The deconefinition plan announced by the Prime Minister this Thursday provides that the return to classroom courses in higher education will take place on April 19. But even then, the resumption of activities must take place “gradually”, recommends the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education (MCTES) in a communication to universities and technical colleges. The heads of the educational institutions wanted to resume practical lessons earlier.
Following the decisions made in the Council of Ministers on Thursday, the MCTES issued a recommendation to the scientific universities to draw up plans for a “gradual lifting” of the current measures with effect from April 19.
The “reactivation” of teaching and non-teaching activities with the presence of students must be “gradual”, taking into account “the risk associated with each activity” and following the recommendations of the relevant health authorities, advises the MCTES. Higher education institutions must also provide “test conditions” for the Covid-19 from teachers, researchers, staff and students.
The plan proposed by Raquel Duarte of the Regional Health Administration of the North and the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto at the Infarmed meeting on Monday also implied that the reopening of higher education could not take place until October 3rd. However, the government has chosen to anticipate this timetable, as it did for the first cycle of basic education. Universities and colleges will return to face-to-face classes concurrently with secondary education within 39 days.
The institutions hoped, however, that the reopening would begin sooner, albeit gradually. The main concern concerns practical subjects, for example in health, sports or art courses, which have generally been suspended since the beginning of the second academic semester. If the students do not have practical lessons, “we run the risk of reaching the end of the year and awarding diplomas demonstrating skills that the students have never practiced,” warns António Sousa Pereira, President of the Rectorate of Portuguese Universities .
The chairman of the Coordinating Council of the Higher Polytechnic Institutes, Pedro Dominguinhos, is also “concerned” about the return of the practical disciplines. This official believes that the higher education institutions were ready to “resume teaching now in safe conditions” with a small number of people in their facilities as most of the courses were conducted in a mixed regime with theoretical courses only, practical classes, where students must be present in classrooms and laboratories.
The MCTES communiqué confirms that the Council of Ministers has accepted the recommendation of the National Commission on Access to Higher Education and maintained the rules on access to higher education reported by PUBLIC.
In the same document, the ministry also calls on higher education institutions to develop “programs to mitigate and offset the effects of Covid-19” on college students, in the fight against early school leavers, support for current first year students, and support for postgraduate studies ( Master’s degrees).