University of Navarra plan to deal with Covid-19 in academic year 2020–2021

The University to increase scholarship funding on undergraduate and master’s programs by €2 million, to a total of €6.5 million. A renewed commitment to excellence in teaching, on campus and online, with a comprehensive healthcare protocol that includes PCR testing for students and employees

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FOTO: Manuel Castells
12/05/20 13:26

The University of Navarra has grown its scholarship program, making an additional €2 million available to students on undergraduate and master’s programs in financial need because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The scholarship funding budget for the coming academic year has been increased to €6.5 million, including Alumni Scholarships and other financial aid programs. The goal is to support 3,000 students, one thousand more than in 2019–2020.  The President of the University, Alfonso Sánchez-Tabernero, explained that “the University is making a major effort on our students’ behalf. We will also look for donations from former students, businesses, institutions and private donors that would like to contribute to the education and training of the next generation of professionals, ready to meet emerging challenges.”

This increase in funding is one of three axes of the Prepara2 strategy, designed to plan for the coming academic year and deal with the crisis caused by the pandemic. “Now more than ever, when a sense of solidarity is so important, we are willing and able to continue contributing to society through our work, knowledge and research. To ensure that no student who wants to study at the University of Navarra feels unable to do so; to deliver innovative teaching and make sure our campuses safe for our employees, students and visitors”.

The President spoke to all the employees of the University in an online forum and set out the measures to be put in place in the coming months and for the 2020–2021 academic year. In addition to financial aid, personalized teaching and a healthcare protocol for the university community as a whole are to be prioritized.

Teaching to build a more humane world

“In the University of Navarra we are preparing to live in the new world. Our first reaction might be a feeling of fear and uncertainty.  But the Covid-19 healthcare crisis has highlighted what we have always taught and learned: the purpose of science to support human life, we are vulnerable and need to look after one another, and building a more humane and caring society is the brightest goal.  The education we provide has always been shaped by these concerns, and the crisis has reinforced our commitment to that end.”

The University is committed to an on-campus, face-to-face educational experience, based on shared interrelationships between professors and students from all around the world. The President confirmed that the University is working within a clear timeframe: to begin face-to-face classes on campus from 1 September 2020, subject to approval from the relevant public authorities and the application of all necessary healthcare protocols.

However, the University will also provide online teaching as required, for students who cannot attend classes in the short term, or if the health authorities were to suspend on-campus teaching again. “Whatever the situation may be, our professors will provide high quality, student-centered teaching, in such a way as to ensure that their academic performance is in no way compromised.”

In advance of the new academic year, the Quality and Innovation Unit is continuing its work on designing new teaching methodologies that encourage service learning, academic study and collaborative learning, incorporating best practices that have emerged from lessons learned in March, April and May 2020.

The work of the University of Navarra went on uninterrupted throughout the lockdown period. Over two months of online teaching, 1,889 subjects were delivered remotely, comprising 24,640 class-hours, and 68,742 exams are currently being administered remotely. Students received 1,000 online sessions every day, participated in 29,258 discussion forums and submitted 3.5 million files; a total of 1,379 Final Year Projects and Master’s Thesis Projects have also been presented.

“These numbers reflect the intensity of our activity online, and the extraordinary capacity of our students. They have learned that they must be the leaders of their own learning and that not all variables can be kept under complete control.”

To students in their final year, Sánchez-Tabernero had a special message for students in their graduating year: “Many of you will return to the University to start a Master’s program.  We hope that all of you will be able to enjoy the graduation ceremony you had so looked forward to as soon as possible. We want to work closely with you at this difficult time, as you set out to look for your first job”. Dedicated student support groups have been set up in all Schools at the University to meet such needs.

PCR testing for employees and students

The Prepara2 plan also focuses on healthcare, including PCR testing for all university students and employees, subject to approval from the health authorities. A healthcare protocol has been put in place to deal with symptoms of Covid-19 infection and students will be given detailed information about healthcare coverage and insurance. An online medical clinic is to be set up to deal with student queries and concerns.

A range of prevention and hygiene measures have also been rolled out across the campus, including interpersonal and social distancing strategies, limiting occupancy numbers and building flexibility into timetables to avoid crowding in the lecture halls, canteens and other shared spaces; the use of face masks and alcogel hand sanitizers; and the installation of protective screens in offices where there is face-to-face contact with the public.

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