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Higher Education Law

On 14 April 2020 the Landtag (state parliament) adopted a package of legislative changes to deal with the Corona crisis, including an amendment to the law on higher education. The new section 82a "Measures to cope with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic" has authorized the Ministry of Culture and Science to issue a legislative decree allowing universities to deviate from the regulations in normal operation in order to ensure the teaching and functioning of self-administration during the Corona crisis. Deviations are to be made possible with regard to examinations and the recognition of examination results, the standard period of study, enrolment and the work and term of office of committees.

The corresponding Corona Epidemic University Ordinance was published on 15 April 2020 and last changed on 24 April 2021. On 27 May 2020, TU Dortmund University decided on a Corona-regulation for the study and examination operations, which temporarily supplements or replaces the current examination regulations. The rules are explained below.

The Corona Protection Ordinance of 17 August 2021 allows indoor events, which includes courses with personal attendance at universities. Provided a county or city has a 7-day incidence value of 35 or higher for at least five consecutive days, only vaccinated, recovered or tested individuals (3G rule) may participate in indoor events (Section 4 (2), sentence 1 no.1). Proof of a negative Corona test can be provided by a rapid antigen test or a PCR test (both not older than 48 hours). Self-tests are no longer accepted. Currently the vaccination certificates are checked by the lecturers respectively teachers; participants must provide the certified proof and an official identification document for this purpose (Section 4 (5)). 

The regulations of the Corona Protection Ordinance apply for the time being until 17 September 2021.

Corona Ordinance of TU Dortmund University

The Corona Epidemic University Ordinance issued by the State of NRW has authorized the Rectorate, in consultation with the faculties, to issue, among other things, examination regulations which temporarily supplement or replace the existing examination regulations. This is intended to meet the challenges posed by the corona crisis. Therefore, TU Dort­mund University decided to adopt a Co­ro­na Ordinance for studies and examinations in the summer semester 2020 for the first time. These regulations cover, for example, enrolment requirements, the type of examination, free attempts, the recognition of examinations, practical study phases and the type of preliminary work for exa­mi­nations (see below). The Corona Ordinance has been updated several times: on 23 December 2020 (winter semester 2020/21), on 5 February 2021 (digital examinations) and last time on 30 June 2021 (summer semester 2021).

The regulations laid down in this ordinance take precedence over the regulations in the respective examination regulations and module descriptions (§2, section 1). For areas of study and examination operations that are not regulated in these regulations, the respective responsible examination boards may issue supplementary regulations, taking into account the requirements of the degree programs and observing the principle of equal treatment (§14). The Corona ordinance of TU Dortmund University remains in force until 30 September 2021.

If, due to the corona protection measures, a special enrollment requirement (artistic or other aptitude or practical activity), which is necessary for admission, could not be fulfilled or proven, the respective examination board or faculty will decide to what extent other requirements have to be provided (§3).

If an examination cannot be carried out in the originally intended format due to the Corona protection measures, or only under more difficult conditions, the responsible examination committee can decide on a change in the format of examination (§5 section 1). If an examination attempt was already made without success before these regulations came into force, a change of examination format is also possible for the repeat examination (§7 section 1).

Due to the restrictions in teaching, free/bonus attempts for exams were granted in the winter semester 2020/21 and summer semester 2020:  Examinations which are not passed are considered as not taken. Each of these bonus attempts counts once in each examination procedure in terms of a further attempt (bonus attempt). If the examination taken in the bonus attempt is not passed, there will be no further bonus attempt for that exam.

This rule will be continued in the summer semester 2021. For written exams (digital exams as well as classroom exams), there will also be an additional bonus attempt in the summer semester 2021.

Bonus attempts do not apply to final theses and to examinations that were either seen as failed or graded as unsatisfactory due to attempted cheating. Moreover, they can only be claimed if the examination was actually taken. The responsible examination committee decides on a bonus attempt for other types of examinations - for example, planning drafts, term papers or lectures. 

Deregistration from an examination is governed by the regulations stipulated in the according examination regulations. If one cannot take the examination at short notice due to illness, proof must be submitted as usual. If the examination is missed due to short-term special circumstances caused by the pandemic, the reasons must be credibly explained to the chairperson of the examination board and/or the examination administration.

The examiners shall enable students to review the examination papers within a reasonable period of time (§9 section 1). This can be done electronically or on site, subject to compliance with the hygiene regulations. For students who belong to risk groups with regard to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 or have relatives who belong to risk groups, inspection can be provided for exclusively by electronic means upon application. In this case, proof of the risk group status is required (§9 section 2). The hygiene concept must be adhered to when inspecting the exams. You will find information on this in the service portal.

