COVID-19 Higher Education Act and Covid-19 Regulations of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research

MMag. Dr. Stefan Huber, LL.M.,
Ing. Eugenio Gualtieri, LL.M.,
Adriana Haslinger

The COVID 19 Higher Education Act (C-HG) gives the Minister of Education power to issue regulations that derogate from certain provisions of the Universities Act (Universitätsgesetz), Higher Education Act (Hochschulgesetz), Technical Colleges Act (Fachhochschul-Studiengesetz) and Study Support Act (Studienförderungsgesetz).

In addition, activities carried out in connection with COVID-19 can be recognised for studies at universities, teacher training colleges (Pädagogische Hochschulen) and technical colleges (Fachhochschulen) to the extent of 4 ECTS per month as modules or courses that can be freely chosen (if provided for in the curriculum) or as internships (in case of equivalence).

The COVID-19 University and Higher Education Regulation (COVID-19-Universitäts- und Hochschulverordnung) for universities and teacher training colleges and the COVID-19 Technical Colleges Regulation (COVID-19-Fachhochschulverordnung) for technical colleges provide special measures for the 2020 summer semester and for the 2020/2021 winter semester.

At universities, teacher training colleges and technical colleges, these special measures are:

  • Minimum requirements are laid down for exams conducted by electronic means.
  • Deadlines for the submission and assessment of bachelor, diploma and master theses and doctoral studies may be extended for the period during which operations are frustrated by COVID 19.
  • Exams carried out before the entry into force of the regulations or for which a notification has already been made are deemed to have been properly carried out. The assertion of other defects remains unaffected.

At universities and teacher training colleges, they include:

  • Admission period: The extension period for the summer semester ends on 30 June 2020. The general admission period for the winter semester ends on 30 September 2020, whereby a different, later deadline is possible;
  • The period that is free of teaching during the summer semester does not apply (courses/exams can be taken in the summer);
  • It is possible to give notification of continued enrolment for the summer semester until 30 June 2020;
  • The deadline for the supplementary art exam ends at the latest before notification is given of continued enrolment for the fourth semester;
  • The study entry and orientation phase (StEOP) can be extended to the winter semester for students who started in the summer semester;
  • The rector can enable students to participate in further courses even before they have graduated from StEOP;
  • Leaves of absence for the summer semester can be ended within a grace period expiring on 30 June 2020. Furthermore, there is also the possibility to take a "COVID-19" leave of absence, i.e. leave of absence for reasons related to COVID-19. Services rendered up until the time of the leave of absence remain valid. However, a COVID-19 leave of absence cannot be ended prematurely;
  • Admission to study at a university of art and music expires if the respective course offered in the central artistic subject has not been attended for more than four semesters;
  • In the summer semester, course methods and concepts can be changed, as well as methods, assessment criteria and assessment standards for exams. The rectorate can also allow courses and exams to be conducted in other forms until 30 November 2020;
  • During the summer semester, three exam dates are also to be scheduled for exams carried out in the form of a single exam;
  • Deadlines for studies expiring in the summer semester are extended until the end of the extension period for the winter semester;
  • Curricula must be published by 1 September 2020 in order for them to come into force on 1 October 2020.

At technical colleges, the following also applies:

  • Additional exams for first-year students with relevant professional qualifications can be extended up until they enter their 3rd academic year.
  • Specific exam modalities, options for retaking exams, and exam dates (after consultation with the university representatives) may be changed, whereby the number of entrants to an exam may not fall below the number required by law; students may withdraw from such exams without losing the right to take them.
  • Activities carried out in the service of society, public security, health care or security of supply due to COVID-19 are also considered reasons for interruption.
  • Students have a once-only right to repeat an academic year (after receiving a negative assessment by a commission).

At universities and teacher training colleges, students can consult a person of trust for oral examinations (at technical colleges only in the summer semester).

For the Study Support Act, the COVID-19-Study Support Regulation stipulates as follows:

  • An entitlement existing in the summer semester remains valid, even if there is a prevailing impediment to study as a result of restrictions on the operation of the university relating to COVID-19 or if the income limit is exceeded due to COVID-19 (e.g. by doing community service).
  • The summer semester is disregarded when calculating the duration of entitlement and the deadline for furnishing proof of academic achievement and for taking up a subsequent course of study, as well as for compliance with the age limit and the consequences of a late change of study.
  • The duration of entitlement and the deadline for furnishing proof of academic achievement is extended by one semester if the duration of entitlement has not yet been exceeded in the summer semester.
  • The university waives its right to reclaim the study allowance for the summer semester as the first semester of study due to lack of proof of academic achievement.
  • For the summer semester (only) the negative consequences of a change of study are disregarded.
  • A check will be carried out to establish if the age limit is exceeded due to COVID-19 restrictions on the operation of the university.
  • The funding period for the graduation grant will upon request be extended by a maximum of six months if the student's graduation is delayed due to COVID-19 (because of university operations, the need to care for relatives).
  • In the case of the study abroad grant, the student's certificate of completion of studies is not to be provided and the grant is not to be repaid up to and including April 2020 if the study abroad in the summer semester was prematurely discontinued due to COVID-19.