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Faced with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic the countries involved in the Central European Exchange Program for University Studies tried to give an adequate response to the drastically decreasing number of implemented mobilities.
First measures were already taken at the beginning of the pandemic by adopting grant regulations to allow already started exchange stays to be continued online at the host country or as hybrid stays after returning home. Because of the narrow definition of grant stays in the CEEPUS Agreement, those adaptations were only possible to a limited extend. The disbursement of full virtual grants without the obligation to travel into the host country was not intended in the effective CEEPUS Work Programme.
Therefore, in December 2020, the Senior Officials – representing the responsible ministries – of the CEEPUS member states unanimously voted to enable the temporary implementation of CEEPUS grants for virtual exchange during the COVID-19 crisis in the academic year 2020/2021 in those member countries which are willing to introduce such measures according to their respective national regulations. Based on this decision more and more member countries started to offer virtual and/or hybrid exchange with a reduced amount of the usual scholarship rates, meanwhile provided a testing ground for this new initiative.
The Joint Committee of Ministers – the highest decision-making body of the programme – confirmed this new initiative in June 2021 and adopted the new Work Programme for 2021-2023 with the extension of virtual and/or hybrid exchange in those member countries which are willing to introduce such measures according to their respective national regulations.
As the current programme phase of CEEPUS will end in 2025, the CEEPUS Senior Officials and the Central CEEPUS Office along with the National CEEPUS Offices started to collect ideas and key aspects for a post-2025 CEEPUS strategic framework in the past year. The Ministers approved the strategic framework in June 2021, on the basis of which the new CEEPUS IV Agreement can be worked out. This will very likely introduce virtual and hybrid exchange as a concept for the future, complementing the traditional way of exchange, which will remain the priority.
Read more about the measures and experience regarding virtual exchange in the CEEPUS Programme in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia.