Referring to the topic „How did your country deal with the Corona crisis? What is the situation right now? In which way is your personal and professional life affected?“, the participants travelled around the world, starting with listening to a talk by Dr. Tanushree Gupta from India.
The former scholar received Technology Grants for East/Central/South-East Asia in 2011 and 2013/14 and an Ernst Mach worldwide grant and is currently working as a staff member of the Institute of Conservation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Tanushree was forced to stay in her home country, where she was doing research for a project when the crisis started and could not return to Vienna. In the meeting, she talked about the last physical workshop, Zoom meetings during the lockdown and how hard it is to pursue work without field studies. The Alumna stated that it is impossible to replace all aspects of real-life meetings, but she is looking forward to the next projects whether they still have to take place online or not.
The journey was continued with a talk from Dr. Muhammad Bilal Bin Majeed from Pakistan, who was supported by the Pakistan Scholarship Programme (OSS-II) to study at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna between 2014 and 2018. The former scholar is an Assistant Professor of Genetics in Lahore. He gave an overview on the situation in Pakistan and reported that the severity of the coronavirus outbreak highly varies between different regions within his home country. Thus, the government of Pakistan decided to use the so-called „smart lockdown“ since the 15th of June, shutting down the regions where a certain threshold of Covid-19 cases is exceeded.
After some more statements from Asian Alumni, the next continent in focus was Europe. The former Mondi Austrian Student Scholarship holder Oliver Hauser, who studied physics at the University of Innsbruck between 2007 and 2010 and did his PhD in the field of Biology in Harvard, spoke about the situation in the UK. The Alumnus currently works as an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Exeter and is doing research on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on tropospheric nitrogen dioxide levels due to reduced economic activities. Read his paper here.
Europe after listening to further statements of former European OeAD scholarship holders, the next speaker was Sonnia Musyoka from Kenya. She received an APPEAR scholarship for studying at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, BOKU, from 2017 to 2020.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic Sonnia Nzilani Musyoka could also not return to Vienna. Thus, she became the first of our scholars who defended her doctoral thesis via video conference while being back home in Kenya. Sonnia passed the exam with excellence and she is now working at her former home institution, the South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU). She told the audience that in Kenya all educational institutions were closed on 13th of March, but most private schools and universities are carrying out their operations - administration and academics - online. However, most research activities involving human interactions and international collaborators cannot take place. Sonnia also presented a survey conducted by SEKU, which showed that only 60% of the students can access online classes. The other 40% cited poor internet, lack of smart phones and affordability of data as their limiting factors. The lecturers who live in remote areas too are limited by poor internet coverage too.
The journey came to an end in North, Central & South America – due to the time shift to this continent, there were no 5-minutes-speakers, but a few spontaneous statements of the participants - and some Alumni shared their view on the pandemic and the changes in the professional world. How the OeAD as funding Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research itself is affected by the restrictions due to the Corona virus, was then presented by Elke Stinnig.
Physical mobility has been limited in the last months and there is still a lot of uncertainty for the upcoming winter term. The OeAD had to deal with scholars stranded in Austria due to the virus and also organised online meetings for scholars in order to support them in times of lockdown, as many students struggled with stress and anxieties or were worried about the wellbeing of their families back home. Within the APPEAR programme, that funds projects between higher education cooperation between Austrian institutions and institutions in developing countries, also flexible options had to be found as activities could not be carried out. The first-hand information and perspectives of Alumni on “How does the corona crisis affect international academic cooperation in the future?” is therefore highly relevant to the OeAD. In the field of scientific cooperation global mobility was critical until the pandemic started. Studying abroad, exchange programmes, international project meetings, attending conferences and conducting field research were major aspects of academic life. As presented by Alumni universities quickly had to adapt to the new situation and new ways of interaction had to be found.
We concluded that some activities can still be carried out online, international scientific cooperation will continue and is especially crucial for fighting a global pandemic. However, the social aspects of face-to-face-encounters, informal discussions, where new project ideas are developed, or the intercultural experiences while living abroad for a certain period of time cannot be replaced.
In between the talks, the OeAD staff presented different Alumni tools for further communication and networking among scholars & alumni, which are described at www.oead.at/alumni.
If you are interested in studying in Austria (again) or would like to recommend Austrian universities to friends and colleagues, we encourage you to browse our services:
Study in Austria gives an overview of the Austrian higher education system, lists universities including profiles and contact details and can be used to look for possible partners.
The English-language study guide explains the higher education system in Austria, offers useful tips to foreign students and lists all degree programmes offered by Austrian higher education institutions.
If you are looking for study options in Austria by field of study, location, final degree or language of instruction (various international study programmes taught in English) you may check the following website: www.studienwahl.at/en
Euraxess Austria provides information on and assistance for all questions essential to the mobility of researchers and their families. It is part of the EU initiative ‘Euraxess – Researchers in Motion’ ec.europa.eu/euraxess. Furthermore it offers job vacancies for researchers throughout Europe.
The Austrian Database for Scholarships and Research Grants provides students, graduates and researchers information on scholarships and grants.
The first call of the Programme Cooperation Development Research took place in 2019. The aim is to implement cooperative projects between Austrian higher education / research institutions and higher education / research institutions in countries of the global South. Projects must contribute to analysing and solving local challenges and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The programme is open to all scientific disciplines. One- to three-year research projects mobility and material expenses for Austrian project partners and project partners from the South are funded. Another call is expected in 2020.
The Ernst Mach Follow-Up Grant is aimed at postdocs from non-European developing countries who are former OeAD scholarship holders. The grant is intended to support the applicant's scientific carrier and to further and deepen the cooperation with Austrian higher education institutions and universities.
The Ernst Mach Grant – worldwide is aimed at visiting or exchange scholars for a short research/study stay (1-9 months). Applicants must not be older than 35 years when they start their research stay. Target groups are postgraduates pursuing a doctoral/PhD programme, postgraduates and post-docs who want to do research in Austria and post-docs who are working as lecturers at a university.
The Ernst Mach Grant for studying at an Austrian University of Applied Sciences is aimed at students from non-European universities who wish to spend a semester or two at an Austrian University of Applied Sciences (‘Fachhochschule’).
EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport is run in seven-year cycles. The next one will be from 2021 to 2027 in Europe. Furthermore the Commission actively collaborates with non-EU countries in the fields of education and training policy.
→ Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility (KA107)
→ Erasmus+ Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees
→ Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education
→ Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Activities
Detailed information on these opportunities, including eligibility criteria, is available in the Erasmus+ Programme Guide.