Denmark is on track for reopening. Now, physical shops have opened their doors to customers, and schoolchildren from 8th to 9th grades are being allowed back to some extent. But the plans for reopening have included no word of the 150,000 or so university students who are stuck at home behind their computer screens.
Gregor Halff, Dean of Education at CBS, is aware that the students want to return to campus, but such a scenario is not on the cards.
“All sectors of society want to reopen, and all of us at CBS are both proud of what we’ve accomplished, but also tired. Difficult political decisions will be made in Denmark and we don’t foresee that universities will be among the first to be allowed to reopen. We’ll have to practice the art of the possible with an eye on student and staff wellbeing,” he writes in an email to CBS WIRE.
In an article in the Danish newspaper Berlingske, Anders Bjarklev, President of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Chair of Universities Denmark, puts it this way:
“Despondency is spreading among the students.”
And therefore, he wants the students back. Now.
In smaller groups at first, and later on for lectures in large auditoriums where the distance requirement can be respected, he explains in the news article. He also pictures students having the opportunity to meet on campus in small study groups or project groups, and being able to return to the study halls and libraries.
Mads Taudal Nyeng, President of CBS Students, explains that he is in continuous dialogue with CBS’ management about the situation, and he is not optimistic about the prospect of campus reopening for teaching and exams.
“In my view, it could be a reality that teaching and exams remain online for the rest of the semester, but then the students know what to plan for, and that’s also important,” he says and continues:
“Whenever the restrictions are changing, we are in dialogue with CBS about our options. And what we agree on is that giving the students the possibility of returning to campus to study would be responsible and possible manage – if the restrictions allow for it. That will give the students an opportunity to leave their rooms and apartments,” he says.
“Few groups, if any, are not affected by the situation”
Anders Bjarklev explains in the news article in Berlingske that he would like to see the first-year students back on campus first.
“It’s important that we get the first-year students back. We have students who have been studying at the university for about a year but have hardly set foot there,” he says and adds:
“Many are feeling lonely, and their joy of studying is declining.”
Mads Taudal Nyeng agrees that the first-year students have been hard hit since semester start. However, the extent of the pandemic is also taking its toll on other groups of students, who should be considered.
“If you reopen for first-year students, you know for certain that you are embracing a sorely-tested group. They haven’t had an optimal intro or the time to establish a social network. But the pandemic is also affecting the second-year students, who have had one normal semester. And you can say the same for master’s students. There are very few groups, if any, left who are not affected by the situation,” he says.