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Summer Semester Starts April 20 as an "Online Semester” Throughout NRW – RWTH Has Been Offering Courses Online Since April 6


There will not be a “zero semester” at universities in North Rhine-Westphalia. NRW Minister for Culture and Science Isabell Pfeiffer-Poensgen wants to give students and universities security in their future planning. RWTH has been offering courses online since April 6, 2020. The NRW Ministry of Culture and Science made the following announcement on April 7, 2020.


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Due to the increasing spread of the coronavirus in North Rhine-Westphalia, the start of the summer semester at universities in the state was already postponed to April 20 back in mid-March. It is still unclear whether the contact-reducing measures currently in effect can expire on April 20 or whether and in what form they may have to be continued. Therefore, the Ministry of Culture and Science, together with the NRW State Rectors' conference, the universities of applied sciences, and the art and music colleges, has agreed to start the current summer semester from April 20. This will initially begin as an "online semester". The universities have promised to make a wide range of courses available online as part of the solution. This ensures that the summer semester can take place and avoids a so-called “zero semester”, which would put students at a disadvantage. In the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education at the end of last week, all the states in Germany agreed on the common goal of avoiding a situation where the summer semester would not be credited.

"The health of students and instructors is still our top priority. Since it is currently not certain when universities will be able to resume regular attendance classes, flexible and pragmatic solutions are now required. Starting the semester with online classes is therefore a good alternative. In this way, we are giving the more than 780,000 students in North Rhine-Westphalia and our universities security for planning the coming months," explains Minister of Culture and Science Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen.

The Chairman of the NRW University Rectors, Professor Lambert T. Koch, emphasizes: "Depending on the subject, this purely digital path certainly poses a huge challenge for instructors and students – especially with such little preparation time. Nevertheless, I sense that the vast majority of our instructors are prepared to stick together and respond to this crisis. There is undoubtedly a strong will to enable our many motivated students to have a successful semester despite all the obstacles at present."

"The universities of applied sciences resumed teaching in digital form at an early stage, and many courses have now been converted to online formats, with more set to follow. The instructors are incredibly dedicated, as are the students. Our common goal is to ensure that students can continue their studies in the summer semester as far as possible. It is also important to ensure that the high proportion of practical work typical of universities of applied sciences, finds its way into digital teaching. We are also working hard to make online examinations and proof of performance possible," says Professor Marcus Baumann, Chairman of the Rectors’ Conference of the Universities of Applied Sciences in North-Rhine Westphalia.

Professor Thomas Grosse, Chairman of the Rectors' Conference of the Art and Music Colleges, added: "At the art and music colleges, the focus is on local artistic practice. Continuing this in digital form is a great challenge, since, beyond teaching knowledge, it is primarily aesthetic processes that determine the studies at these institutions, thus digital transmissions quickly reach their limits here. However, the instructors and students are highly motivated to seek new ways of artistic teaching and learning and thus to gain new perspectives, in the hope that the institutions will soon open their doors again and continue to be places of interaction and a part of cultural life."

The press release from the NRW Ministry of Culture and Science is available in German here.