What DAAD scholarship holders should consider during the Corona crisis

Mr. Geifes, many German students are currently on a semester abroad – would you recommend them to come back to Germany in view of the current corona virus pandemic?

First of all, I would like to ask students in Germany who are planning a semester abroad to take the Federal Foreign Office’s global travel warning seriously and not to leave the country. We have given all DAAD and Erasmus-funded students who are abroad the opportunity to return and, at the same time, we urge them to consider the subsequent dynamic development when making their decision. In principle, no one should suffer a financial disadvantage if they interrupt their semester due to the Corona crisis and return to the current situation.

How to be sure?

Months of scholarship that a student has already completed should not be refunded, even if the purpose of the scholarship or the minimum length of stay cannot be achieved due to the termination. This applies to both our DAAD scholarships and Erasmus. The students receive the scholarships from the DAAD on a monthly basis. In the Erasmus funding program, depending on the university, students receive a large portion of their total scholarship at the start. In the current situation, we see that the European Commission is very flexible in order to avoid financial disadvantages. We are in contact with the home universities for this purpose.

Social distancing is the need of the hour. Due to the current situation, many universities are moving their teaching to the Internet. Does this affect scholarships and recognition of courses abroad?

In mid-March, the European Commission published new regulations for Erasmus: You can continue to receive your scholarship if you take advantage of the courses offered by the host university online. This regulation applies whether you are in the host country or in your home country – provided, however, that the online courses you have taken still meet the agreed learning objectives. The European Commission and we call on all universities to interpret this pragmatically and in the interests of students. Here, we rely on the goodwill of universities to make possible what is possible.

Some students currently have no choice but to end their stay abroad. Now they are worried. Can they be financially supported again later?

Here, too, a distinction must be made between DAAD and Erasmus scholarships. In the case of longer DAAD scholarships, you can interrupt your stay and receive the funding again at a later date – as long as at least two months of scholarship are “open”. You do not have to reapply, the scholarship will be suspended. As an Erasmus student, you can be funded for up to twelve months in total in the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programmes. Anyone who interrupts a semester abroad after one month, but originally planned for four months, still has eleven months in their current course. This must then be requested again.

Will it be harder for students to get a scholarship if later on there are new applicants catching up?

I cannot foresee at the moment if there will be a bottleneck. The opposite is also possible: the current crisis may make students less inclined to go abroad. We don’t know at the moment. What we know: We are here to promote mobility. Once this crisis is over, we maintain that academic mobility is something good and important. We continue to encourage people to study abroad and to come to Germany when the general conditions to do so are again in place. We are convinced of this added value.

Stephan Geifes is Director of the National Agency for EU Academic Cooperation at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

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