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First Coimbra Group briefing paper on Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

20 March 2020

This briefing paper is the result of a rapid consultation of Coimbra Group Working Group on Academic Exchange and Mobility. It will be followed by a more complete version, including also feedback from other Coimbra Group Working Groups, incl. Doctoral Studies, Education Innovation.


Urgent needs in the context of rapid repatriation of students and staff currently on mobility within and outside Europe:

– absolute priority to organize a coordinated European repatriation procedure for students and staff abroad, without commercial flights back to Europe
– ask Airlines Companies to limit the price of tickets for the last commercial flights (outrageous cases have been reported from European companies)
– set up a clear and supportive approach from Erasmus+ programme:
* more clarity on and simplification of the “force majeure” clause, as the case-by-case approach is too time demanding
* more clarity on how to consider and count the duration of mobility periods for students who returned home but are still attending online lessons at their host institution
* more flexibility with documentation when managing the mobility interruption with trust-based procedure for reimbursement claims
* set up a special fund for the students and staff blocked abroad with no further possibility to come back, for a potentially long period of time
* general postponement of end dates of KA2 projects (incl. for projects lasting 36 months for which it is impossible to ask for an extension)

Potential threats to EHEA:

– high percentage (up to 70%-80%) of cancelled/interrupted mobilities (students and staff) for second semester of 2019-2020, with strong impact on the future semesters
– important events of EHEA and global internationalisation community are already cancelled, with potential impact on good practices sharing
– potential threat to the next budget of Erasmus+ programme

Good practices already put in place by Coimbra Group members:

special university funds to support students and staff expenses, not covered by already existing reimbursement procedures (even “force majeure” clause under Erasmus+)
virtual psychology support to help students and staff self-isolated at home (Master students in psychology have been mobilised, under the supervision of experienced practitioners, since there aren’t enough practitioners)
– students are ready for online learning, but many teachers are either not ready nor trained (workshops are being set up to train them in urgency)