AK: Distance learning means Tartu University residence halls largely empty

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Empty dorm. Source: ERR

During the period of distance learning necessitated by rising COVID-19 rates, many University of Tartu students have moved back with their parents, leaving the university town's halls of residence empty. Most students are still, however, paying for the rooms to retain them once remote learning ends.

Even though libraries and school buildings are closed, many students say they don't think it's necessary to stay in halls during distance learning, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

"When you're sharing your room with someone, you can discover that this person hasn't stayed in their dorm in a long time. A fair share of students have kept their places, but still moved back to their parent's house," one Tartu student, Karl Lembit Laane, told AK.

The corridors of the dormitory are as a result much quieter than usual. Nonetheless, the students haven't officially moved out.

Tartu University's student village development specialist Liina Kuusik told AK that a big wave of terminating contracts hasn't as yet happened, and the current situation is similar to normal spring semesters. "The occupancy rate is still around 90 percent," she said.

Karl Laane said that students don't want to keep paying the rent indefinitely, however, which, depending on the facility, can range from €100-200 a month. The situation relies on the university's stance where a new decision will come each month on whether distance learning will continue or not.

"This is what keeps the students here. The constant fear that soon full-contact learning is allowed again. If the university gave a clear message that distance learning would continue until the end of the school year, several students would give up their room," Laane said.

There are 3,400 rooms across the student village, but around 10,000 students, so there's plenty of chance to miss out on a cheaper rooms.

Meanwhile at Tartu's University of Life Sciences (Maaülikool), the demand for rooms isn't as high, meaning many contracts have been terminated. The occupancy of dormitories is currently 50 percent at this university.

At the same time, administrative manager, Toivo Ilves, told AK that there are plenty of students who are temporarily living somewhere else too.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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