(Student) Home alone.
Interactive session with the Minister of Higher Education and Science on coronavirus.
Yesterday (March 23), on initiative of Parlament Studentów RP (Poland students’ parliament) there was held an interactive session with the Minister of Higher Education and Science, Mr. Jaroslaw Gowin. The session was dedicated to sharing student’s questions related to continuing their studies in the situation of prolonged quarantine due to coronavirus pandemic. Below we present edited excerpts:
Question: When we can expect returning to the campuses? Do you think suspending classes till April 10 will be enough?
Answer: It is little too early to judge right now. Currently we are focusing to fight the epidemic with the maximum force for next 3 weeks. After this we expect gradual returning to normal activities. According to the tentative plan we could end the quarantine at the universities on April 10.
Q: Is it possible that academic year will be extended? If right now the answer is no, what would be conditions for this to change?
A: As of now this is not planned. Please keep in mind that the academic year ends on September 30. Additionally, it is possible that we are going to have new special bill, perhaps even this week, which would give some flexibility to me as a minister and rectors of the universities in this context.
Q: How do you see technical side of returning to the campuses? In China where situation got significantly better students still are staying home.
A: Special team within the ministry headed by my deputy is investigating this issue. We are analysing possibilities of gradual return to the previous situation and conducting classes and even organizing exams up until September 30.
Q: Can we expect changes in the schedule of the recruitment?
A: This depends on when we are going to return to normal mode. If this will be around April 10, than it won’t be necessary.
Q: Is it possible to introduce mandatory online lectures?
A: Of course one cannot have online all types of classes, especially those in laboratories. As of now it was decided that universities will be conducting online lectures wherever possible. As regards to seminars which require physical presence of the students and professors in one place, e. g., at laboratory, they will have to be organised after returning to the normal mode.
Q: What about students that were supposed to have their final exams but due to the epidemic exams were suspended? Do they still have student status? It is relevant especially in the context of having health insurance.
A: Yes definitely, students will keep they health insurance in such cases.
Q: Universities does not provide the students with proper tools for online activities. Online classes are organized largely thanks to the goodwill and engagement of some lecturers. Are there any plans to improve technical capabilities at the universities?
A: The ministry will be supporting universities in this respect, in both technical aspects, as regards to the substance and even financially. On the webpage of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education we have already published list of tools that may be used by the universities to successfully conduct online classes.
Q: What will happen with Erasmus+ summer internships? Are they going to be organized if the epidemic will continue?
A: Neither Polish nor European regulations have not anticipated this situation. It is possible that in some cases they will be postponed for the next summer. This however needs to be coordinated between the Polish government and European commission.
Comment – Parliament Studentów have prepared help desk for international students (in English) and is providing international students with support in 10 other languages at https://psrp.org.pl/international-students/
Q: Each year medical students have summer internships at hospitals. How it will look like this year?
A: This is a difficult question and I can answer only partially, as the medical universities are supervised by the Ministry of Health. I know that minster of health is preparing the ordinance according to which medical students who are supporting fight against coronavirus as a volunteers could expect that this will be recognized as equivalent to internship. Of course this is applicable only in the case of limited number of students. As regards to the remaining one, we are going to work on the solution together with the Ministry of Health.
Q: Do you see online activates enough for the students of the final year of medical studies, as in their case normally most classes are run at the hospitals?
A: No, definitely this will not be enough and completing the missed part will be necessary after returning to normal mode.
Q: In case of extension of the academic year is it possible that scholarships would be paid for a longer period as well?
A: I will be searching for new solutions if the academic year will be extended indeed. As of now the scholarships might be paid till July.
Q: Can we expect that universities that do not run classes will postpone tuition fee payments?
A: The Ministry cannot guarantee this, as this is mostly regulated by the contracts between university and a student, however we will be encouraging such universities to postpone those payments.
Q: How do you see defending master thesis in cases of engineering student who is supposed to present a robot that he or she has built during exam or musical student that do not have piano at home?
A: This is difficult of course but answer is based on common sense – this will be possible only after returning to campuses.
Q: Can we expect a top-down decision as regards to postponing dates of defending diploma thesis due to lack of accesses to libraries?
A: This will be decided independently on each university. I am sure that their authorities are fully aware of the difficult situation in which students are right now.
Note: full interview in Polish can be found on the fb profile of Minister of Higher Education and Science