A different kind of spring in Svalbard
Top image: View of Longyearbyen and UNIS on 8 April 2020. The town is much more quiet than usual. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.
I am proud of our students and staff who have in a short time reorganized their everyday life to adapt to the new situation we are in. Through joint efforts, we will reach the goal of this semester and together face the new challenges that will come, writes UNIS director Jøran Moen.
Entering the Easter holiday 2020 is different than in previous years. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, UNIS closed down on 12 March and will be closed through 26 April, like all other Norwegian universities. All short-term courses, that were planned to start up between mid-March and mid-July, have been cancelled as the situation is unpredictable when it comes to the spread of the virus and not least travel restrictions imposed all around the world. The core of UNIS courses is fieldwork and in the current situation we cannot facilitate for large groups of students and staff going out into the field together.
We have had to facilitate for digital education for our current students and have altered exam forms for them, so that they can complete their UNIS courses without being delayed in their study progress. UNIS has also put all fieldwork on hold until after Easter. From 27 April UNIS will gradually open for for certain students, PhD and postdocs, who are to complete their theses or projects this spring and who are dependent on the equipment and infrastructure on campus. This is good news for the concerned research career students who have been worried about whether they would succeed in finishing their projects on time.
Proud of our students and staff
Easter in Svalbard is a magical time. In an ordinary year, Longyearbyen and Svalbard would have been teeming with students and scientists out in the field, as part of their course work, thesis preparation or scientific investigations. There would have been droves of tourists coming to experience this magical place, either by foot, dog sled, snow mobile or even boat.
However, that is not the situation this year. Half of our students have decided to leave the island for their respective homes either in Norway or abroad. They are, together with those students still in Longyearbyen, following the digital lecturing from their homes or student housing, or writing on their thesis. Our staff has home offices, either in Longyearbyen or on the mainland.
I am proud of our students and staff who have in a short time reorganized their everyday life to adapt to the new situation we are in. Through joint efforts, we will reach the goal of this semester and together face the new challenges that will come.
Positive future – despite all
In times of hardships, we truly see what our community is made of and together we work on new ideas and solutions to new challenges. This is also true for UNIS. We have a strategical plan that we will follow, but this new situation presents us with possibilities for new innovations and new science projects.
The extensive use of digital meeting rooms has rapidly developed over the past three weeks, and the quality is really good. This will inspire us to reduce the amount of sky miles in future, for business meetings, and hence reduce the environmental impact of operating the world northernmost university centre.
I wish all friends of UNIS a very happy Easter and I hope you and your family and friends stay healthy and safe. We are looking forward to welcome new and old students here in Longyearbyen when this situation is sorted out.