Physical teaching in small groups allowed for students in areas with low infection rates

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The Norwegian Government recommends that universities, university colleges and tertiary vocational colleges continue to use digital teaching where possible, but that students in areas with low infection rates should have the opportunity to attend physical teaching sessions in small groups at least once a week.

‘The start of the new semester was demanding both for students and staff. The situation after Christmas gave cause for concern and made it necessary to act quickly. However, recent figures indicate that the infection rate is levelling off, and we will prioritise allowing some physical teaching for students. This recommendation is conditional on the teaching being organised in small groups and the infection control regulations being complied with,’ says Minister of Research and Higher Education Henrik Asheim (Conservative Party).

Universities, university colleges and tertiary vocational colleges should still refrain from lectures for large groups of students.

Some study programmes are more dependent on physical teaching or access to equipment, training facilities or similar. Such teaching activities cannot be delayed indefinitely. The recommendation that all teaching should be digital has therefore been changed to a recommendation that digital teaching should be used where possible. This will allow more important teaching activities for students to be resumed.

Local assessments

It will be up to the educational institutions, in cooperation with the local health authorities, to assess which and how many students can have physical teaching sessions. The institutions must also ensure adaptation for students with special needs.

‘I know that many look forward to returning to the auditoriums and the social side of student life. We will have to persevere a little longer before things can return to normal, but this will at least enable more students to return to campus. Students must keep up to date on information published by their educational institutions to find out whether, and if so, when, they will have the opportunity to attend physical lectures,’ says Asheim.

The situation remains uncertain

The situation remains uncertain, and it is not yet possible for the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health to determine whether the measures introduced on 4 January have been sufficiently effective. It may therefore become necessary to introduce stricter rules again at a later time, should the infection rates develop in a negative direction.

‘It is important that we remain prepared for the possibility that new measures may become necessary. This means that the tertiary vocational colleges, universities and university colleges still have to keep updated contingency plans for a rapid restructuring to digital teaching and exams. I hope that we can avoid this and instead, slowly, but surely, continue to open up the auditoriums, student pubs and the vibrant campus life that I know is sorely missed by students and staff alike. In the meantime, I expect the educational institutions to follow up their students properly, both academically and socially. The Government has just allocated NOK 10 million to social low-threshold services for students,’ says Asheim.

This is the new recommendation for tertiary vocational colleges, universities and university colleges:

  • All universities, university colleges and tertiary vocational colleges should use digital teaching whenever possible. All planned events should be digital, and lectures and events where students gather in large groups should be avoided. Students in areas with low infection rates should be given the opportunity to attend physical teaching sessions at least once a week when teaching activities can take place in small groups and in compliance with the applicable infection control guidelines.