When will Denmark’s universities return to normal?

Universities in Denmark allowed students to return to campuses on Monday, but how university life will look after the summer remains anything but clear.

When will Denmark's universities return to normal?
Regensen, a residential college for students at Copenhagen University. Photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

What's the current situation for students at Danish universities? 

From Monday, June 22nd, students at Danish universities were allowed to return to libraries, study rooms, and group meeting rooms, meaning they can finally meet up with each other and their lecturers on campus again after three months of distance education. 

Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, Denmark's Minister of Education and Research, said that even though the opening has taken place after the end of the spring semester, it would nonetheless allow students to get help preparing for exam resits, with major assignments, and would help universities plan events ahead of the start of the autumn semester. 

Some students still have a few teaching hours left before the summer, or have exams to take that require physical attendance, and they will be instructed to come to the campus by university authorities when they are required. 

What's the current situation for staff at Danish universities? 

All employees at universities in Zealand, Funen and other parts of Denmark east of the Great Belt fixed link were allowed to return to their offices from Monday June 15th as part of the third phase of Denmark's reopening (even though universities are still asked to encourage home working).  

This means that all university staff in Denmark are now back, as all staff at universities on the Jutland peninsular were allowed to return in on May 18th, as part of the second phase of reopening. 

In the first phase, universities were allowed to open laboratories for “important research”, and to restart some health education programs.  

What will happen after the summer holidays? 

Students will be allowed back in August as part of phase four of Denmark's reopening, but the one-metre rule and other restrictions will mean that student life is not completely back to normal.

“Many students will experience blended types of teaching (online/physical) and blended activities as part of their welcome/orientation,” Anne Bruun, associate director at the University of Copenhagen, told The Local. 

“Our auditoriums and classrooms are not built for social distancing,” said a press officer at the University of Aarhus, who said that the resulting shortage in lecture room capacity would mean that many lectures and seminars would still be held digitally.  
What will happen to international students? 
The University of Copenhagen has admitted both international degree students and international exchange students, and according to Bruun beginning a university course will be considered a “worthy purpose” to enter the country under the current border regulations. 
International students will also be able to get housing through the Copenhagen Housing Foundation. 
International student exchanges have only been stopped if they have been cancelled by the partner university overseas. 
What happened to international students during the lockdown? 
Many appear to have remained in Denmark. A survey carried out by the University of Copenhagen found that 55 percent of international students went home shortly after the lockdown was imposed and 45 percent stayed in Denmark. A full 88 percent continued to follow their courses online. 
What restrictions will still be in place in August? 
According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, universities must continue to bear the national health guidelines in mind, respecting the one-metre rule and other advice.
Before students return, universities are required to develop their own systems for ensuring the guidelines are met, and to put in place posters and hand washing facilities around their campuses. 
As well as limits to the numbers who can come to lectures, there also need to be limits to the numbers in reading rooms and libraries, staggered work hours to reduce crowding on public transport, and special protection for staff, such as library staff, who have a lot of contact with people. 
Special consideration should be paid to students and staff who are in a risk group. 
The way elevators and canteens are operated must follow the guidelines of the Danish Health Authority, and university cafés and gatherings should follow the current guidelines. 

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