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Covid-19: how to organize the return of students to university one day a week

The students will return to the benches of the university. Forced since the end of October to follow their courses by interposed screens, they will be able to return one day a week in lecture halls limited by a 20% gauge. “A student must have the same rights as an employee”, justified Emmanuel Macron, bearer of the good news during a visit to the University of Paris-Saclay, on January 21. The executive wants the rule to apply ” as soon as possible “ and respecting “Strict health protocols”.

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The announcement pleased as much as surprised university officials, scalded six days earlier by the government’s decision not to grant new entrance fees, reserved for groups of ten students identified as “Fragile” – since January 11 – and in the first years in tutorials (TD), by half-group – from January 25.

Vice-president of the Conference of University Presidents (CPU), Guillaume Gellé greets “Responses to our alerts”. “Without this return, even limited, we would have lost a lot of students, raises the one who heads the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. Even at 20%, it is a necessity to ensure a social link between promotions, to maintain the quality of teaching and not to depreciate the value of diplomas, and therefore employability. “

Need for “flexibility” in establishments

It is now up to the heads of establishments to manage the timetables, the distribution of rooms, students and teachers, or the digital installation necessary for the measured return of the students. “The easiest to organize is 0%, clearly, but it’s the worst solution: our students drop out”, confirms François Germinet. The president of Cergy-Paris University calls for “Flexibility” in the application of the new rules. “Give us goals and then let us manage as well as possible”, he says to the Minister of Higher Education Frédérique Vidal, hoping, for example, that the rate of “20% is just an average”, to allow those who wish to stay at home and others to come several days a week.

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At the Ministry of Higher Education, we repeat that “The idea was not to set a framework that was too rigid” to leave “Each university set its rules”. A limit has already been set: the first years authorized to take TD will count among the 20%.

“A period of two weeks to get organized seems reasonable to me, believes Guillaume Gellé, pending the decree which will specify the conditions of application of this gradual return. The declination [du cadre fixé par l’exécutif] will be complex, but the measure was so expected that I do not doubt for a second the mobilization of teachers to adapt. “

A return threatened by the epidemic?

As for the teachers’ unions precisely, the reception of the news is mixed. The Sgen-CFDT “Is satisfied that his requests have been partly heard” But “Regrets that no announcement has been made concerning personnel, (…) once again strongly requested to arrange this return ”.

The return to college in February will however be largely dependent on the epidemic curves. A few hours after the president’s exit, the Minister of Health indicated that the next few days would be decisive in assessing the effectiveness of the current curfew. “If we find that the variant [du Sras-CoV-2] increases and leads to an epidemic wave, we would fight it with measures that have already shown their effectiveness ”, warned Olivier Véran, evoking the confinement.

Should we therefore wait for the health situation to stabilize to rekindle hope among students? “At some point, you have to consider taking a little epidemic risk to relieve the social risk”, supports epidemiologist Philippe Amouyel. Professor at the University of Lille, he describes “Students lacking contacts and relationships”. As with any treatment, the practitioner takes out the “Benefit / risk balance” to decide the need to reopen the establishments: “You have to put in ventilation valves. It’s a risk, but it’s a small balloon of oxygen. ”


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