Giorgio Zanetti, Vice-Rector in charge of teaching and student affairs at UNIL, gives an optimistic outlook on Welcome Week, the autumn 2021 intake and teaching.
How can we imagine September at UNIL?
We have received confirmation from the health authorities that we can plan an in person academic year without restrictions. This is excellent news!
Good news is always accompanied by "but", since the beginning of the pandemic...
... we are subject to one condition. UNIL must offer a testing programme for the university community. This system has now been operational since 17 June. The token system, which we introduced last year, will not be renewed.
Will distance learning continue?
Teaching will be entirely in person, but not exclusively. We intend to continue to use the infrastructure that has been in place for more than a year, for example, to keep the possibility of following courses at a distance, live or recorded. However, we cannot guarantee that all content will be available online. Discussions are being held with the faculties, with which the FAE (Fédération des associations d'étudiants de l'UNIL) is associated, to define more precisely the place of distance learning.
The Welcome Week, which is planned for 13-17 September 2021, is important for new students. What will it look like?
This Welcome Week will be a bit different. We have decided that there will be in-person activities, but that they will be limited to getting to know the faculties and getting to know the campus. The big event on Friday, which includes speeches and the presentation of UNIL's services to a large number of students, will be broadcast online as in 2020.
Can we fear a return to the past?
That would be a very bad surprise. Personally, I am confident that we will not lose ground again. The vaccination campaign is achieving its objectives, i.e. the protection of populations at risk and the health system. In this respect, I would like to remind you that we owe this good news for the academic year .... to vaccines! I invite those who are still hesitating to consider the issue from this and other angles.
Can we expect such news for other areas than education?
We have been assured that teaching will be able to resume in person. However, we cannot yet give such guarantees for other subjects, such as events, culture, sport or restaurants, and even about wearing masks. These issues are subject to other provisions of the Federal Council's "Ordinance COVID-19 Special Situation". There are perspectives for easing the restrictions, but these have yet to be clarified by the authorities.
What will be left of the COVID experience after COVID, in the field of education?
In the short term, i.e. for the autumn semester, we are not going to put all the digital tools that have been deployed for more than a year back in their boxes. We are in discussion to make the best possible use of them, in the context of a completely in person teaching at UNIL.
And for the future?
We intend to build on the COVID experience, but on condition that the use of new technologies is pedagogically sound, with the aim of offering added value to students. The reflection has been initiated. For example, distance learning, and in particular the providing of recorded content, can be part of a more inclusive pedagogy, in order to support populations with particular difficulties.