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University of Copenhagen: »We need to prevent a cohort of corona graduates«

Interview — While all exams are moving online until the summer holidays, the deadlines for bachelor’s degrees will be upheld. The university will, however, make it simpler for students to seek dispensation.

All exams at the University of Copenhagen are to be held online for the rest of the spring semester.

This was announced by the university 1 April in response to what, according to the Student Council’s chairperson Mike Gudbergsen, had been »a swamp of uncertainty,« for students. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus students and staff had been sent home.

We don’t want to lower the quality. We need to prevent ‘corona cohorts’ of graduates

Rie Snekkerup, Deputy Director for Education & Students

Rie Snekkerup, who is Deputy Director for Education & Students at the University of Copenhagen, says that the far-reaching decision to make all exams digital has been taken to lift students out of this swamp of uncertainty.

»It leads to a lot of uncertainty among students and teachers when they cannot look beyond the next 14 days. That’s why it’s been important for us to be allowed to make a longer-term plan, so that everyone knows what they have to look forward to until the end of the semester. This is to give answers and to ensure stability.«

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Some may find it overwhelming to have to take oral exams online, for example, and many people are not used to it. Will the requirements for these be the same as normal?

»If a subject has a requirement that you have to carry out an experiment or produce some empirical data, and if the corona crisis has prevented this – then it doesn’t make sense to stick to that requirement.«

»But we don’t want to lower the quality. We need to prevent a cohort of corona graduates or ‘corona diplomas’ where companies will say ‘oh yes, it was you that was a student during the corona crisis. You are probably not as good as the others’. We want to avoid that.«

Will it not be difficult to meet the requirements of students who feel that they have not been able to get the most out of a digital teaching programme?

»Yes, I think so, and it is therefore up to the examiner and co-examiner to deal with it in the specific exam situation and take the necessary considerations into account.«

Bachelor deadlines upheld

With the 1 April announcement, the University of Copenhagen has given the different study boards the option to move master thesis deadlines back one month. This will, however, only be the case for education programmes that suffered particularly from the corona crisis, for example if students cannot get hold of empirical data or do lab tests.

The University of Copenhagen has given the different study boards the option to move thesis deadlines back one month.

»Several programmes are therefore likely to need a postponement of the deadline,« management stated in the mail to students.

This also means that more general problems such as limited access to literature cannot justify a change to deadlines for master thesis submission.


The question is, what does it mean for the wider group of students who have not been given more time to complete their master’s theses?

»There are a lot of students who will be able to cope with this, and there are some who won’t. Those who can’t will have the opportunity to apply for an individual exemption,« says Rie Snekkerup.

Those who cannot cope may, for example, be students with children or students who have a functional disability. Are you going to make it easier for them to seek dispensation?

»Yes. We would like to set up a simple and fast model for seeking dispensation, a kind of fast track for students who have had difficulty completing online teaching and tests. So they can easily seek dispensation and get answers quickly. In fact, some faculties already have a good model.«

You have given the study boards the opportunity to push back master thesis deadlines. What about bachelor’s projects?

»As a rule, we considered that there is no need for a general deferral of deadlines for bachelor projects. This does not mean that students cannot face challenges that prevent them from finishing. They may apply for an individual exemption.«

Why are you considering master’s theses differently from bachelor projects?

We do not want to place a burden on students or teachers by conducting exams or teaching in July.

Rie Snekkerup, Deputy Director for Education & Students

»The main reason is that the transition from the bachelor’s to the master’s programme should preferably be as simple as possible. You don’t want to have to delay your bachelor project for too long, because it could end up with an extension that lasts longer than just a month, and then admission to a master’s programme can be a challenge.«

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Why haven’t you pushed exams and deadlines into July?

»We’d really like to avoid pushing things into July. There’s probably someone who has to spend the first week of July on exams, but that’s how it is normally. We would very much like everything to be as normal as possible. We do not want to place a burden on students or teachers by conducting exams or teaching in July.«

Teaching to also continue online

When asked directly, Rie Snekkerup says that what applies to teaching also applies to exams: They will, as a rule, be held online for the rest of the semester.

It is certainly unlikely that campus will be opened for all students, according to the deputy director.

»We need to send a clear signal that both teaching and testing are conducted online. If we get the opportunity to open again, we will decide what types of students can come back. This will certainly happen gradually and we are looking at different scenarios,« says Rie Snekkerup.

»We are looking at the students whose teaching and tests cannot be held digitally (like on study programmes such as medicine, odontology and veterinary medicine, ed.). We will see if we can meet them half way.«

Does this mean that you can be absolutely certain that both teaching and exams will take place online for the rest of the semester if you are not on an education programme with these particular challenges?

»You say certain … I don’t suppose anything is certain in this situation. Much depends on the government’s decisions on when and how the reopening of Denmark is to take place,« says Rie Snekkerup.

»We will, if possible, try to uphold the current plans, because students need to be able to plan ahead. They need to be able to look beyond the next two weeks.«

Translated by Mike Young