The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) points out the high priority of classroom teaching with regard to international exchange students given any potential energy shortages during the winter semester. Local events and personal interchange at our higher education institutions are seen as decisive for successful integration and studies in Germany.
‘After two years of the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot allow a general lockdown ‘due to cold’ to occur at the higher education institutions in the coming winter semester. Classroom teaching and the opportunity for personal interchange with fellow students, lecturers and researchers are exceptionally important, especially for international exchange students. We know from large volumes of feedback that integration and language acquisition succeed much better given direct interaction’, said DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee.
A general exclusion from lecture theatres, seminars and libraries this winter would have a particularly severe impact on the international exchange students. The success of their studies and their integration greatly benefit from a direct exchange of ideas at the host institution. In light of the shortage of specialists, it would also be in the best interests of the Federal Republic of Germany to provide good study conditions for these international exchange students, even in difficult times.
‘Our higher education and research institutions do of course have to save energy and exploit all reasonable possibilities to this end, given the massive increases in energy prices’, Mukherjee elaborated. But this should not result in a blanket cancellation of classroom teaching. ‘Despite the advances in digitisation, the recent years in which the coronavirus has proliferated have also revealed to us the major challenges faced by international exchange students when personal contact along with interpersonal and academic exchange have to be transferred to the digital domain at short notice’, continued Mukherjee. ‘Digital formats can meaningfully extend or augment classroom teaching, although in principle, study and instruction require personal attendance, even in the coming semester.’
It is against this background that the DAAD welcomes the fact that the Bundesnetzagentur (network access regulator) views the HEIs as ‘protected customers’ even in the event of gas shortages. Despite the extremely high energy prices, the DAAD expects politicians, particularly at Länder level, to ensure that higher education institutions have the finance to be able to provide heated classrooms for all students and teachers to create personal opportunities for engaging in learning and academic exchange.