The requirements for a semester abroad, practical semester or other practical study phase integrated into the course of studies can be made up for at a later date. In addition, the examination board can decide on possible alternatives that are appropriate in terms of subject and content (§11 section 1). If internships planned in the study plan cannot be completed at present or internships already begun cannot be completed, the examination board can decide on appropriate substitutions. The following guidelines should apply in this case: In the case of external internships (other than teaching), 75% of the usual achievements are sufficient for recognition. In the case of 50 to 75%, an additional substitute requirement to be determined by the examination committee is necessary. If less than half of the requirement was achieved, it must be repeated.

The ordinance describes in §11, section 2 regulations for the following practical phases in teacher training courses: the professional field internship, the aptitude and orientation internship and the practical semester. Further regulations concern the design of the theory-practice reports and the theory-practice reflection. Details are explained by the DoKoLL.

The responsible examination board can regulate that admission requirements such as the successful participation in other courses are temporarily relaxed or suspended for all students of the program (§12 section 1). It should be possible to choose also those study sections for which the student has not yet achieved the required number of credit points (§12 section 2). This also applies to the registration of final papers and other written homework (§12, section 3).

Corona Epidemic University Ordinance

The Corona Epidemic University Ordinance issued by the Ministry of Culture and Science (MKW) stipulates that the standard program duration for students enrolled in the summer semester 2020, in the winter semester 2020/2021 or in the summer semester 2021 is increased by one semester each. In addition, the MKW allows the Rectorates to make special arrangements to maintain teaching activities and the functioning of the self-administration. These include, in particular, regulations on examination formats, participation requirements and recognition of examinations or other achievements, but also on teaching formats. Deadlines for enrollment and submission of the required certificates may be postponed. Committees may hold meetings digitally and take decisions electronically. Committee elections can also be postponed if elections are not feasible. Details can be found in the following questions and answers.

The decree explicitly allows the universities to conduct online examinations (§6). The universities are also allowed to make special regulations on the format of examinations (§7 paragraph 1), so that examinations could be replaced by other formats of examination. Participation requirements may also be changed (§7 paragraph 2), so that cancelled courses do not stop the general progress of studies. Details of examination regulations are determined by the Rectorate in consultation with the faculties (§7 paragraph 5). The rectorates may also issue special regulations to facilitate the recognition of examinations (§9). The regulations issued on this basis by the Rectorate of TU Dortmund University are listed under "Corona Regulations of TU Dortmund University" (see above).

The rectorates may issue special regulations on the type of courses to be taught (§8), so that formats can be adapted to the new requirements in an appropriate manner. The regulations issued on this basis by the Rectorate of TU Dortmund University are listed under "Corona Ordinance of TU Dortmund" (see above). Courses may also be rescheduled to a different time in deviation from the semester plan (§8).

The special regulations have no effect on the accreditation of the degree programs (§11). The Accreditation Council had already suspended the obligation to notify about significant changes by resolution of 27 March 2020.

The individualized standard program duration for all students enrolled in the summer semester 2020 and/or the winter semester 2020/2021 and/or the summer semester 2021 is increased by one semester each (§10). If the standard program duration has already been increased by one semester for the summer semester 2020, it will be increased by a further semester if the concerned students were also enrolled or admitted to TU Dortmund University in the winter semester 2020/2021. The same applies to the summer semester 2021. In this way, the negative effects of the restricted teaching schedule for students can be mitigated. The increase in the individualized standard period of study is also accompanied by an extension of the maximum BAföG period.

The universities may adjust registration deadlines at short notice. Beyond this, the rectorate may issue regulations concerning the manner in which proof of special prior education or other aptitude related to the degree programs is provided (§12 paragraph 1).

Committees may hold their meetings during the Corona crisis via video or telephone conference; a mixed form of electronic and physical presence is also permissible (§5 section 5). In addition, the legislative decree allows for resolutions to be passed by way of circulation. The public must be informed of the resolutions by means of appropriate measures (§5 paragraph 2). A handbook (in German) on the digital work of the committees is available in the service portal.

The rectorate may postpone elections for the appointment of university governing bodies if these are not feasible; however, this shall not apply to elections to the rectorate (§3). Elections of members of the rectorate may also be held in electronic form or by absentee ballot (§5 paragraph 4). The General Student Committee (AStA) can also decide on a rescheduling of student committee meetings (§4). The term of office of the newly elected members shall end at the originally planned date (§3 paragraph 2 and §4 paragraph 2). If committee elections are conducted by electronic voting, no affirmation in lieu of an oath is required (§3 paragraph 4).

Since TU Dortmund University has a tried and tested online election portal, the committee elections and the election to the student parliament at TU Dortmund University could be held according to plan in June 2020 and 2021. The elections of the student representative bodies can also be conducted in electronic form in accordance with §4 paragraph 5.

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