Summer semester 2020 to remain online

Email to the students and teaching staff of all faculties and to all employees

Dear students, 
dear teaching staff, 
dear University employees,

Our summer semester 2020 at the University of Tübingen has now been running - mostly online - for four weeks now. The switch from on-campus to online teaching was a considerable additional burden for many of you, and represents a big change for us all. I am well aware that many things are not running perfectly in this summer semester. Yet the unprecedented move to online formats has worked much better than even the optimists among us were predicting just two months ago. It was made possible only by the extraordinary efforts of all teaching staff and the people who work to support research and teaching. I thank every one of you!

What are the things we have to watch for over the course of the semester?

Because there are no signs that the pandemic will be over in a few weeks and we will be able to return to on-campus teaching, the University Senate passed a resolution on 14 May to ensure planning certainty: On-campus teaching will be further suspended until the end of the summer semester on 30 September. That means that all classes and assessment will have to be carried out online, insofar as that is in any way possible. Further information on possible online assessment formats may be found here: https://www.elp.uni-tuebingen.de/pruefungen

For classes and assessment which demand physical presence on campus, the University has drafted a number of exceptions and protective measures. In places where regulations are not yet in place, they are being worked on. For these reasons, we appeal urgently to all teaching staff: please be aware that online teaching does not mean physical attendance by other means. At the very least, you can make and use pre-recordings. This is a help even for members of teaching staff who may be under particular pressure due to family care commitments.

We make this appeal because an online summer semester 2020 also presents students with major challenges. This is particularly true for students with children or who have to care for other family members parallel to studying. Additionally, the technical infrastructure which makes online studying possible is not available to everyone. In order to escape at least the avoidable difficulties, I would like to remind you that you can use asynchronous formats. In cases where attendance is required, anyone who cannot attend as planned should not be placed at a disadvantage; please consult your Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs in such cases.

Because we cannot exclude the possibility that students in this situation cannot be placed at a serious disadvantage, the Senate has decided to considerably expand the option of taking leave of absence for the duration of summer semester 2020.

The Senate decision means that all students now have the option of taking leave of absence due to “other reasons.” Students wishing to do so must apply to Student Administration for leave of absence by 31 May. Students who take leave of absence are not obliged to take part in online classes or assessment, but may do so. They may also use the services of the University Library and the computer centers. I believe that this solution gives students the greatest possible flexibility while at the same time compensating for possible disadvantages for students who for a wide variety of reasons have difficulties studying efficiently under the conditions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Further information for students and teaching staff, and on data protection in online classes, as well as on many other matters surrounding current studies, is available on our Coronavirus information website. Please check these pages regularly to know the latest state of affairs: https://uni-tuebingen.de/en/174693

Even though autumn seems far off, many teachers and students are already planning for the coming winter semester. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education has decided to extend the deadline for applications for restricted-admission (numerus clausus) programs to 20 August 2020. As a result, the President’s Office of the University has decided to move the start of winter semester back to 2 November. Winter semester will now end on 27 February 2021.

Even though the future course of the pandemic is currently unpredictable, it is advisable to plan in at least some cases for teaching in online formats in the coming winter semester. It is highly likely that even by the autumn, only online formats will be possible - particularly in the case of lectures usually attended by several hundred students. We do not want to risk any dramatic outbreak of infections on campus.

There is no doubt that the switch to online classes, the comprehensive protective measures on campus, and the move by many employees to work at home have led to difficulties and will continue to lead to changed, sometimes complicated procedures in studies, research and support services. But I am certain that by introducing all these measures we thus far managed to prevent, not only mass infections, but also deaths at the University of Tübingen.

Please do your bit to ensure that it remains so!

Professor Dr. Bernd Engler

Current information for employees available on the University website: