Dear Employees and Students,
Many of us never imagined we could end up in the situation we are currently dealing with. Practically overnight we were forced to adapt to conditions that feel alien to us, and are full of speculation and unknowns. We started changing our habits in all areas of our lives: at home, at work, in our free time and in public. This is difficult, but I am sure we can make it. If only we have faith that we can and stand together as a society.
Many more challenges lie ahead, and if we want to overcome them we need to stay healthy. Therefore, I call on everyone to follow the hygiene recommendations during the coronavirus epidemic. Please wash your hands, use hand sanitisers where needed, maintain physical distance, limit spending time outdoors and follow all other preventive measures you keep hearing. They do help.
The University of Ljubljana has taken the coronavirus situation very seriously. We were among the first to call for more concrete measures to contain the spread of the virus. We set up a special expert team that prepared a protocol of measures to be taken in the event of coronavirus infection. Based on the information provided by the relevant authorities, we have extended the resolution cancelling all forms of direct instruction in classes and limiting personal contact in all activities at the University of Ljubljana until and including 13 April or until it is revoked. This resolution has applied since 18 March. The University thus immediately switched to electronic forms of instruction and other communication. With the help of our devoted employees we have established numerous forms of distance learning because study must continue no matter what. Our students must complete their programmes. I understand that work at the faculties is largely taking place according to plan. If there are any technical problems, these will soon be taken care of. We are also dedicating great attention to our exchange-students abroad, most of whom have already returned to Slovenia. We continually inform them about developments and offer them suitable assistance. We will also need to adapt the thesis defences to the situation. During lockdown, these will take place electronically, following a precisely defined protocol.
We are trying to keep our work processes running to the greatest extent possible, and as a university we are working to ensure the wellbeing of society to the greatest extent possible. Only those employees who cannot work from home remain at work here. It was also for this reason that I adopted a resolution ordering the institutes operating under the aegis of the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine and Veterinary Faculty to continue to perform their activities, and the employees at these institutes to perform their duties in the scope specified by their institute heads. The institutes’ operations cannot be interrupted because they are vital for providing healthcare services in Slovenia, and are in our national interest.
I would like to thank all our students for their devoted efforts in helping solve the current situation. Let me present only a few of the important activities they are involved in to help Slovenian citizens in these difficult times:
Around seventy senior students from the Faculty of Medicine are working at the government call centre, which provides people access to reliable information on the new coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia.
Students at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine and the Ljubljana Faculty of Health Sciences have jointly responded to the Slovenian Red Cross’s requests for voluntary assistance in performing the tasks and activities in its Patient Treatment Unit operating at the field hospital.
The nursing and midwifery students at the Faculty of Health Sciences will provide patient nursing assistance to the Ljubljana University Medical Centre.
The Ljubljana Faculty of Education has a student psychosocial counselling service in place, where therapists can be reached via Skype or similar tools during the faculty’s lockdown.
I also need to thank all other University of Ljubljana faculties for getting involved and doing their best in helping their fellow Slovenians. For example, the Faculty of Sport is providing useful exercise advice, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering are working on designing a large number of ventilators, and several faculties are providing online educational content discussing the new social reality no one is used to (e.g., the School of Economics and Business or the Faculty of Social Sciences, which draws attention to certain risks and deceptions introduced by social media). Our member institutions are doing all of this. All of this and more.
Thank you, my dear employees. When life gets back to normal, nothing will actually be the same again. The changes will remain, some of them forever. I hope that for the good of us all, there will be as many as possible that will allow the University, as one the most important institutions in the country, to develop further. We do not know how higher education will be funded in the future, but we count on our priorities being taken into account when adopting the budget. With regard to all the plans we have set ourselves, we hope that the new Research and Innovation Act is adopted as soon as possible. The same applies to the Act Amending the Higher Education Act, but all of this now remains uncertain.
Dear employees and students, the situation is serious and we must keep a clear head. However, I have faith in all of us and know we can overcome these unfavourable times.
Let’s help one another and stand together, even though we are physically not allowed to. We can use telephones, Skype, ZOOM, and other online solutions instead. Let’s talk and stay active. And above all, healthy.
Prof. dr. Igor Papič Rector University of Ljubljana