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With a phased plan through the hybrid semester: Berlin colleges and universities begin the 2020/2021 winter semester

Press release of the State Conference of the Rectors and Presidents of the Higher Education Institutions in Berlin (LKRP) and the Senate Chancellery for Science and Research

The higher education institutions of Berlin are starting the coming 2020/21 winter semester with the aim of enabling their roughly 190,000 students to pursue their studies on site as often as possible and, as far as possible, to take all of their exams. However, digital courses will continue to play an important role in ensuring teaching despite the pandemic-induced restrictions that can be expected to continue.

If at all possible, colleges and universities do not want to go into complete lockdown again

Preparations have largely been completed in order to be able to offer as much on-campus teaching as possible. Hygiene plans and guidelines are in place at all colleges and universities, as are certified rooms for teaching, workstations in the libraries, and clear frameworks for conducting examinations.

If a COVID-19 infection occurs, the goal of the Berlin higher education institu-tions is to act quickly locally, to document it completely, and to thus make their contribution to swiftly and permanently stopping possible chains of infection. In doing so, they want to prevent the colleges and universities from having to go into complete lockdown again, either individually or as a whole. By taking this approach, the Berlin colleges and universities are making it possible to conduct a hybrid semester.

Berlin phased plan contains concrete measures and recommendations

The general framework for action on the part of the colleges and universities is provided by the “Berlin phased plan for college and university operations under pandemic conditions”.

The Senate Chancellery for Science and Research, in coordination with the Berlin State Conference of Rectors and Presidents (LKRP), has developed this Berlin phased plan for college and university operations under pandemic conditions in order for the university location of Berlin to be able to react quickly and appropriately to a changing occurrence of infection in the city. The aim is to provide the colleges and universities with the greatest possible planning certainty for carrying out teaching and research while at the same time ensuring protection against infection.

The phased plan brings together various already applicable regulations and, in three phases, defines concrete measures that may be necessary depending on the pandemic situation. The three phases are based on the corona traffic light system of the State of Berlin. Each particular phase of the plan contains stand-ards and recommendations as to the extent to which in-person teaching can take place, whether restrictions on access to the campus are necessary, when and where it is mandatory to wear a mask, and how examinations can be carried out.

Regulations for the operation of libraries, cafeterias and university sports activities are also included in the phased plan. At the same time, the joint task force of the higher education institutions and the Senate Chancellery, which has been meeting regularly since March 2020, will continue to closely support and coordinate all necessary decisions.

As much classroom teaching as possible, as much digital teaching as necessary

The message from Berlin’s colleges and universities for the 2020/2021 winter semester is: as much classroom teaching as possible, as much digital teaching as necessary – because surveys and experiences from the digital summer semester of 2020 have shown that the university or college as a place of learning is extremely important for personal exchange and social interaction in everyday academic life. With this in mind, the universities and colleges are focusing particularly on fresher students and international students by offering them as many face-to-face opportunities as possible.

The lecture period for the 2020/2021 winter semester starts on 1st October for all art colleges and for advanced semester students at universities of applied sciences. On 2nd November 2020, students of all semesters at universities and fresher students at universities of applied sciences will begin.

Steffen Krach, State Secretary for Science and Research:

“The coronavirus pandemic presented our university city with constant new challenges in the summer semester, requiring quickly coordinated solutions. With the Berlin phased plan, we have now set up some guiding principles so that we can suc-cessfully get through the winter semester together. We are thereby supporting our colleges and universities, who face a difficult balancing act this hybrid semester. After the digital semester just gone, there will again be in-person events for students, and the campus will once again become more of a place of encounter. At the same time, universities and colleges have to live up to their responsibility to protect the health of their members, and, not least, to the requirement to offer good digital teaching.”

Prof. Dr-Ing. Dr Sabine Kunst, President of the Humboldt University and, as of 1st October, the new chairwoman of the LKRP:

“The Berlin colleges and universities are paying special attention to all fresher and international students. They should be able to come into the buildings and attend in-person events as much as possible. It has been shown for all students that real contact with their peers and with their teachers is particularly important. In view of the high numbers of applicants in Berlin, which have remained unchanged, we will continue to support the teaching staff, so as, for example, to make asynchronous teaching easier. This takes more effort to organise, but is urgently needed by many students.”

Prof. Dr-Ing. Werner Ullmann, President of the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin and spokesman for the Berlin universities of applied sciences on the LKRP board:

“The students in advanced semesters and the fresher master’s students at the Berlin universities of applied sciences will start their winter semester as early as on 1st October. The high proportion of practical work involved in the study courses (for example, in laboratories and within projects) will once again be more strongly integrated into everyday student life by means of in-person events – though, due to hygiene regulations, the day-to-day will in many ways remain digital.”

Leonie Baumann, Rector of the Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin and spokeswoman for the art and music colleges on the LKRP board:

“The four art colleges have set themselves the goal this coming winter semester of offering their stu-dents as many analogue courses and opportunities to work in the studios as will be possible under pandemic conditions. Digital teaching will also shape the winter semester to varying degrees. All artistic courses face major challenges, as the risk assessments, for example, provide for different distancing regulations, and the limited space in all buildings also requires precise planning as to how the rooms are used with respect to group sizes. Specialist disciplines in ensemble work in music and drama are still confronted with major problems. In spite of all this: the best possible education for our students is of absolutely the utmost importance this hybrid winter semester – even under COVID-19-induced restrictions.”

Further information

Berlin phased plan for college and university operations under pandemic conditions

State Conference of the Rectors and Presidents of the Higher Education Institutions in Berlin

Press contact

Hans-Christoph Keller
Press spokesman for the HU Berlin

Phone: 030 2093-12710

Matthias Kuder
Press spokesman for science and research, Senate Chancellery

Phone: 030 9026-5010