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Dean's Letter Regarding the COVID-19 Situation

The letter by dr hab. Paweł Laidler, prof. UJ, the Dean of Faculty of International and Political Studies has been originally published on Faculty's website and is available at https://wsmip.uj.edu.pl/.

Dear Students,

Being aware of the concerns raised by some students of international programs who decided to come to Krakow to study in the regular mode in the premises of the Jagiellonian University and who are now forced to continue online learning, we would like to address some important issues raised in these concerns.

We understand that some students feel disappointed by the decision to switch to distance learning. We acknowledge that in-class education is both more efficient and pleasant, which is also the preferred way of teaching for the majority of our faculty. The programs were organized in a way to provide not only proper knowledge to students but also to ignite academic discussions and deepen social relations among all of us. Please remember that we are all facing the challenges of online teaching and adapting to it. But under the present circumstances it is the only possible and the most effective way of continuing the educational process at our Faculty. Knowing that remote teaching is imperfect, we still hope that we can make the best use of all the distance learning tools at our disposal and, perhaps, even appreciate some advantages of distance learning before we are able to restore in-person classes.

We hope that you understand that we need to take into account the current epidemic situation in the country, which has changed significantly over the last few weeks. The number of daily new cases of infection increased over five times compared to two weeks ago. Poland as a whole has become a yellow zone and wearing masks at all times became compulsory in almost all public spaces, and in the coming week Kraków will be declared a red zone. We know that currently several students are on quarantine, with a few others being already infected. We also receive multiple requests from international students who are simply scared of participating in regular classes, not mentioning some of the teachers who are in the high-risk group.

Given the development of the pandemic situation, we cannot risk anybody's life and health for the sake of regular teaching. With such an approach, we follow the pattern of most of Polish universities, already teaching online classes. We strongly believe that in a couple of months the pandemic situation will allow us to return to in-person classes, and, in the meantime, we are going to do our best to deliver you valuable knowledge and guarantee the highest standard of online lectures. Together with the lecturers we strive to make the online classes professional, interesting and diverse in form of teaching. Certainly, teaching methods cannot be limited to self-learning methods, therefore, we ask you to report to the heads of your programs about any situation when you are not satisfied with the quality of the remote classes.

We want to assure you that all decisions made in relation to counteracting Covid-19 are determined by the social responsibility of the entire academic community, which results directly from the mission of the Jagiellonian University. The possibilities of counteracting the health and social effects of Covid-19 are strictly dependent on collective responsibility - both at the government and institutional level,  but also privately. All the decisions of the authorities of the Jagiellonian University are adopted in accordance with the recommendations of the Polish government and international organizations. Hence, as in other countries that have shown better adaptation to managing the Covid-19 crisis, social distancing remains a condition reducing the scale of contagions.

The dynamic increase in infections in Poland reflects the global trend. The fall and winter season are certainly conducive to the spread of Sars-Cov-2 virus. The severity of the disease, which we have been observing for the last few weeks, exhausts medical resources both in Poland and in the world in general. Therefore, the social and health responsibility of the authorities of the Jagiellonian University, including the authorities and heads of the programs of the Faculty of International and Political Studies, forces the limitation of contacts between students and lecturers to the necessary minimum. Please remember that, according to current regulations, most of the aspects of ordinary student life cannot be carried out, including integration meetings, conferences and seminars, or exchange programs.

The decisions of the authorities regarding the implementation of the principles of online teaching are strictly dependent on the need to ensure safe teaching conditions - both for students, academic teachers and administrative staff. Although the costs associated with the requirements for adapting distance learning significantly exceed the cost of full-time teaching (irregular teaching staff hours, purchasing additional equipment, extending working time due to more administrative tasks), the learning outcomes and the study program remain unchanged and effective.

The previous experience of working remotely, allowed for the appropriate adjustment of classes and elimination of potential inconveniences during the summer break. Feedback from students and joint efforts of the teaching and administrative staff allowed for the implementation of better solutions for the 2020/2021 academic year regarding online teaching. At this point, we would also like to remind you that these activities have been implemented throughout the Faculty of International and Political Studies as a whole, and will remain so at least until the end of the winter semester. The decision to invite international students to Kraków was based on the knowledge we had in July, when we believed that holding classes in small groups would be possible. However, because the circumstances have changed, we were forced to move the whole didactic process into the online mode. We made that decision as soon as possible, considering the evolving pandemic situation.

The assumption that the Faculty cares more about the economic aspects than the health of its students is false and unfair. Fees and tuition costs do not constitute profit for the Jagiellonian University. However, they allow for the coverage of financing related to the provision of teaching and research and other services. The indicated tasks, despite the prevailing pandemic, are fully implemented by the Jagiellonian University during the pandemic of Covid-19. Consequently, blended and distance learning does not reduce the costs associated with running international programs. Please, be kindly reminded that our programs are highly subsidized by both Polish and European funds, hence tuition fees are relatively low (as European higher education institutions are generously supported by national governments). Those, having experience with non-European universities, especially American ones, may check average fees there.

We are very sorry, but considering the good of the entire academic community, the authorities of the Faculty of International and Political Studies cannot decide to reduce tuition fees of the students of international programs. The decline in cost would block the operation of the program for all students. The priority of the authorities and employees is to maintain the fulfillment of the basic mission of the Jagiellonian University, including scientific and didactic tasks. Tuition fees could be reimbursed when basic teaching and program services are discontinued. However, the authorities did and are still doing everything to offer education with the highest possible quality.

We encourage you to care about your health, keep the distance and avoid big crowds. We hope that you will actively participate in online classes, gaining knowledge and abilities which may be derived from the character of our international programs and the devotion of our teachers and experts. Let us try to go through this most challenging time for us as an academic community and society, and return safely to in-class teaching in the second semester.

On behalf of the authorities and heads of the international programs
Dr hab. Paweł Laidler, prof. UJ
Dean of the Faculty of International and Political Studies