Rapid-test pilot: searching for opportunities

30 Mar 2021 15:54 | Communication

The VU officially opened its rapid Covid-19 testing site on 25 March, under the watchful eye of outgoing Dutch Minister of Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven.

The Covid-19 rapid testing pilot is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). The Amsterdam pilot, involving AUAS, is being conducted in collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), ROC Amsterdam-Flevoland (ROCvAF) and the Amsterdam campus of Hotelschool The Hague (HTH).

A 'testing street' has been set up in the VU's main building, which can administer 200 tests per day. It's expected that this will increase to around 500 to 600 daily tests. VU student Britt van Leeuwen was the first person to get tested. She says that she's willing to be tested if it means more on-site education in the future. "I'm the president of a study association and hear from so many students who are struggling. I really do want to push for more possibilities again."

Pros and cons

During the pilot the participating institutions will look into, among other things, the willingness of students and lecturers to take tests. But that's just the start. "We're also going to really look at the pros and cons," explains research coordinator Ralph Lasage. "Of course there are costs related to setting up rapid testing, but we also want to understand the benefits. And that's not always easy to measure, because you also want to know, for example, what the pros are in terms of the well-being of students and teachers."

The rapid testing is currently underway at the practical education sites that are already open on-campus at the institutions. Testing is not compulsory for students. The mandatory corona measures are observed on campus. However, during the course of the pilot, the researchers also want to see whether it's possible to ease some of the corona rules in an experimental setting.

Looking for opportunities to offer in-person education

AUAS Executive Board Chair, Jopie Nooren, looks forward to the research findings. "I hope that in the coming months there will be more opportunities to welcome students to our campuses again. I understand that the outgoing cabinet does not want to permit this at the moment, given the increasing coronavirus infections among young adults.

"I think that we as the AUAS, together with the other educational institutions, are making a point via this pilot – we are searching for opportunities for students and teachers to meet in person again, and we're ready for it. We will continue to seek out all possibilities." The AUAS has already opened rapid-testing locations at the Nicolaes Tulp building, the Kohnstamm building and the Dr. Meurer building.

According to Ingrid van Engelshoven, it is crystal clear that higher education must be given more options as soon as possible. "Students must be given the opportunity to look each other in the eye again as soon as possible, instead of on a screen. That social aspect is really very important. That's a lesson we've learned from this period."