Questions and answers about the gradual reopening of the university

This article rounds up questions and answers on how Uniarts Helsinki will gradually lift some of the coronavirus-related restrictions. Updated 9 June at 10.40 PM

The Finnish Government has given the universities the permission to reopen starting from 14 May. Why hasn’t Uniarts Helsinki opened its doors already?

The Finnish Government recommends that the universities, universities of applied sciences, upper secondary schools and vocational schools continue giving remote teaching until the end of the academic year. The Universities Finland UNIFI has also made a recommendation that the universities stay closed for students until the end of the spring term as previously announced. Uniarts Helsinki follows these guidelines, and they concern all activities taking place in the university facilities.

How will the university decide who gets to study in the university facilities as of 1 June?

On 14 May 2020 after a discussion with the executive group, the Uniarts Helsinki Rector made a decision, according to which the preparations for the second phase (1 June–31 July) will be made by the end of May under the direction of the academies’ deans and the university-level units’ vice rectors.

The joint principles concerning studies, teaching and other work taking place in the university facilities between 1 June and 31 July 2020 have been agreed upon by the university’s executive group on 14 May, and they were published on Artsi on a page that is updated regularly: Uniarts Helsinki to gradually lift some of the coronavirus-related restrictions.

The joint principles will be used as the basis of the instructions to be compiled by the academies and the university-level units. The deans and vice rectors are responsible for the compiling and applying of the instructions.

In what format will the guidelines about using the facilities be given?

The guidelines will be in writing and they will be compiled by the end of May. If necessary, there may be training on the matter.

Aren’t the restrictions on some people’s access to the university facilities in conflict with equality, non-discrimination and Uniarts Helsinki’s values?

The purpose of the restrictions is to prevent the spread of the virus in society, to safeguard the capacity of the healthcare system and to protect people who are most at risk. In these kinds of situations, an individual’s right to safety and health if they belong to high-risk groups or are vulnerable in some other way may take precedence over giving each person the same opportunities.

The gradual, controlled reopening of the university facilities applies this logic: the goal is to control the chain of infections and to support the gradual resuming of operations in society, while keeping in mind the risk of a possible second wave of the epidemic. The universities, along with other education institutions, follow the common guidelines issued concerning the protection of people’s health and safety.

Why are the restrictions on working and practising in the university facilities alone?

Even though a student goes to a specific room to work alone, each visitor increases the overall number of contacts in the university facilities. Staff members, too, will use the facilities in the summer, and the university must have an up-to-date understanding of how many people are in the facilities and who they are.

The risks of reopening the facilities don’t concern just the practice situation itself, but also the fact that we, as a society, are trying to minimise all physical contacts.

Doesn’t the university trust that adults can follow the rules on hygiene and keep a safe distance to one another when using the facilities?

It’s clear that students and staff know how to take care of hygiene, safe distances and other safety-related matters. However, in the event of an epidemic, there must be joint policies so that everybody knows how to operate and so that studies and work can take place in as safe an environment as possible. 

Why is Uniarts Helsinki forcing its students to practise and work at home while the university facilities are kept empty?

Students may use the university facilities in the summer in accordance with the academy-specific guidelines that will be compiled based on the joint principles.

When it comes to students’ independent work and practice, priority is given to activities that contribute to graduation within the year 2020 and that cannot be delayed until the autumn term. Priority is also given to independent work and practice that cannot be carried out outside of the university (e.g. at home in an apartment building).

There’s pressure to make plans for the autumn (10 August-) already now due to travel reservations etc. Is it possible to receive the travel guidelines before 19 June?

We understand that there’s pressure to plan the autumn term already now. Unfortunately, we cannot promise that the guidelines concerning the autumn term will be ready by 19 June, because we will have to monitor the development of the epidemic and the instructions issued by the authorities before we make our decisions about the autumn.

The policies emphasise activities in the university facilities. Can a teacher, for example, meet up with their group of students outside of the facilities?

The same policies concerning teaching will be followed in all university operations, which means that for the most part, teaching is given remotely until the end of July. 

How will the equality between the academies be taken into consideration in the use of the facilities?

We offer all students and staff members the opportunity to use the facilities in accordance with the same principles compiled by the Uniarts Helsinki executive group. Starting from June, students, for example, may work and practise in the facilities in accordance with the academy-specific guidelines that will be compiled based on the joint principles.

Can it be considered good governance that these decisions are being prepared without an open discussion?

In performing a public administrative function, the university and the student union is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (434/2003). In accordance with the Uniarts Helsinki Regulations, the university observes the ethical principles of universities, good administration and its values in all of its functions. Uniarts Helsinki’s upcoming strategy highlights openness and responsibility as the basis of all decision-making and aims at increasing the openness and transparency of decision-making. Other objectives include the ensuring of smooth flow of communications and the accessibility of services.

By preparing the principles for the next phase in cooperation with the academies and other units and by communicating them to the university community openly and without delay, the university aims to fulfil the expectations set out in the Regulations and the strategy.