How Will the 2021-2022 Academic Year Look Like?

LLM in IHL and Human Rights and MAS in Transitional Justice

In these uncertain times related to the COVID-19 pandemic, one can wonder how the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year will look like at the Geneva Academy for our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights (LLM) and our MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ).

‘While we cannot say what the situation will be in September 2021 – when students of our LLM and MTJ start their one-year journey at the Geneva Academy –, we are ready for all possible scenarios in order to guarantee the well-being of our students and the high-level quality of our teaching’ underlines Professor Gloria Gaggioli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

Scenario 1: Back to Normal

In the best-case scenario, all our students are in Geneva in September 2021 and can attend all the courses, our events and the many conferences that are taking place in Geneva throughout the academic year. Travel restrictions, quarantines or lockdowns belong to the past.

‘This would be the dreamed situation and I think we all look forward to it. However, we also envisage less-optimistic scenarios and we are ready for them’ explains Professor Gaggioli.

Scenario 2: Dealing with COVID-19 Measures

Even if everything is back to normal in Geneva with students being able to attend classes, we know from experience that the situation can change quickly. There might still be travel restrictions and quarantines in place – for students coming from abroad, having been in contact with a sick person or being sick themselves –, as well as lockdowns to address outbreaks of COVID-19 cases. Social distancing and sanitary rules are also likely to stay with us for some time.

‘While we are confident that most of our students will be able to come to Geneva this September –as it has been the case this year –, we must be prepared to the fact that the virus might still be with us for some time. We are therefore ready for any kind of scenarios and will be able to maintain a hybrid system with courses taught simultaneously in-class and online for the 2021-2022 academic year’ explains Dany Diogo, Coordinator of Masters Programmes at the Geneva Academy.

Hybrid Teaching: Ensuring the Quality and Continuity of Teaching in a Rapidly Changing Environment

The system of hybrid teaching – where courses are given simultaneously both in class and online – allows accommodating different scenarios in a rapidly changing environment and ensuring the continuity of all our programmes.

‘While our preference is to have all our students in the class, we need to ensure that our LLM and MTJ programmes can continue in all circumstances and for all our students. Our hybrid system – in place since the first lockdown back in March 2020 – allows us to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and adjust to the measures enforced by the Swiss authorities and to ensure both the quality of our teaching, as well as the well-being and safety of our community’ explains Dany Diogo.

‘Especially in these difficult times, we remain more than ever committed to enabling a unique experience of learning in a vibrant, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary environment, at the intersection between theory and practice, where faculty members and students from all over the world can share a wealth of expertise, experiences and different perspectives on the challenges facing societies emerging from armed conflict or oppressive regimes’ say Frank Haldemann and Thomas Unger, former Co-Directors of the MTJ.

A class of the MAS in Transitional Justice during the COVID-19 pandemic

A Growing Experience

Our professors, teaching assistants and staff have developed a great deal of new skills with online teaching since a year now and our staff is strongly mobilized to provide professional support to both faculty and students. Every effort is therefore made to continuously improve the online teaching experience.

Our experience also shows that if needed most extracurricular activities – like events, exchanges with practitioners or seminars –can successfully take place online. Studying and working remotely also brings new opportunities for students, including the possibility to hear from and exchange with experts in the field and participate in events with speakers from all around the world.

‘The whole world has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic and from governmental measures taken to fight it. So have our students. Nevertheless, my experience as teacher in the last 11 months of hybrid and online teaching has been that students were able to study seriously, to plead interactively, to become a real class and not simply a number of individuals on computer screens, and to be more successful in very serious exams than they had been on average previously. We changed the teaching and learning method considerably, to make it even more interactive and I will keep many of these changes even when we will be able to come back, as we all hope, as soon as possible to face-to-face teaching to the greatest possible percentage of students’ says Professor Marco Sassòli.

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