Boston University Permanently Closes Four Study Abroad Programs

Boston University Permanently Closes Four Study Abroad Programs

By Christina Mehlhorn

Boston University is permanently closing four study abroad programs located in Dresden, Germany; Auckland, New Zealand; Grenoble, France; and Quito, Ecuador. 

Silke Fimmel, the director of the Dresden program, took it upon herself to write a letter to Robert Brown, president of BU, and Willis Wang, vice president and associate provost of Global Programs, addressing this decision. 

In her letter, Fimmel said that closing the Dresden program would have a larger financial impact on the University than a year-long suspension. That’s because the German Government has a plan to sponsor the suspension of work, subsidize workloads, and help employees who would be laid off during this time. Fimmel is still in communication with payroll to work out the costs. 

The Dresden program did see a slight decrease in enrollment last fall, but a change in housing providers caused those numbers to rise in fall 2020. The new facilities have single rooms with integrated bathrooms, which Fimmel said would have worked for self isolation and quarantining if the program were to continue in the future.

Although she is unsure of the profitability of the other study abroad programs, Fimmel said that Dresden has always been a successful program for Boston University, especially since it was one of the first options available for engineering students.

Fimmel has been with Boston University for 22 years. The last 20 of those years have been spent building the Dresden program from the ground up.

The professors at Dresden are contracted per semester, leaving many of them with jobs after the closure of the program, but for Silke Fimmel and her office assistant, the closure means they will be out of work completely. 

“Many students choose BU because of their full array of study abroad options, and cutting those options down, I don’t think it suits BU, because BU is still a leader in study abroad, among other universities, and they’ll cut back on their profile if they close down any study abroad options to students,” Fimmel said. 

Like Fimmel, numerous students and faculty have voiced their disapproval of the University’s choice on both a petition with over 3,000 signatures created by Grenoble Alumnus and an open letter with over 100 signatures. The letter will be sent to the University either later this week or early next week, the date is still to be determined. 

Among the students who have signed the petition is Cambria Sanders, a rising senior studying Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences. Sanders’ stay in Dresden this past spring was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When I was deciding a language at orientation,” she said, “there were professors representing each language department and the German professors really stood out to me and told me about the study abroad program in Dresden. After speaking with them, I knew I was going to choose to study abroad in Germany.”

Other comments on the petition include those from parents, saying their children may reconsider their decision to attend BU due to the closures of study abroad options.