Umeå University reverted to remote teaching on 18 March and has taken a number of decisions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 since. On 21 April, it was also decided that the summer courses for this year will take place remotely. These decisions will cease to be valid when the Swedish Government (or the Public Health Agency of Sweden) announces that we can return to campus-based education.
Umeå University is planning on conducting campus-based education from 31 August, i.e. from the start of the autumn semester. Still, the University continues to follow the recommendations issued by the Swedish Government and the Public Health Agency of Sweden. If these authorities extend their recommendation for university educations to be conducted remotely to reduce the spread of disease in society, we need to be prepared to carry on with alternative methods of instruction and assessment also into the autumn. Please consider the following in your preparation for the autumn semester.
Plan for campus-based education – be prepared for remote teaching
Given the current situation, teaching staff is recommended to prepare for both distance and campus-based education for courses for the autumn semester as well as for retake exams and equivalent in August. If restrictions should remain regarding campus-based education, the validity of related decisions will also be extended. This concerns, for instance, postponing courses, deviations from course and programme syllabi, and dispensations for practical course components.
If, this autumn semester, we find ourselves in a situation where campus-based education is allowed, but with restrictions regarding group size or total number of students on campus, it may be beneficial to plan for prioritising providing places on our campuses primarily to students on their first or final semesters. Also, even if restrictions on campus-based education are lifted, all education does not need to be reinstated immediately to campus. It is desirable to plan for flexible teaching and learning methods. Thus, course components that are suited for online tools may continue to be carried out remotely initially even once the restrictions have been lifted.
Teaching staff are recommended to book their lecture halls and equivalent well in advance and be prepared for restrictions in, for instance, group size and recommendations for social distancing to avoid the spread of disease for this autumn semester.
Students are recommended to plan for being on site to start their studies on our campuses when the autumn semester starts.
Incoming international students
Even if the situation is highly uncertain for this autumn, particularly when it comes to international travels, incoming international students are still recommended to apply for a residence permit to be prepared to participate in campus-based education this autumn.
Depending on what form education will take at the start of this autumn semester, and what the prognosis for COVID-19 is at that time, individual considerations will need to be made for various student groups.
Outgoing exchange students
As a safety precaution, staff responsible for students with planned exchange studies for autumn semester 2020 is recommended to, in consultation with the students, investigate the opportunities to postpone these exchange studies.
For outgoing students on institution-wide exchange agreements, north2north or Nordlys, the International Office will assist. Other outgoing students are requested to please contact the international contact person at their department.
Welcoming new students
The introduction and welcoming of new students is very important and the student unions’ efforts are of great importance for students to feel welcome and motivated to go forth on the chosen track. It will be a challenge to carry out the welcoming of new students and also take social distancing into account, when the sole purpose is the opposite of social distancing. How to best deal with this dilemma is something both the unions and the university administration are now working to solve. It has also been decided that the Welcome Fair will be cancelled in early September, and it will instead be implemented in some other form.
Since 23 March 2020, Umeå University has urged all members of staff to fully or partially work from home, in agreement with their supervisor and with tasks that can be carried out remotely. It is currently difficult to assess for how long these recommendations will be valid.
The directives and recommendations by the Public Health Agency of Sweden state that we must abstain from non-essential travels and this is valid until 31 December 2020. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ recommendation against non-essential international travels to all countries is valid until 15 June (UPDATE 14 May: now extended until 15 July), after which the Ministry will reach a new decision. As a consequence, the Vice-Chancellor has decided to extend the validity of the decision to cancel all international business travel until 30 August. The University also recommends a very restrictive approach regarding national travels until 30 August 2020.
The Swedish Government has issued a restriction of public social gatherings of 50 people. This is valid until further notice. As a consequence, the Vice-Chancellor has decided to extend the validity of the decision to cancel all public events until 30 August.
Hans Adolfsson Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University
On 29 May, the Government gave Swedish universities the go-ahead to open again, with the need for some disease preventative measures in place. Read what implications this has on Umeå University.