In middle of March 2020, the federal states in Germany, in consultation with the federal government and universities, imposed and recommended numerous requirements and regulations aimed at preventing the further spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in order to support the nationwide measures taken against the current coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Contact restrictions and hygiene requirements based on frequently adapted state regulations have been ordered for higher education – including substantial suspension of face-to-face teaching in favour of digital online formats in the 2020 summer semester, in the 2020/21 winter semester and in the 2021 summer semester.
For the winter semester 2021/22, the universities and the Länder are striving to make face-to-face study possible again, as far as the pandemic conditions allow. The constantly changing coronavirus situation remains the central factor in planning. Health protection must be guaranteed. The universities will use the experience of the past three semesters to assess local risks and responsibly plan and give access to face-to-face courses. All options must be used to strengthen and support students in their everyday studies.
As things stand, universities are gearing up for different scenarios, largely based on the 3G rule (Geimpft, genesen oder getestet – admission only for vaccinated, recovered or tested persons), as the Federal Government and the Länder also based their “Measures for Coping with the Corona Pandemic” on in August 2021. The following are some possible scenarios:
- Exercises and seminars can be conducted with a mask and in compliance with the distance and ventilation rules for face-to-face teaching; larger lectures should be conducted digitally.
- Hybrid formats with the option of participating digitally or in person are offered if this makes didactic sense, provided that it is technically possible and can be financed. Given the complex requirements here, hybrid formats cannot be the rule.
In the event of worsening of the pandemic, a nationwide return to purely digital formats will be necessary.
The universities have acted in a differentiated and efficient manner since the beginning of the pandemic. In this way, they have sustainably reduced the risk of infection in their area of responsibility and at the same time continuously enabled students to complete their studies and graduate successfully.