For the new academic year, the conditions for promoting European student mobility have been made more flexible at EU level due to the coronavirus pandemic. Traditional physical mobility has been complemented by “blended” and virtual mobility. Switzerland has followed suit with this development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has far-reaching impacts for teaching and student mobility. The global travel restrictions have had a major impact on exchanges, with thousands of students unable to begin their stay abroad in the spring semester, or only able to complete it in a different format from that originally planned. Swiss universities are working hard to develop different scenarios fostering mobility in the forthcoming autumn semester and are preparing for both classroom teaching and online courses. Universities in Switzerland and throughout Europe can publish the study programmes available to exchange students for the autumn semester 2020/2021 on the “COVID-19 Mobility Status” platform. Movetia launched the website together with the European University Foundation (EUF) and the University of Porto.

If students begin a traditional semester abroad as part of a mobility programme such as Erasmus+ or the Swiss-European Mobility Programme (SEMP), they will receive financial support for stays of at least three months in the host country. Whenever possible under the official regulations in force, Movetia encourages all students to opt for the physical mobility format. This is the best way to experience direct social contact and the atmosphere in the host country!

If, however, students are only able to complete part of the semester in the host country due to the current situation, they will also be supported under the new conditions, unlike in the past. As the name suggests, so-called “blended mobility” stays take a hybrid format between online teaching and classroom teaching. In the 2020 academic year, an Erasmus+ or SEMP mobility experience can therefore begin online before subsequently being continued and completed in the host country once it is possible to travel there. As soon as they physically move to a country, students are entitled to receive a grant as part of the mobility programme. If it is impossible to travel to the desired host country, or if the university in question is not hosting any exchange students, students can also pursue purely virtual mobility experiences. In this form of mobility, students follow only online courses at a foreign partner institution within Europe for an entire semester.

Through these more flexible measures, the European Commission and the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) underline the importance of mobility during the coronavirus pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important to strengthen intra-European exchange and to offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in other education systems while experiencing different cultures.

The national agency Movetia together with Swiss higher education institutions, implements the Swiss-European Mobility Programme (SEMP) as a substitute for Erasmus+. Students who are interested in a blended mobility or regular stay abroad should contact the International Relations Office of their home institution in order to receive advice concerning the different possibilities.