Uni hopes to return to 100% face-to-face teaching in 4 months

This Thursday, 900 students arrived in Belval for the University of Luxembourg’s Welcome Day. On Monday, courses will start in a hybrid form, but, behind the scenes, officials hope to return to 100% face-to-face teaching in time for January exams.

Thursday was the big day–the first steps at university, in the form of the Welcome Day organised by the University of Luxembourg on the Belval campus. A day dedicated to welcoming and integrating new students, so that they can also discover their new environment. There were around 900 students present on Thursday, whereas in other years, outside the covid-19 period, there could be as many as 2,000.

2,000 is also the number of new students announced by the university for this new academic year, based on the applications received. The total number of students should be around 6,700. This figure would be similar to that of last year, although it is not unlikely that the slight increase seen in recent years will continue.

The year begins with a hybrid formula

The academic year will begin on Monday. The courses will be given in a hybrid form: virtual and face-to-face.

“We have 59 classrooms that are equipped to function in this way,” explains Catherine Léglu, vice rector for academic affairs. “The lectures, those usually given in a lecture hall, will be broadcast on video. But students will be able to meet afterwards to discuss and debate. For other programmes, the groups will be divided into sub-groups so that the lessons can be given alternately in person and virtually.”

Catherine Léglu, vice rector for academic affairs. Photo: Paperjam

Catherine Léglu, vice rector for academic affairs. Photo: Paperjam

A system comparable, therefore, to the one that was in force last year. “But with a year of additional experience. We now know what works and what doesn’t,” says Léglu.

No CovidCheck regime

Léglu makes no secret of the fact that she hopes to see students return in large numbers to the various campuses of the university very soon. “It’s the start of the new academic year and many of our students are arriving from all over. The Impfbus [vaccination bus, editor’s note] was present on Thursday. Some of them probably got vaccinated on this occasion… So, we will probably wait around a month before considering moving towards more face-to-face courses, by the end of the year 2021. As far as possible, obviously, depending on the health situation. But by keeping this course, we hope to be able to organise the January-February exams in a more traditional way.” That they take place 100% face-to-face, as they did before the pandemic.

In the meantime, activities are resuming, but without the use of the CovidCheck regime, even if it was de rigueur on Thursday for Welcome Day.

“It was [used] simply because it was a big event, with a thousand people in total. On the other hand, if we encourage everyone to get vaccinated, it would be very difficult to introduce a CovidCheck for classrooms,” Léglu continued, before clarifying her thoughts. “We have 15,000 classes booked until December. This means that we would have to do 15,000 CovidChecks, can you imagine? And then we have to deal with foreign students [editor’s note: 15% of the students at the university are not from the European Union], who have sometimes been vaccinated with serums that are not recognised here. With CovidCheck, they would be excluded from classes.”

The students will therefore have to wear masks and keep a compulsory social distance when they are in class. At least for a few months.