Prudence, flexibility and non-discrimination. Here are the keywords that guided the Academic Senate and the Board of Directors of the University of Pisa in their joint session last Friday 29 May. The session intended to resolve upon the educational activities for the next academic year, focusing on a gradual return to normality, with never completely giving up the online mode. This will allow offsite and international students to attend the classes even if unable to travel because of the pandemic emergency.
"Many uncertainties persist about the development of the epidemiological emergency, and it is necessary to be cautious - commented the Rector Paolo Mancarella. - We cannot act as if nothing has happened, the protection of our community must always be at the forefront. We want to convey a clear, unequivocal message to students and families: let us begin again cautiously, but ready to fully restore the traditional procedures as soon as the epidemiological situation allows it. It is our firm conviction, moreover, that higher education can fully bear its fruits and completely meet the needs of its students, if it doesn’t ignore the importance of those social bonds arising with the lecturers and the intellectual and human interactions both in the classroom and on its boundaries. Particularly in a people-friendly university citadel such as Pisa, where this social bond has strengthened in the recent months, although we all feel the urge to experience first-hand our lives again.”
We all feel strengthened by the excellent results obtained during the lockdown, when all the educational activities of the University of Pisa have been performed online: 21,130 exams have been taken, and 1,146 final theses have been discussed and will become more than 3,600 by the end of June (being these figures substantially in line within those of the previous year). The next academic year will then open the first semester with all the lectures performed remotely through the telematic platforms of the University.
If this is the general principle to follow until 31 December 2020, some notable exceptions will be envisaged.
As a matter of fact, from 1 September, the in-presence performance of some specific activities is scheduled, such as the Degree Programmes’ training of Healthcare Professions, Medicine and Surgery, Dentistry and Dental Prostheses and the Specialization Schools of the healthcare area; and more, the undergraduates and postgraduates traineeship, the final thesis internships, the curricular traineeships that could not effectively be completed remotely (except for those envisaged during the first year of the study programme). If needed, lecturers can arrange undergraduates, PhD students and postgraduate’s reception.
The activities that can immediately be performed in person are also those with a limited number of students and therefore more protect and safe. Namely, the School of Medicine could opt for in-presence educational activities for those Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree Programmes in Healthcare Professions with a quota up to 50 students. However, by the end of June each Department may propose a specific plan for the performance of hands-on and laboratory activities; second-year lectures of Master's Degree programmes and the last year lectures of Single-Cycle Degree Programmes, with a quota up to 50 enrolled students. The Master's Degree Programmes that in a.y. 2019/20 had a quota up to 25 enrolled students, can perform in- presence lectures also for the first year.
The possibility of attending the activities online will still be assured to avoid any discrimination of those students unable to travel to the University of Pisa because of the continuing spread of Covid-19.
"The measures decided on Friday are only the beginning of a path to be continued in weeks ahead - concludes the Rector - The Departments and Schools are already working to prepare their 'restart plans'. Before the enrolment opening, we will give a further indication on the courses and workshops provided in presence. At the same time, we are also considering interventions to economically support disadvantaged students. To this aim, it is essential to initiate an institutional table where students’ representatives are also involved".