The Impact of Coronavirus on Higher Education in Germany

Coronavirus has impacted not only higher education institutions in the world but also the way companies are doing their work, and especially the daily lives of the citizens in infected countries. Germany is also among the countries which have a considerable number of people infected with COVID-19. Schools are closing, universities are delaying their terms, and some companies are sending their staff home to work remotely. The German government has banned all public gatherings which include large crowds of people as a way of preventing the transmission of the virus.

Germany is currently home to almost 400,000 international students enrolled in higher education institutions. It is widely acknowledged as one of the most popular study destinations for students worldwide. These students, both domestic and international, are currently advised to stay inside as much as possible, avoid public gatherings, and protect themselves as well as the rest of the citizens from the pandemic. This, subsequently, means that going to university classes, where students are exposed to large numbers of people, can increase the number of people who are infected with the virus.

German universities, officially those in the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, have already delayed their summer terms to the end of April, more specifically 20 April 2020. The current situation is expected to have quite an impact on higher education in Germany. This is if we’re talking on the short-term, depending on when the current pandemic situation will finally end. If the situation continues even after the summer terms are set to begin at German universities, it is likely that these universities will be required to conduct their classes online.

Read more on how German universities are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany’s overall risk of the population is rated as high, currently. Keep in mind that the virus affects different people differently, and it is more serious to the elderly or those with underlying health issues. Social distancing is necessary to protect those who are more vulnerable and everyone else around us, including ourselves. And since a vaccine for the virus is not, yet, available, everyone, including universities must comply with government advice.

Right now, it is essential that German universities focus on developing their online teaching platforms and finding ways they can deliver quality teaching even if it is done virtually to avoid any impact that this situation might have. The transition will be more difficult for universities who are usually more traditional, or who have not practised online teaching methods before. Likewise, universities that rely more on hands-on experience rather than theoretical, will find online teaching challenging, or even impossible. Not being impacted, in this case, would only come through the ability to adapt to online teaching.

Unfortunately, the virus is spreading during a time where popular study destinations are gathering thousands of international students. Many are stuck away from their homes, due to travel restrictions. Others have gone back to their home countries and might not be able to return to Germany if the situation does not get better. Already, the DAAD has announced the cancellation of Individual Scholarships for studying in Germany for the year 2020. University summer courses for 2020 have also been cancelled. Some level of impact is already showing.

The coronavirus pandemic is already affecting the world and this also includes economic impacts if the situation holds. Higher education in Germany might even see a fall in international student applications, or student exchanges. This way, an impact in finances will also be evident. Adapting to conducting online classes, video lectures, and seminars should be one of the priorities of higher education. Creating flexible methods of teaching and admission would be beneficial for both student and universities.

It is important to mention that there has been no announcement made yet regarding applications for the winter semester starting 1 October 2020. These are typically mid-July. High-school leaving exams are also being postponed due to the virus. RISE / WISE internship programmes for spring/summer 2020 have also been cancelled as a result of the virus.

Most international students at universities in Germany come from China. The impact that the virus is having in their home country has affected these students, but not only, emotionally. All students, just like the rest of the citizens, are advised to respect the rules of the government as well as take care of their mental health during these times. Social distancing is crucial in order to prevent the virus from spreading.

Find the social distancing guidelines for students in Germany here.

Higher education institutions should make sure to keep their students well informed during these times. Many universities have set up coronavirus support services for their students, updated their FAQs sections, and are constantly keeping the students posted on how the virus will be affecting their studies or exam terms. Giving everyone information on the safety measures necessary against COVID-19 helps in the fight against the virus. (Read more on what German universities can do for international students at the time of COVID-19).

Although international student numbers might be expected to fall in this academic year, Germany’s higher education system is widely regarded for its excellence. Higher education institutions, as well as students, should be aware that the whole world is going through a similar situation. Trying to adapt, developing flexible methods of teaching, taking care of their physical and mental health, are some of the main priorities for both students and academic staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Find more coronavirus information for international students in Germany here.

Coronavirus symptoms include high temperature, cough, and shortness of breath. Those who show symptoms are advised to call their doctor before visiting a hospital or pharmacy. In order to find your local health authority by postcode, you can use this search tool on the Robert Koch Institute website.

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