COVID-19... Is it really necessary to underline that the emergence and spread of the virus has also disrupted the work of the 17 universities of the FIFA/CIES International University Network?
Most of them have been confronted with the systematic closure of their campuses and the need to quickly switch from 100% face-to-face courses to fully online classes.
Others have had to deal with the problem of students who could no longer attend classes due to the restrictions on international, and even national, travel.
A few have chosen to wait until "better days" to continue face-to-face teaching. Others have finally decided to resume online courses in order to complete the curriculum in time. However, all of them had to deal with the sometimes divergent wishes of the students with empathy and tact.
CIES, for its part, had to set up a whole series of online conferences to maintain the activity of certain programmes temporarily interrupted, and to allow many international experts to participate in courses that had become totally virtual. Not forgetting the organisation, in close cooperation with its partners, of numerous interviews and examination sessions using interconnected screens.
What conclusions can be drawn from the upheavals imposed by the pandemic?
Firstly, all the universities were able to take the necessary decisions quickly: consultation with students to assess their needs and concerns, discussions with teaching staff to quickly adapt teaching to the requirements of online classes, familiarisation with virtual platforms, and development of plan A, plan B and even plan C to deal with various possible scenarios.
Moreover, contacts with CIES were further strengthened by the need to overcome doubts and difficulties together in a true spirit of partnership.
It is pleasing to note that student evaluations remain good. The transition from one mode of teaching to another has taken place without too many "jolts". The acceptance of virtual teaching is high even if most students deeply regret the lack of exchanges and social relations which are the undeniable assets of face-to-face courses. Moreover, some universities have managed to overcome the obstacle of COVID-19 by strengthening their network of experts or by diversifying certain topics of their courses.
At the beginning of September, the pandemic has not disappeared. Statistics show that in most of the countries where the FIFA/CIES University Network is present, COVID-19 is preventing a return to a more or less normal life. We must remain vigilant. However, all of our partners continue their work with dynamism. Some universities will maintain online teaching until the end of the year and perhaps beyond. Others will organize classroom courses again, using new and innovative ways to comply with the health measures in force. For example, one university will organise teaching in the covered grandstand of a football stadium.
All remain optimistic, pro-active and creative to ensure the sustainability of our Programme. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the directors, coordinators, teachers and experts for their work. Thank you to the students for their confidence.