Today we have taken a new decision on the coronavirus situation that we hope will provide guidance and remain effective over the summer and into the autumn. The decision takes effect on 16 June. The basis for the decision is that on that date, the Public Health Agency of Sweden relaxes its requirement that education and examinations should be conducted remotely. This is welcome news. We look forward to being able to meet our students in Uppsala and Visby after the summer. There is nothing more energising than happy, expectant students on campus and in town.
However, everything will not be back to normal. During the autumn, most of the University’s courses will be given in the form of on-campus education, with larger or smaller digitalised elements. In future, we will try to reserve the term ‘distance’ for the courses and programmes that are formally classified as distance learning and are planned to take place with no requirement for students to attend physically.
In all the University’s activities, we must continue to follow the general recommendations in effect to reduce the spread of infection in society. This entails a great responsibility for all students, staff, visitors and others engaged in activities. To avoid crowding and to meet the distancing requirements, the University’s premises will need to be used for more of the day and more of the semester. We must continue to keep our distance, wash our hands and stay at home if we have any symptoms.
By now, we all know what is required to limit the spread of infection. We need to keep our distance and avoid too many new contacts. This applies to every part of the University and at all times, as long as the pandemic lasts. In all rooms and other spaces and outside them, and in entry and exit passages. Our approach to both teaching and other activities can be expressed in this way: we will plan for physical presence where necessary, and will use digital elements where possible, in order to achieve high quality while limiting the spread of infection.
The restrictions imposed by the Public Health Agency of Sweden on public gatherings must be followed at the University as well. Teaching sessions or meetings with more than 50 people must therefore be avoided. If the Public Health Agency changes its figures, we will automatically follow suit. Similarly, our travel restrictions are tied to those of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. If their recommendation changes, we will adjust our decision.
In the decision, we have specified the groups/tasks that will have priority for physical scheduling on campus, when this needs to be limited: first-year students, students with special needs, practical tasks and examinations, and final-year students’ exams and mandatory course components.
Bearing in mind these general priorities, departments are best placed to decide what parts of their activities they can conduct physically on campus and which components it is preferable to digitalise.
The decision gives boards, departments and teachers responsible for programmes and courses scope and responsibility to be creative and design their individual activities within given frameworks. In our education, we must give our students the best teaching we can, while avoiding the spread of infection. To ensure that the situation of doctoral students is properly addressed, our decision directs that any effects of the coronavirus and resulting measures are to be dealt with via the annual revision of individual study plans.
With increased experience of weaving digital elements into on-campus teaching, the potential for continued educational development is good. I’m sure we have all felt that so many digital meetings can be tiring and that it is not enough simply to transfer a physical meeting concept to a digital format. Shorter sessions are needed with more breaks, as well as new ways to encourage discussion and feedback.
The Public Health Agency’s new decision and today’s decision by the Vice-Chancellor clarify conditions for the autumn to some extent. Having said that, no one knows at present exactly what the pandemic situation in Sweden and the world will look like at the end of the summer. So our general message remains: keep going, stay strong, keep your distance. Whether or not the infection situation moves in the right direction depends on us all.