Mister Dornberger, Anhalt University is one of the most international universities in Germany. Over 36 percent of our students come from another country. What effect does the current situation have on the internationality of the university?
The borders in many countries are closed. Train and bus services have been discontinued and most flights to Germany have been suspended. Many international students cannot get in or out of Germany. This current situation is having an impact on the number of international students enrolled in the summer semester, not only for us but for all colleges and universities in Germany. Together with the Student Service Center and the local authorities, my team and I are here to help support international students both locally and abroad. We are helping students find solutions to their problems and we are working on each case individually to the best of our ability. At the same time, the suspension of classroom teaching and the move to digital teaching is changing the usual international appearance of our campuses. In this regard, however, the university is making every effort to make its internationality tangible by digitizing its courses in virtual space.
What happens if a student’s visa, which is required for entering Germany, expires in the next few weeks or months or has already expired?
Students who have been or will be affected by this should contact the German Embassy or Consulate in their respective home countries before their visa expires. Provided they have done so, they are able to apply a re-entry visa to Germany even after their visas have expired. In addition, students should also contact the German immigration authorities (Ausländerbehörden) and ask them to prepare a “Fortbestandsfiktionsbescheinigung”, i.e. an extension of their application for issuing a residence permit, and “Vorabzustimmung”, a pre-approval for the application for a re-entry visa and also request staff at the Ausländerbehörden to send those two documents via e-mail to them and to the German Consulate or Embassy in their respective home countries. In addition, students should inform the Student Service Center via e-mail about their current location and their travel plans. We are aware that travel plans may be disrupted. Admission and enrollment will remain valid until a later date in order to ensure that our students’ visas can be granted.
Many students have planned a semester abroad or are already abroad within the framework of an Erasmus+ Funding. What do you advise them to do?
Due to the current situation students that do not want to start or end their stay abroad earlier than planned can of course do so. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), as a promoter of international student exchange programs, is very concerned about accommodating students. However, considering the entry and exit restrictions in many countries worldwide, the very dynamic developments in the affected countries and the uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic, at this time, we highly recommend that any plans to travel abroad in the current semester are postponed. Those seeking advice can easily contact us by phone or e-mail. We would be happy to advise them.
The Anhalt University of Applied Sciences also has over 200 partnerships with universities all over the world. These include excursions, workshops or summer schools: Until recently, there has been an active exchange among these universities at all three campuses. How is this cooperation structured now?
While we currently cannot have direct contact, our worldwide partnerships are based on many years of well-established and intensive cooperation. Even before the Corona pandemic, many meetings were conducted virtually, because of the different time zones and the long distances and this has never affected our successful cooperative relationships. However, various departments at the university are intensively exploring how traditional formats of exchange can be implemented digitally. As in so many areas of our lives that are currently restricted, the same can be said here: postponed doesn’t mean it is cancelled.
In addition to promoting international student exchange programs, the International Office also offers numerous funding opportunities for international students in the form of merit-based scholarships for an active exchange among German and international students. Your department also supports the placement of international students in regional companies with the project kickSTART:Karriere. What services are you currently offering?
Our Erasmus coordinator is in close contact with the grant-aided students who are still abroad and, if they would like to, they may complete their international exchange program as long as it stays within the framework of the originally approved funds. Since intercultural meetings among students cannot take place at present, we have decided to increase the number of merit scholarships for international students so more students can receive funding. The application deadlines have been extended until May 30, 2020. Anyone interested in applying can contact us at any time. In addition, the highly sought-after English-language qualification programs offered by the “kickSTART:Karriere” project can be accessed digitally using the university’s Moodle learning platform. Our goal for the coming months is to make all other projects available in digital format soon as possible.