Coronavirus: will European students return to universities?


The experience of entrance exams to universities this year was unprecedented in almost all European countries: the required distance between applicants, masks and disinfection. For those who have entered, the start of the school year seems uncertain: some promise only online classes, others promise blended learning.

A number of American universities, in particular, Harvard, announced that all classes from September will be held online. At the same time, the Donald Trump administration warned that foreign students who will not attend full-time classes will have to leave the country. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a federal lawsuit last Wednesday against this “absurd” decision.

UK and Russia: expensive online tuition?

In the UK, Cambridge has already announced that classes in the upcoming school year will be held remotely year-round. Other universities, such as Manchester, said they would decide in the fall.

In this regard, controversy was caused by the decision of most higher education institutions not to revise tuition fees, despite the lack of full-time studies. Given that this amount in the United Kingdom can reach £ 9,250 a year (about 10 thousand euros), it is possible that associations representing students’ interests will go to court.

The problem of recalculating tuition fees in connection with exclusively distance learning is also relevant in Russia. Many university students and their parents believe that distance learning cannot be considered as a full-fledged replacement for full-time educational process.

Dozens of such petitions in recent weeks are created and actively subscribed to in social networks. Universities, in turn, emphasize that the cost of labor of teachers has increased, since it takes more time to prepare classes, regularly answering students’ questions in chat rooms and other communication channels.

The costs of a number of educational institutions have also increased, because electricity and Internet bills have increased, which allows you to remotely work with a large number of students.

Spain and France: for a blended learning model

Entrance exams at universities in Spain ended last Friday. More than 200 thousand students pass these mandatory tests every year to begin adulthood. This year, everything was not the same as before: one and a half meters between the desks, the obligatory wearing of masks at exams and hand disinfection.

The country’s Ministry of Education has proposed alternating online teaching with full-time study in cases where a higher education institution can guarantee a distance of half a meter between students.

At the University of Valladolid, for example, management decided to re-equip classrooms and classrooms in order to accommodate as many students as possible, as well as to divide the flow into smaller groups. “Otherwise, online classes remain,” one member of the teaching council confirmed to Euronews. A similar decision was also made by six of the more than twenty state universities in Madrid.

In France, universities have relied on a mixed model. According to the instructions of the Ministry of Higher Education of the Republic, half of the courses should be conducted online. “Extremely distance learning is useless; it cannot be called an optimal solution,” said Jean Chambaz, president of the oldest Sorbonne University in Paris, in an interview with Parisienne.

“It should be in addition to full-time study. The most effective way to acquire knowledge is to study in a group. You cannot do without contact and exchange of views of the teacher with students and between students. The teaching should be hybrid!”

Italy for full-time study

In Italy, the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research supports the return of students to the classroom. “From September, we will begin full-time classes again, and we will also allow them to intersperse with distance learning due to the problem of overcrowded classes that has not yet been solved, in accordance with the new sanitary standards,” said department head Gaetano Manfredi on Sky tg24.

He promised to be flexible with regard to international students who require distance learning. “We should not leave anyone overboard,” he stressed. At the same time, Manfredi rejected the idea of ​​installing plastic panels in classrooms to separate students. In his opinion, one should rather increase the number of classes and change the schedule of courses, splitting the stream.

The first instructions of the Ministry of Education were followed by the University of Bologna, which announced that in the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, no matter how the epidemiological situation develops, it will combine full-time and part-time education models.

Germany expects an influx of students

And, as usually happens, a situation that is not beneficial for some turns into luck for others. In Germany, where university studies are free, many do not rule out an increase in the influx of European students.

According to Deutsche Welle, in the context of the further development of the pandemic, those who would normally prefer the United States or Britain would pay attention to German higher education institutions.


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