After the government ordered a state of emergency on Wednesday as part of the protective measures against the coronavirus, universities in Hungary will be closing down starting from Thursday.
Many higher education institutions in Hungary have already informed students that their buildings will be inaccessible from Thursday.
The Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) has ordered a university-mandated break between March 12 and 13, also advancing spring break to March 16, they write in their announcement.
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Additionally, starting from March 23rd, teaching activities will be carried out in an extraordinary working order, using distance-learning methods. Due to the emergency situation, the spring semester will be extended until August 31st, and students will be able to complete their study activities (laboratory exercises, exams, final exams) by this date.
During the “suspension period,” students, excluding PhD students, are prohibited from entering the university.
Hungarian students must also leave their residence halls by the 15th of March while foreign students who don’t have a permanent residence in Hungary can remain in the residence halls if they are unable to go home.
The decision, however, does not apply to employees as they are required to go to work according to the regular work schedule. They may enter the university but must comply with the restrictions of the epidemiological protection measures.
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Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) introduced a similar approach and ordered a break for 12-13 of March. Students are also prohibited from entering the University until otherwise notified.
Hungarian students must leave the student residence halls and travel home, while international students and cross-border Hungarian students are allowed to stay in the dormitories. The University will continue its educational activities using distance-learning methods from March 23, 2020.
Also, the students of the university are not allowed to travel abroad during the mandated period and spring break, and everyone is advised to stay at their place of residence. Just like in BME, employees have to go to work as usual.
Other Universities in the country such as Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE), Semmelweis University, Corvinus University, and institutions in other parts of the country like the University of Debrecen, the Neumann University in Kecskemét, and the University of Pécs have taken a similar approach.
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The decision affects many, as almost 204,000 people are studying in one of Hungary’s higher education institutions as a full-time student, according to the latest data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH).
The mandated break and the advanced spring break were introduced due to the government’s decision and also in order for the universities to prepare for distance education, to which they will switch in most places on March 23.
Most institutions will upload their study material through their already existing e-learning systems – Moodle, Coospace, or Neptun Meet Street. Working out a solution to how lectures and seminars could be taught online will be an important task for university employees in the coming weeks.
Universities have also canceled or postponed events organized by the university or those taking place on campuses, in accordance with the government’s decision (which prohibits indoor events of more than 100 people and outdoor events of more than 500 people).
The introduced measures are not unique to Hungary. In the past days, several European governments have also ordered colleges and schools to close. Countries with initial virus epicenters, such as Italy, South Korea and Iran have been completely locked down, but Greece, Ukraine, and Romania also ordered schools to be closed. In the Czech Republic, teaching activity has been banned in all public education institutions while private schools have the option to decide. Poland is shutting down not only its schools but theaters and cinemas as well, starting on Monday.
Featured photo by Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI