peak hours. However, staggering schedules means that students are less likely to place an extra burden on public transport during peak travel times. 

Will the student travel product conditions be changed?

The student travel product will not change and will remain valid at the usual times.

When will these new arrangements take effect?

The new arrangements will apply from 1 August 2020. The 2020/2021 academic year will begin on the date originally planned; it will not be pushed forward or back. 

Lessons, exams and work placements

What educational activities can take place on site from 15 June?

Higher education institutions are currently teaching students remotely where possible and will continue to do so in the period ahead.

The educational activities that may be offered on site from 15 June are limited to practical lessons, exams and support for vulnerable students, if this cannot be done online. These activities must be scheduled between 11.00 and 15.00 or after 20.00, so that students are not using public transport during peak hours. A tailored approach may be taken, meaning educational activities can take place between 15.00 and 20.00 as long as they do not start or end between these times.

Higher education institutions have drawn up plans, based on the RIVM rules, on how to arrange activities on site from 15 June and reopen in a responsible manner.

What rules apply for educational activities from 15 June?

Higher education institutions may only offer limited educational activities only on site. The following rules apply: 

  • Only practical lessons, exams and support for vulnerable students may be offered, and only if this cannot be done online. 
  • These educational activities must be scheduled between 11.00 and 15.00 or after 20.00, so that students are not using public transport during peak hours. A tailored approach may be taken, meaning educational activities can take place between 15.00 and 20.00 as long as they do not start or end between these times.
  • Staff and students may not come to the institution if they have symptoms that could point to coronavirus: sneezing, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, a mild cough, a sudden loss of taste or smell or a fever (even a mild fever below 38 degrees Celsius).
  • Educational and research activities can take place if everyone stays 1.5 metres apart and follows the other rules introduced on the advice of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the municipal health service (GGZ). Institutions have drawn up plans for this.

How will travel movements to and from higher education institutions be limited?

Several measures are in place to limit travel to and from institutions. For example, educational activities must be scheduled between 11.00 and 15.00 or after 20.00, so that students are not using public transport during peak hours. A tailored approach may be taken, meaning educational activities can take place between 15.00 and 20.00 as long as they do not start or end between these times.

Higher education institutions are also consulting closely with local transport companies about services to and from their sites. And activities are being spread as much as possible over the day and week and over institutions’ different sites.

How are higher education institutions providing teaching to students?

Institutions are providing education remotely wherever possible  and will continue to do so in the period ahead. In most cases this means teaching online.

From 15 June the following educational activities may be offered on site, if this cannot be done online: practical lessons, exams and support for vulnerable students. These activities may only be scheduled at certain times of the day.

Higher education institutions 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.

Can research activities at higher education institutions go ahead?

Research can go ahead where possible, but researchers must follow the RIVM rules. 

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 are currently teaching students remotely where possible and will continue to do so in the period ahead. In most cases this means teaching online. From 15 June the following educational activities may be offered on site, if this cannot be done online: practical lessons, exams and support for vulnerable students. These activities may only be scheduled for a limited number of students and at certain times of the day. An exception had already 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.

When educational activities are organised with teaching staff and one or more students physically in the same space, everyone must stay 1.5 metres apart and follow the other instructions of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) or the municipal health service (GGZ). Institutions have drawn up plans for this.

Higher education institutions are not obliged to close their buildings. 

Libraries may remain open to students, provided the general RIVM and GGD instructions are complied with.

Can higher education examinations still go ahead?

As far as possible, education will be provided via distance learning. Exams can be taken digitally.

It is up to institutions themselves to decide what form of exam is most appropriate in each case. From 15 June some educational activities may be held on site, including examinations that cannot be taken online.

These activities may only be scheduled at certain times of the day. The general RIVM and GGD instructions must also be followed.

Can students do work placements in the Netherlands?

It is up to higher education institutions, employers and other organisations to consult with each other and decide whether work placements can go ahead. This must be decided on a case by case basis.

The decision will depend in part on the ongoing medical and security situation. 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). 

For more information about work placements, see the questions below under ‘Healthcare courses and healthcare institutions’ and ‘Students abroad’. 

Healthcare courses and healthcare institutions

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.
  • Currently, the guideline is that limited educational activities may again take place at the locations of higher education institutions. 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.

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 at higher education institutions 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.

Students abroad

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.

Admission to next year of study or degree course

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 was moved from 1 May to 1 June, to give prospective students more time.

Was 1 May still the deadline for registering for a course? Did I had to register with a university or institution of higher professional education (HBO) before 1 May?

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the deadline for those unable to register before 1 May was extended to 1 June. So you can still be admitted to a bachelor’s degree course or associate degree course if you registered before 1 June.

I have registered for a selection-based bachelor’s degree course or associate degree course. When will I hear if I’ve been selected?

Institutions had until 15 June to complete their selection procedures for all selection-based courses (including creative arts courses). You will be informed by the institution you registered with. 

I’m in the final year of my secondary vocational education (MBO) course, but my progress has been slightly delayed due to coronavirus. Will I still be admitted to an HBO institution?

Due to the coronavirus measures, some MBO students may be unable to complete 1 or 2 smaller course elements or their work placement before 1 September, or they may still be rounding off their practical training then. If this is the case, they can still be admitted to a bachelor’s degree course or associate degree course at an HBO institution. The HBO institution decides whether the student in question has the knowledge and skills needed to start the course, and whether it is possible to complete the delayed MBO course components before 1 January. If the student does not obtain their MBO qualification before 1 January 2021, they must leave the HBO course. If you’re an MBO student who wants to transfer to an HBO bachelor’s or associate degree course, you should enrol with the HBO institution as soon as possible. They can tell you more about the admission procedure. You should also ask your current MBO school to issue a formal opinion (‘afrondingsadvies’) on whether you can reasonably be expected to obtain your MBO qualification before 1 January 2021.

