COVID-19: Berlin Announces New Measures for Summer Semester

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The Governing Mayor of Berlin Senate Chancellery – Higher Education and Research has announced that universities in Berlin will start their summer semester on April 20, with a three-week delay, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
As the pandemic has affected all spheres of life in Germany and abroad, including the education system, Berlin as the country’s largest research hub has taken several measures to make sure that the summer semester works out the best possible in these circumstances, reports.
In an open letter to students and colleges, the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin Eva Inés Obergfell said that the summer semester at this university would start with a digital course offering.
According to her, the semester will enable all students, teachers and researchers to continue their studies and tasks as far as possible, assuring that all credit points earned during this semester, will count
“At the same time, no one should suffer a disadvantage from the fact that courses or examinations which for good reasons cannot be held digitally have to be held at a later date. For this reason, the coming summer semester counts as a university semester (Hochschulsemester) but is not credited to the standard period of study (Fachstudienzeit),” Vice President Obergfell wrote in her letter.
Whereas the Governing Mayor of Berlin Senate Chancellery – Higher Education took care to announce all measures taken by this authority in accordance with the universities, to make sure summer semester goes as smoothly as possible, emphasizing that this semester is indeed going to be extraordinary.
In a press release which lists all measures introduced due to the situation, the authority highlights that they are doing their best to provide a wide range of courses offered via digital platforms, including opportunities to take exams remotely.
While they acknowledge that there are some things which cannot be translated into the digital world, they insist that remote learning will make it possible for students to attend their classes even if they are currently abroad and cannot travel to Berlin due to travel bans and restrictions introduced by most world countries.
They are also aware that not everyone will be able to teach online or take online classes and that there are some areas where attendance in person is necessary and that any such work will have to be made up for at a later date.
“We are also aware that we will need to treat examinations, deadlines, and research project timelines (among other things) with the utmost flexibility and consideration due to the current situation and within the scope of the regulations in place. It is for these reasons that we are developing a framework for the 2020 summer semester that is, on the one hand, reliable for students who are able to complete digital coursework this semester and, on the other hand, that keeps people from suffering negative consequences as much as possible during this exceptional period,” the press release explains.
As per students who are unable to take all the courses or exams they had scheduled for the summer semester, they will not face any consequences regarding the standard time to degree.
Additionally, the State of Berlin is supporting the state and denominational universities, their digital teaching centres, as well as their dedicated teaching staff with a VirtualCampusBerlin instant assistance program amounting to 10 million euros.
“The Berlin Center for Higher Education will receive additional state funds in order to make their 2020 summer semester program available to over 1,000 university teachers across Berlin,” the press release explains.
Despite that universities have figured out how to deal with the situation in many ways, there are still some points that need to be clarified on the federal level, as various scholarships, the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG), health insurance, child benefits, all of them concerning students, as well as a review of further financial assistance for students in need.
As per the winter semester, a nationwide decision will be made later based on what happens with the Abitur examinations this year.
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