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Germany: Corona and the return of the “eternal student”

Germans have, for most of the time, perceived their students as slow. They appeared in no hurry to graduate. Thus, the term “eternal student” was coined. As an effect of the new culture of slowness which the Corona virus has brought with it, the proverbial “eternal student” might make a re-entry.

German higher education institutions, like those in many parts of the world, are closed. Classical “face-to-face” teaching is suspended. Many institutions are switching to online teaching, but this is not possible anywhere and institutions who are trying the virtual mode for the first time are meeting challenges.

All of this can lead to potential problems on the side of the students. In the worst case, they lose a whole semester. Or rather, they could lose a semester’s worth of funding through the German state loan and grant scheme (BAföG). The country’s federal education ministry has now announced that it will continue ta pay out the grants and loans of ‘locked out’ students and also be flexible concerning the maximum number of semesters or years of BAföG funding. DAAD and the German Rectors’ Conference, HRK, have already welcomed this measure. In a press release of 24 March 2020, HRK also asked for flexibility with regard to the Regelstudienzeit (standard duration of degree courses), which sets the maximum of semesters above which students lose some rights, such as to tuition-free education.
In the meantime, DAAD has announced flexibility with regard to its own scholarship holders abroad. Cancellations (early returns home) and postponements of a study abroad period, suspensions or continuation by means of online learning will all be possible with no or minimal disadvantage to the scholarship holder. DAAD, in a press release of 26 March 2020, advocated special measures to support, morally and financially, the 300,000 inward-mobile foreign students (Bildungsinländer) in these difficult times. The organisation is already in talks with its funders over the creation of a "bridging fund".

With all this goodwill, the likelihood of the return of the "eternal student" is low.

DAAD (in German only)

HRK (in German only)