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, students may be unable to attain the required number of credits. It has been agreed with higher education institutions that students who cannot meet the BSA requirements due to the coronavirus measures will be allowed to do so in the next academic year. There are two ways institutions can do this. One is to grant all students a generic extension until the second year. The other is to draw up guidelines setting out in what cases students are eligible for an extension.

Financial matters

Am I allowed to delay my tuition fee payments?

No, you cannot delay your tuition fee payments. Although higher education institutions can’t operate as normal at present, because of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, they are providing education in other ways, for example online. So students still need to pay tuition fees. If students are in financial difficulties, for example because their part-time income has stopped, they can increase their student loan from the Education Executive Agency (DUO). They can also apply for a tuition fee loan. This can be done retroactively. This means students can get a loan or increase their loan for every month from the start of the current year of study. Students can arrange this via MijnDUO. Institutions are responsible for collecting tuition fees.

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.

Students who are in financial difficulties, for example because their part-time income has stopped, may be eligible for unemployment benefit (‘WW-uitkering’) from the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), but only if they were previously a salaried employee.

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.

Am I eligible for compensation because my extra basic grant or supplementary grant is ending?

Students who are no longer entitled to a basic grant (MBO-BOL) or supplementary grant as of June, July, August or September 2020 will be eligible for compensation. The compensation will be €1,500 for students in higher education  who currently receive a supplementary grant.

My extra basic grant/supplementary grant is ending. What do I need to do in order to receive the compensation? 

If you are eligible for compensation, you do not have to do anything. The Education Executive Agency (DUO) will ensure the money is paid into your bank account automatically by 30 September 2020 at the latest.

Am I eligible for financial compensation of school fees, course fees or tuition fees?

Everyone who obtains their bachelor’s or master’s degree between 1 September 2020 up to and including 31 January 2021 will receive a one-off compensatory sum in the first quarter of 2021, equal to up to three months of school, course or tuition fees paid. This works out to €535 for students graduating from a higher education institution.

This also applies to students who pay non-statutory institutional fees, for example international students. They will receive a one-off compensation of €535.

What do I need to do in order to receive the compensation for school fees, course fees or tuition fees??

If the Education Executive Agency (DUO) already has your details, you do not need to do anything. It will pay the money into your bank account automatically. Someone from DUO will contact you if it does not have all your details. You will receive the compensation payment by 31 March 2021 at the latest.

I am a student and I work part-time. In what circumstances can I apply for unemployment benefit?

If you had paid work on the basis of an employment contract, you are entitled to unemployment benefit (‘WW-uitkering’). This is the case even if you had a zero-hour contract or a contract with an employment agency. You can apply to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) for unemployment benefit in the following situations:

  • You were employed until recently and you lost your job as a result of the coronavirus measures.
  • Your hours have been reduced, for example, from 18 hours a week to 10 hours a week. This means you have lost 8 hours of paid employment a week. You can claim unemployment benefit for those hours by applying to the UWV. While receiving benefit, you must be available for work for those 8 hours each week, and apply for jobs.

I am a student and I work part-time. How and when can I apply for unemployment benefit?

To receive unemployment benefit, you must apply to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). You should apply within a week after you lose your job. If you apply later than that, the UWV might reduce the benefit temporarily. The UWV will notify you of its decision.

You can find out more about the requirements and how to apply for unemployment benefit  on the UWV website.

I am a student and I work part-time. Am I eligible for benefit under the Temporary Bridging Scheme for Flexible Workers (TOFA)?

If your income has decreased but you do not qualify for unemployment benefit, you might be eligible for the Temporary Bridging Scheme for Flexible Workers (TOFA) (Dutch). The purpose of this scheme is to assist people affected by sudden loss of income due to coronavirus measures.

To find out if you are eligible, contact the UWV (Dutch).

Please note: the deadline for applying for TOFA is Sunday 12 July 2020.

Student travel product

Will my student travel product be extended because of the coronavirus crisis?

Students in higher education who in March 2020 were entitled to use a student travel product or received compensation for public transport costs because they were studying abroad will receive a 3-month extension to this entitlement. The student travel product is part of student finance.

Do I need to deactivate my student travel product now to be entitled to the extra three months’ travel?

No. If you are still studying one year after the end of the nominal course duration, you will automatically be entitled to travel as a student for three extra months. You can however choose to temporarily deactivate your travel product to prevent your student debt increasing further. Do this if you don't expect to travel in the coming months and you’re not sure whether you will graduate within the set time limit.

Student accommodation

Do the rules that apply to individual households also apply to student accommodation?

No, people who live in a commune, residential home or student accommodation are not considered members of the same household. Students who live in shared accommodation should go out alone where possible and keep a distance of 1.5 metres from others. A household means members of the same family – such as spouses or partners, parents, grandparents and children – who live at the same address.

If a student suspects they might be infected, should all their housemates stay at home?

If someone they live with has a fever or shortness of breath. This also applies to housemates who don’t have any symptoms themselves. They must self-quarantine and get tested

Other questions

Educational institutions say they receive information from various sources. Which advice should they follow?

They should give priority to following the advice of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

See also

Fequently asked questions to DUO.