IRUS virtual meeting, 23 April 2020
Servizio relazioni internazionali e mobilità
On 23 April, for the first time in its history, the staff members of the International Relations Offices of the Swiss Universities (IRUS) virtually met for the usual bi-annual meeting. The meeting was organized by the University of Geneva that in normal circumstances would have had to host the colleagues.
The hot topic of discussion was obviously the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences for the exchange programmes.
At the outbreak of the health crisis, some 2,000 Swiss students were taking advantage of mobility periods around Europe and approximately 1,600 European students were studying in Switzerland.
The common questions were: what is the current picture in light of this health crisis? How can students pursue their studies when all the institutions have been forced to close their doors? How would be the state of play for the autumn semester 2020?
To share their experiences the 12 Swiss universities decided to conduct a survey and almost all decided to extend the application deadline for the exchange in the Swiss mobility programme, in order to facilitate the relocation of students who had the exchange cancelled.
But there was also room for good news. The European Commission announced at the end of May that active inter-institutional agreements can be extended for a further year. This means that the extended agreements can also cover mobility under the 2021 call. The same rule can be applied to the inter-institutional SEMP partnership agreements.
A final refection concerned the experience with the virtual meeting. The new format poses numerous technical and organizational challenges, but the possibility to do one session out of two online will be considered: it is positive for the environment and it allows to save time and reduce expenses related to travel.