BOKU is starting to open up university operation

From 25 May, BOKU has started a controlled opening up of minimum operations in the form of reduced normal operation. With this process, a maximum of 50% of staff will be allowed to be on site at the university again. BOKU’s coronavirus crisis management team has set out the code of conduct and hygiene standards that must be observed for this.

For about two months, 80% of studying, teaching, researching and working at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna has been taking place remotely under complicated circumstances. “I would like to thank everyone who has been keeping things going and ensuring that (almost) everything has continued as it would under normal circumstances,” said Gerhard Mannsberger, Vice Rector for Organisation and Process Management.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he has led the BOKU coronavirus crisis management team carefully and calmly. “The health and safety of our students and staff is a major concern for us. Therefore, from the first day, we set out strict measures for assessing the overall situation, as well as individual cases,” explains Mannsberger, who had already led a crisis management team during his work at the former Federal Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry in response to the Galtür avalanche. 

For BOKU, he adapted the organisation of the coronavirus crisis management team to the university’s conventions: “Rather than a traditional crisis management team with seven people, on average, we actively included a much larger group of people – from staff council to representatives from the Austrian National Union of Students – in our decision-making, in line with the spirit of BOKU. At the last virtual meeting of the crisis management team, up to 25 people were present with a goal of factoring in the concerns of everyone who is employed at BOKU,” says Mannsberger. And everyone who has received an e-mail from him at 11:55 at night or 6:02 in the morning knows how seriously he takes his job.

On 4 May, the federal government announced a gradual “opening up” following the coronavirus crisis. This included an ordinance from the health minister (COVID-19-Lockerungsverordnung, BGBl. II Nr. 197/ 2020, COVID-19 Easing Ordinance, Federal Law Gazette II, No. 197/2020). However, in line with Article 11 of this Ordinance, this does not apply to universities, which means that every university is individually responsible for determining its own gradual readjustment to “normal operation” – under strict compliance with specific minimum requirements.

In line with the principle “as many here as needed, as many working from home as possible”, the phase of “reduced normal operation” should now be achieved at BOKU step by step by 2 June. Mannsberger: “Attendance can be arranged through shifts or alternating operation combined with modified forms of organisation. For this purpose, BOKU’s coronavirus crisis management team has set out the code of conduct and hygiene standards that must be observed for this, based on a handbook issued by the Federal Ministry for Science. All information on this can be found on the BOKU website at

“Reduced normal operation” must be organised in such a way that all safety and hygiene instructions can be observed as exactly as possible. Furthermore, there needs to be precise planning for who can be at the workplace and when. On the one hand, this will make it possible to assess if there are too many people in a building and, on the other hand, in the event of a coronavirus infection, the health authorities can be told precisely who might be affected by this. In terms of service facilities and staff units, all preparatory work has been completed in good time. “We currently still need discipline so that we can soon transition back to normal operation,” concluded Mannsberger.