The reopening of the university: What we know so far

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After Easter, Denmark’s institutions of higher education will begin reopening their doors to students. Students in their final year on degree programmes that involve classes in labs, workshops and clinics will be given top priority, along with first-year students. And after the elderly and vulnerable as well as everyone else over the age of 50 have been vaccinated, in principle all students can return to campus.

2021.03.25 | Marie Groth Andersen

After Easter, Denmark’s institutions of higher education will begin reopening their doors to students. Photo: Maria Randima/AU Foto

Updated 24 March with information on test requirement and further opening of the libraries

There’s a good chance that the universities will open their doors– just a crack – after Easter. On Monday evening, Parliament (with the exception of the New Borgerlige party) agreed on a plan for reopening the country.

From 6 April: Students can begin returning to campus

According to the text of the agreement, students in their final year of a university degree programme that contains “many practical elements” can return to campus with 50% in-person attendance – in other words, every other week. Other students can return to campus with 20% in-person attendance; the agreement stipulates that first-year students must be given first priority by their institutions. Although the agreement doesn’t explain how 20% in-person attendance will work in practice, it corresponds to one day a week.  

At the same time, researchers and PhD students who currently have access to facilities such as labs will continue to do so. Both students and employees will be subject to restrictions on campus:

“There will be guidelines regarding social distancing, hygiene etc., just as there will still be recommendations and requirements regarding testing and the use of face masks.”

Negative test result required

In a press release from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science the ministry states:

"In connection with the reopening, all staff and students in physical attendance will be required to show a negative test result obtained within the last 72 hours and based on either an antigen or PCR test for COVID-19."

Unclear how the reopening will unfold at AU

How the reopening will be implemented at AU is not yet clear. The Danish universities are waiting for the so-called ‘sector partnership’ – relevant government authorities, educational institutions, unions and student organisations – to discuss the practicalities of the reopening and the public health restrictions. Universities Denmark and the National Union of Students in Denmark are two of the organisations with a voice in the sector partnership.

Last week, the senior management team at AU announced that classes at AU will continue to be offered online for the rest of the semester, and the same will apply to exams as a general rule. Even if the university reopens. Instead, management will prioritise making it possible for students to meet in their study groups and get access to study spaces on campus. 

Aarhus University will inform students and employees by email when a decision has been reached on the framework for the reopening.

Full reopening ahead – but the date is uncertain 

The agreement also sets out the conditions for a full reopening of higher education institutions – in other words, for when all students and employees can look forward to returning to campus again. 

"After the vaccination of the oldest and most vulnerable citizens as well as citizens over 50 years of age who wish to be vaccinated has been completed, schools as and degree programmes will be able to reopen fully,” the agreement reads. 

According to the Danish Health Authority’s vaccination plan, we will reach this stage by the beginning of June. But because the vaccination plan is based on estimated vaccine deliveries, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Until then, the political parties behind the agreement will regularly assess whether allowing even more students back on campus is feasible. Models that focus on outdoor activities and staggered attendance and class participation will be considered.

The libraries will reopen 21 April

Det Kgl. Bibliotek will open its doors further on 21 April 2021. However, the details of the reopening are not yet clear. 

Det Kgl. Bibliotek states on their website:

"On Wednesday 21 April, we open our reading rooms, study facilities (study places, copy/print, etcetera.), guidance, collection and returns at most of our addresses, as well as the exhibition in The Black Diamond, Copenhagen. All of course according to the guidelines of the Danish Health Authority. However, it applies to several of our study facilities that they are located on university grounds, and therefore we are dependent on agreements with the universities. We are in close dialogue with our partners, and we will let you know here as soon as we know more." 

Translated by Lenore Messick

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