Publish Date: 18.12.2020

Category: News from the University

Statement by the Rector of the University of Ljubljana regarding the alarming state of higher education during the COVID-19 preventive measures.

Since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, the University of Ljubljana has been actively involved in preventing the spread of the infection. We have kept students and employees at faculties and academies informed and encouraged them to strictly observe the preventive measures. We have adapted the study process to comply with the measures. We are aware that we can only prevent the spread of virus if we all work together as a society.

After the first wave of the epidemic, we worked intensively on the timetables to ensure that studies in the 2020/21 winter semester could proceed in an adequate and safe manner. At the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, we prepared study guidelines together with public-sector unions and students. We favoured physical presence, while of course observing all the preventive measures. We envisaged a hybrid system for larger study groups, where a certain number of students would attend lectures in the halls, while the rest would follow online. We purchased the required audio-visual equipment, protective equipment, and plexiglass barriers. In October, the planned adjustments were put into practice, but we were soon forced to move the lectures online. Course components that require students to be present in person continued to be carried out for a short time. While lectures and practical classes are currently delivered to the best of our ability, an important part of the study process that takes place in laboratories, studios and other practical learning sites cannot be delivered remotely.

Given the current situation, we understand that the lecture halls cannot be full, but we do not understand why faculties and academies continue to remain closed to students, as we could deliver the mandatory components of study programmes at almost no risk, with students participating individually or in small groups while observing preventive measures. The exam period is fast approaching, but many teachers will not be able to assess the students’ knowledge, as they simply could not acquire it to a sufficient extent. This raises serious concerns on how to conclude the winter semester. What has become clear is that the education of an entire generation of students is at stake. Only time will reveal the consequences

The University of Ljubljana has consistently followed the situation and proposed solutions that would safeguard health and allow students to acquire knowledge. The current measures and priorities in lifting restrictions demonstrate that decision-makers have little regard for the value of knowledge. As the Rector of Slovenia’s oldest and largest university, as a university teacher, and as a citizen, I cannot remain silent. The fact that the higher education system is only included in the final, “green” stage of the reopening plan, speaks volumes about the value we place on knowledge, which, however, is vital to all parts of our society. Such priorities undermine our future, which should be based precisely on knowledge.

Prof. Igor Papič, Rector of the University of Ljubljana