European universities
A general view of the campus at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design on April 17, 2020 in Halle, eastern Germany. Source: Ronny Hartmann / AFP

As countries gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions, what measures can international students expect from European universities to protect their students?

The borders in many EU nations are still closed to foreigners at the time of writing, but reports suggest they may reopen in mid-June. 

Until the global health crisis settles, universities will be operating under a new normal.

This means university students can expect all campus activities or services to be suspended to curb the spread of the virus.

While the situation continues to be extremely fluid from between countries, here are some of the ways European universities might continue running for the foreseeable future to protect its students amidst the pandemic:

Online learning

Contact teaching will likely continue to be suspended until further notice, which means online learning will continue.

For instance, Study in Finland — operated by the Finnish National Agency for Education — notes that “teaching and guidance will be organised as widely as possible in alternative ways, including distance learning, various digital learning environments and, where necessary, independent learning”, so check your respective institution for details.

Continued closure of facilities

Many European universities have not reopened their campuses, and the closure of facilities — including libraries and sport and exercise facilities — are expected to continue.

As the situation will invariably vary from region to region, be sure to check information from the authorities for the latest updates.

Most universities in the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have closed their student facilities and libraries, providing operating hours for advising and departmental administrative offices only through email.

Meanwhile, the University of Helsinki notes that while their libraries are closed, books can still be borrowed under special arrangements. Contact your respective universities for updates.

Essential services will continue to operate

European universities

A student wearing a face mask is pictured on the deserted campus of Bordeaux University on April 1, 2020. Source: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

Directive from governments note that non-essential services are required to be closed until further notice, but university students can expect essential services to continue to operate.

This may include services such as banking, health, pharmacy and security. 

For example, the University of Edinburgh notes on its website that only essential services will operate on campus, which includes campus-based research related to COVID-19, and services which support NHS clinical activities, student accommodation, data centres, animal welfare, pharmacy and the University Health Centre.  


Expect online exams to continue.

Denmark was one of the first European countries to announce a lockdown, but universities are still erring on the side of caution despite its partial reopening. Aarhus University, for instance, notes on its website that students can expect selected oral exams to take place on campus.

Students who will be taking an online exam should ensure they find out what technical equipment (e.g. a webcam) and software they need, and to test them prior to taking the exam.

Be sure you know whom to contact or what to do if you experience technical problems during an exam in advance.

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