Read a letter from Hertie School President Henrik Enderlein addressing the fall semester and our plans for teaching in the new academic year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our daily lives and perspectives, putting into question many things that we have long taken for granted. This includes our view of higher education and research, which seem unthinkable without direct exchanges or interactions. While ideas can travel freely, the best environment for learning, debates or joint research has remained the direct interaction between people.
As the current academic year draws to a close, I know many of you are thinking about how the start of the next academic year will affect you: Shall I continue with my studies? Is this the right moment to start my graduate programme at the Hertie School? Will academic exchanges or dual degrees take place? Will it be possible to travel this autumn? How can I navigate and meet changing immigration requirements? These are all important questions. The restrictions from the coronavirus outbreak have a direct impact on all these areas. And of course, you are looking for answers.
I write this letter at a moment at which, at least in Germany, the first phase of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 challenge seems to be behind us. After the sudden, exponential, and thus highly dangerous rise of infections from mid-March, we are now seeing a rapid decline and signs of stability. While this situation is still fragile – and the utmost caution continues to be warranted – public authorities in Germany are now beginning to loosen local lockdown regulations.
In this context, the Hertie School has taken the decision to prepare for a presence-based start to the next Academic Year 2020-2021. We are putting in place measures that, assuming the health situation does not deteriorate again, will allow us to move back into a presence-based semester while taking into account all the requirements and recommendations of the public health authorities, such as physical distancing and smaller class sizes.
While a presence-based semester remains our ideal, we are also working on other scenarios, including hybrid solutions, blended online and presence-based learning, or even a fully online-based start to the next academic year. Should travel restrictions affect some of you, we stand ready to provide focused online instruction wherever possible and to enroll you entirely online before welcoming you here in Berlin at a later stage.
Our objective is to ensure that we can continue to offer an engaging and interactive learning experience to all Hertie School students, while fully guaranteeing the health and safety of our community. I am confident that we will be successful in meeting this challenge, regardless of what restrictions may remain in place or if new restrictions come into effect.
Time and again, the Hertie School community has demonstrated its resilience and solidarity in the face of this pandemic. It is this sense of togetherness that makes the Hertie School unique and has made it possible for us to respond to the immediate challenges of this crisis. As the virus spread throughout Europe, we were able to transition more than one hundred courses to our web-based learning platform in less than a week. Students moved their club events and group projects online. Events were switched to digital formats. From one day to the next, almost our entire staff transitioned into remote work. Against the backdrop of this experience, I am confident that we can respond to whatever challenges that lie ahead, and that we will support our new and returning students throughout the upcoming academic year using the same ingenuity and thoughtfulness to ensure the very best student experience.
At the Hertie School, in our classes on governance and public policy, we often formulate the goal “to train for certainty, but educate for uncertainty”. We are living this goal. Rest assured that we will be doing our best in the coming weeks to bring you back to campus, or to welcome you for the first time this fall. And while our intention is to welcome you in person, our virtual welcome will be just as warm.
All of us are looking forward to the day when we can greet you in the halls and classrooms of Friedrichstraße 180 in the heart of Berlin.
Until that time, please stay in touch with us, and stay healthy.
With warm regards,