The University of Bayreuth, for example, decided to first give its students the opportunity to get together and get to know each other again. The university will receive 10,000 euros from the Free State for the new semester to organize trips to museums and weekend excursions. There is also software that students can use to team up. Bavarian universities can use the “restart – Willkommen zurück” program to submit applications for project-related funding – the Ministry of Science wants to make it easier for students to return to university. Because from October onwards, face-to-face events at universities should be the norm again.
Sniff the air in the lecture hall, get to know lunch in the canteen or the people sitting next to you in the seminar: this is all new territory for students who started their studies in or after the 2020 summer semester. Most of the people who start their fourth semester in the fall have never seen the inside of their university. Universities have been closed since the outbreak of the pandemic in spring 2020. Since then, teaching has taken place almost exclusively via video conferencing. The “restart – welcome back” initiative is primarily intended to help young people who have so far only been familiar with digital teaching and have not yet set foot on campus.
The Free State has provided almost half a million euros for this. Minister Bernd Sibler presented the university rehabilitation program to the Ministry of Science on Friday. “The pajama events for which you only had to turn around in bed and open the laptop are now over for good,” he promised. Seminars and lectures should be able to take place on site with full staff. Sibler called on students to return to their study locations. Many had moved out of their student stalls in the university towns at the beginning of the pandemic and have moved back to their parents. The return to the universities is sometimes not that easy, everyone has to find their way around first.
Familiarization programs, meeting events, tutor programs or campus rallies are primarily intended to facilitate networking among students and familiarization with everyday campus life in autumn. Speed dating is also offered, “of course only in an academic sense,” said Sibler. In order to fill learning gaps, advanced courses and special tutorials are to be offered. For this purpose, the tutors should be specially trained by professors so that the quality of the tutoring is guaranteed. They can decide for themselves how the universities actually want to design the “restart”. While Bayreuth relies on software and excursions, Eichstätt wants to create a festival atmosphere with band appearances. The university groups should also have the opportunity to introduce themselves to freshmen on stage.
Paul Thieme, spokesman for the Bavarian state student representation, thanked his fellow students at the presentation of “restart” on Friday for showing solidarity during the past Corona semester “despite all the difficulties.” You would have had to do without a lot. Studying doesn’t mean just listening to lectures. An academic career also includes the morning commute to university, coffee in the cafeteria, “smelling and feeling the university”, maybe getting to know your future partner – or just choosing which row to sit in before the lecture. Sibler promised that this everyday life would again become the rule and not the exception. “We are leaving the course of studies, which was only determined by black tiles on the screen and lonely learning units at home, behind us,” said the minister.
According to the minister, the universities in Bavaria are well prepared for the coming semester. The university families would have to “find their way back to normal first”. The 3-G rule is also part of the new normal at universities. Anyone who wants to attend face-to-face events must either be vaccinated, recovered or tested negative. Tests will remain free for students from October onwards: it should be enough to show your student ID. Surveys by universities have shown that the vaccination rate among students is significantly higher than in the general population. In Würzburg, for example, 89 percent will be vaccinated twice in the winter semester. Only a fraction of those who were not vaccinated stated that they did not want to be vaccinated or that they were still undecided. At the start of the semester, vaccination campaigns are to be carried out again at many universities.
How exactly the 3-G regulation will be controlled in the buildings has not yet been determined. The state government wants to discuss this with the universities by the start of the winter semester. Science Minister Sibler said on Friday that smaller locations would think about security in front of the building. This is more difficult in larger houses with many entrances. From university circles it is heard that it will ultimately amount to random checks.