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DAAD lays bare Covid-19 impact on mobility

International students at two-thirds of 268 German universities were unable to begin or continue their planned summer studies in the country as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, and some 80,000 students left the country following the outbreak, a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) survey has confirmed.

Only 2% of universities reported that student dorms have been closed during the summer semester. Photo: Pexels/ Andrew Neel

Students at 65% of universities cancelled their study abroad plans for summer

Carried out between April and mid-May 2020, around 40% of institutions surveyed said international students had left Germany following the introduction of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

“German universities have reacted in a very calm and committed manner”

While almost half (47%) of universities switched exclusively to virtual teaching in the summer semester, 45% opted for a blended approach of in-person and virtual teaching.

Planning for the winter semester still has “a great deal of uncertainty”, the survey reported.

When the survey was carried out, more than 80% of universities had yet to make a decision on the mode of teaching for the semester.

More than half of the universities (57%) anticipated a decline in international student interest for the upcoming winter semester, while 36% expect a rather moderate decline, and 21% expect a very strong decline.

The survey also featured the extent to which outbound student exchanges were affected by the pandemic.

It suggested institutions helped approximately 8,500 students return home, with 92% saying they had assisted their students to return abroad, mainly from Erasmus countries and the US.

Almost a third (30%) said they discontinued certain summer semester exchange programs for 2020, while 22% said they had discontinued all of them. However, nearly half of institutions (45%) said they had not discontinued any.

Additionally, students at 65% of universities cancelled their study abroad plans for summer.

For the winter semester, 49% said that expect a decrease in the mobility of their home students. While 36% expect little or no change, 31% and 18% expect a rather moderate or a very strong decrease, respectively.

“As expected, worldwide travel restrictions have had a strong impact on exchange, but digitalisation measures have been successfully implemented by almost all universities,” the survey stated.

“The results confirm that the universities are dealing flexibly with the crisis, but also confirm the negative forecasts for student exchange.”

The latest survey is effectively stocktaking how German universities have dealt with the pandemic, according to Jan Kercher, DAAD head of studies.

While the survey shows “severe impairments for student mobility in Germany”, there are encouraging and optimistic findings he explained.

In addition, the survey shows that “German universities have reacted in a very calm and committed manner” to the pandemic.

“The switch to virtual and blended learning, the adoption of virtual welcome events and increased online marketing and modified application and selection processes for international students have been important,” Kercher indicated.

“The results confirm the negative forecasts for student exchange”

“Another important finding was that only 2% of the universities reported that student dorms have been closed during the summer semester. The data is very different compared to the US where more than 50% of universities said their dorms were closed.

For international students, Kercher explained, such closures can lead to massive problems and in extreme cases even to homelessness, as they often have no possibility to stay with friends or relatives temporarily.

“It is therefore very gratifying that these dorm closures could largely be prevented in Germany,” Kercher added.

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