Coronavirus Impact on University Education

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    How has Dutch higher education changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

    Maybe you were planning to apply to one of the universities in the Netherlands, or perhaps you were already enrolled in one of the programmes offered by the Dutch higher education system for the following academic year. 

    However, once lockdown measures were imposed worldwide, you may start to wonder about the coronavirus situation in the Netherlands.

    Of course, you may also concerned about how higher education in the Netherlands will proceed.

    Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about the changes to Dutch higher education in the following academic year, so you would know what to expect.

    Online Reopening

    The next academic year is scheduled on the 31st of August, 2020. Usually, an opening ceremony and an introduction week are organised to welcome the new cohort. 

    This year, however, many Dutch universities have opted to carry out both events online so that students will still be able to experience the official start of their university life within the safe boundaries of home. 

    Methods of teaching and Assessment

    Since March 2020, most higher education institutions in the Netherlands have been making the transition from traditional means of on-campus teaching to the “new normal” method of online education. Many universities have also opted for a “hybrid” model, offering a mix of on-and-off campus learning. 

    However, please note that the method of teaching may vary between faculties and institutions, so make sure to check with your university for the latest information. 

    Until the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic improves, expect at least the first semester to have:

    Online lectures

    Online lectures usually take place on live stream platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets or Blackboard Collaborate where students can see listen to the lecturer and view the lecture slides or other teaching materials. Students will also be able to ask questions in real-time, just like during regular lectures.

    Some lecturers prefer instead to upload pre-recorded lectures or slides with explanations, especially if it is a big class. If they consider that no visual aids are needed, lecturers may even share with their students audio recordings.

    Of course, students are welcomed to contact their lecturers about questions concerning the study materials via email, or even schedule online meetings for a discussion session.

    Online seminars and laboratories

    Seminars (also known as tutorials) and lab sessions are crucial parts of higher education that allow for lecturer supervision and collaboration between students; which is why the online version of seminars will proceed amid the pandemic, using video conferencing applications. 

    These seminars often involve lecturers answering questions from students and giving instructions or feedback regarding assignments. Sometimes, students are also required to make presentations during the online seminar as part of the coursework. 

    Additionally, lecturers will also present tasks for students to solve during the online seminars, often in groups. Students will then be randomly grouped and transferred into separate online rooms for ease of discussion. 

    However, not all types of seminars and lab sessions work well in the online format. Depending on your type of study, check in advance on the website of your faculty if some of your courses were suspended, postponed or changed. 

    Fewer or no group assignments

    Group work (especially those graded) has been restricted in many fields due to the COVID-19 pandemic as it may require students to meet in person to finalise their project. However, group assignments that can be completed remotely will most likely still be a part of the mandatory coursework. 

    Since it is hard to predict when the situation will improve, it is expected that group work may continue to be reduced.

    Online Assessment

    As a preventive measure, assessments of students’ understanding of the study materials will be carried out online as well. One form of assessment is an open-book examination, whereby students are allowed to use study materials to answer exam questions. It is a popular option to replace regular exams. 

    However, some lecturers may insist on carrying out proctored examinations. This means that students will be supervised as they complete the exam remotely, with the help of proctoring software that students will have to install on their computers in advance. 

    Other forms of assessments may include research reports, presentations, individual projects and more. 

    Exceptions to study progress

    As the sudden stop of on-site education may significantly impact students’ academic performance, several exceptions have been made to allow education to continue even if certain requirements were not met. 


    Students in a Bachelor’s programme at most universities are allowed to continue with their studies in the following academic year even if they’ve obtained a negative Binding Study Advice (not achieving the required number of European credits). Nevertheless, they will have to acquire the rest of the credits in the next academic year. 


    From 1 September 2020, students in the final phase of their Bachelor’s programme can start their master’s programme under certain conditions. This way, students can enrol in master courses while finishing their Bachelor’s programme. Study delay can thus be limited as much as possible.

    The conditions for this exemption of the current regulations may differ per faculty and/or study programme. You can only start when you have met the specific requirements of your faculty.

    If you meet the conditions, you can be simultaneously enrolled in your Bachelor’s and Master’s programme for one academic year. 

    However, keep in mind that you must, therefore, complete your Bachelor’s programme in 2020-2021. If you do not complete your Bachelor’s programme before the 1st of September 2021, you cannot re-enrol for your master’s programme the following academic year.


    Similarly, depending on individual faculties, PhD candidates can receive an extension to finalise their theses if they meet the required criteria.

    Degree certificate ceremony

    No in-person degree certificate ceremonies will be held until the 1st of September, 2020. Degree certificates are of course still awarded, but the festive ceremony will take place at a later moment.

    Gradual reopening of universities

    Since June 2020, universities in the Netherlands have started gradually reopening some areas of the campus and libraries. Social distancing measures are implemented so that students can meet in a safe environment.

    Most universities in the Netherlands are hoping to resume on-site education in the second semester of the next academic year in February 2021.

    Disclaimer: While the information presented is considered to be accurate at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may affect the accuracy of the information. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check direct communications from the government. 

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