You can’t work on a dining room chair

Associate professor of social psychology Katherine Stroebe at work at her kitchen table.

Board wants to facilitate working from home

You can’t work on a dining room chair

The board is thinking about using the employee bonus to facilitate them working from home. With hybrid education being a likely reality, employees need better seats than their dining room chairs. ‘We have to take the future into account when thinking about the new normal.’
By Giulia Fabrizi and Rob Siebelink
10 June om 11:33 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 24 June 2020
om 11:16 uur.
June 10 at 11:33 AM.
Last modified on June 24, 2020
at 11:16 AM.

Do you have a question?

Every week, rector Cisca Wijmenga, board president Jouke de Vries, and board member Hans Biemans will be answering the most burning questions from the academic community.

Do you have a question for the board? Send a mail to uk@rug.nl

In late April, we talked about the hundred-euro bonus the staff of the University of Utrecht received because they were working from home. You said you were considering a bonus for UG staff, as well. Have you decided on that yet?

Hans Biemans: ‘Back then, we were considering a bonus to cover the costs of our employees for working from home temporarily. But it’s been three months. Since hybrid education will be the norm in 2020-2021, employees will have to partially work from home even longer. Very few of them have a proper office at home, or a good desk chair. We have to look at the fiscal side still and make some decisions.’

So you’re considering using the bonus to help out staff with working from home?

Hans Biemans: ‘Offices at the university have to meet specific conditions. If UG employees are forced to work from home, their home offices have to meet these standards, too. We have to consider the future when we think about the new normal, to make sure we can keep it up.’

Last week, you decided to allow exchange programmes to go through in the first semester of next year. Many people will be glad to hear it. Why did you decide this?

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘We left it up to the faculties. In some programmes, doing an exchange is mandatory, and we wanted to give the faculties the opportunity to decide for themselves.’

The Faculty of Economics and Business has stated it won’t allow any exchanges. Some students don’t understand why there isn’t a university-wide policy about exchange programmes. Can you explain that?

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘The faculties are autonomous and vary when it comes to education. We have had this discussion before, about exams. Our decision allows the faculties maximum flexibility to decide for themselves.’

Lijst Calimero proposes to charge international students who are currently paying institutional tuition fees and who won’t graduate before the end of summer only legal tuition fees. The Erasmus University has already made this change. How does the UG feel about this?

Hans Biemans: ‘Universities have to legally charge non-EU students the cost price. Cross-subsidisation with public funds isn’t allowed. So the decision isn’t up to us.’

The same rules apply to the Erasmus University, and they made it happen.

Hans Biemans: ‘I was surprised by that. I had our lawyers ask Erasmus how they did it, but they haven’t got back to me yet. I can imagine the ministry of Education making an exception if all a student has left to do is graduate. 

The assumption is that only people who already should have graduated would need it, which would greatly reduce the cost for the university, since it’s only a few extra months at most. We do have to think about how to separate the people who suffered delays due to the corona measures from people who suffered delays for other reasons. There are some remaining questions. Are we allowed to do it? And under what conditions?’

Last week, the VSNU said that the number of students enrolling in universities is more than 6 percent higher than last year. How is Groningen doing?

Jouke de Vries: ‘The April 1 numbers showed a slight decline, but that was corrected in May. We’re talking about students enrolling, not officially registering: they have until October 1 to do that. We won’t know the real numbers until then.’

Cisca Wijmenga: ‘The enrolment numbers are a little higher than average. Students often take a gap year, but many of them can’t right now. Where will they find a job? They can’t really travel, either. But we can’t predict what that means for next year. Students might be enrolling at multiple universities. We’ll have to wait and see.’

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