Dear University Citizens,
The Hungarian government declared on March 11, 2020 a state of emergency for the entire area of the country due to the coronavirus outbreak. This includes among others a prohibition on attending Hungarian university institutions, meaning that education activities can only be conducted remotely.
In line with the guidance provided by the Ministry for Innovation and Technology following the government decision, I am hereby ordering as rector a recess for the days of March 12-13, 2020 and spring break to take place on the week of March 16 at Semmelweis University. During this period, the university will prepare for the implementation of remote instruction, which will begin on March 23, 2020, within the Moodle E-learning framework that has been used in our education activities since 2011. Independent of the coronavirus outbreak, my colleagues have already been hard at work on expanding and further developing this system. We are continuously synchronizing Moodle with the Neptun system, and in addition to study materials related to the courses, it is also possible to operate course forums and conduct online exams within Moodle. Furthermore, we are working on integrating the Zoom solution as well in the near future, which is used among others by Harvard University and is suitable for holding video lectures (conferences) and two-way communication.
During the recess announced by the rector, spring break and the period of remote instruction, the work schedules of university instructors, researchers, lecturers, employees, and administrative and support staff will remain unchanged. During this period, heads of department welcome those sixth-year medical students who have a good command of Hungarian and meet all the necessary, prevailing epidemiological requirements, to take part in volunteer work.
On Wednesday, I asked the deans of the faculties to work out faculty-specific details for implementing remote instruction, while heads of department will provide continuous information on the website of their institutes and departments to students on the details of remote instruction and the availability of study material. With remote instruction, every lecture can be held, and we can also, to a certain extent, build in some elements that reduce the number of practical hours required (e.g. broadcasts of operations, presentations), but the principal rule is that practice cannot be substituted by remote instruction. Oral exams can be conducted online, but we cannot forgo practical exams.
The government ruled that the prohibition on attending university institutions shall be in place until revoked. Should this occur, the university will do everything in its power to make it possible for our students to complete the required practices.
In light of the situation, I call on the employees and students of Semmelweis University not to travel outside the country. The university is also prohibiting any official trips by university citizens (business trips, conferences, trainings, etc.); in exceptional cases, such trips can be made following the approval of the rector. University students are prohibited from leaving the country – I am emphasizing this especially with relation to the spring break that has been ordered. Our international students are an exception, who of course have the opportunity to return to their homes.
I ask for the cooperation of our Hungarian students in leaving their dormitories and going home by March 13 if possible; exceptions can be made at the approval of the rector. International students are allowed to stay in the dormitories.
I would like thank all of our colleagues and students for their cooperation!
Budapest, March 11, 2020
Dr. Béla Merkely, rector