Canberra’s two universities are on the front foot to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (CoVID-19), with the University of Canberra asking Chinese students to defer their studies for the first semester.
This follows the extension of the Australian Government’s travel restrictions to and from mainland China.
Around 800 students from mainland China are currently studying at the University of Canberra (UC). More than 400 students were in Australia before the travel restriction was imposed on 1 February.
UC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Geoff Crisp said the decision to ask students to defer was not taken lightly, as it will affect about 380 Chinese students still in China after the 1 February travel restrictions were implemented.
Students will have until 2 March to defer, or arrive for classes, and will be automatically deferred beyond that date. No fees will be charged for affected students.
Professor Crisp said 17 Chinese students had arrived in Australia early and are currently in self-isolation. Eight of those students are in a dedicated isolated on-campus residence with separate air conditioning units.
“Those students are being taken care of with medical and counselling support from our experienced team via phone, being delivered food and groceries, and have been provided with care packages,” Professor Crisp said.
“UC is unique in that our semester starts far earlier than most universities so we have had to act quickly to alleviate our students’ anxieties around the commencement of studies this week,” he said.
“Our dedicated staff have worked hard to investigate the best solution for these students to ensure they are able to complete their degrees while enjoying a good learning experience.”
Professor Crisp said the University had exhausted all avenues for study option for the students still in China.
“Due to complications from the Chinese firewall, access to study materials and the multiple variations of individual student’s study plans, we would rather ensure our students continue to receive the high-quality face-to-face experience offered here at UC, instead of an online version of our career-focused degrees with practical work-integrated-learning units.
“Our top priority is to ensure that our students have the best possible learning experience and academic outcomes,” Professor Crisp said.
He said UC continues to remain engaged with its students, both in China and on campus in Canberra through dedicated support and advice during this difficult and unforeseen situation on an international scale.
Orientation week at UC began on 3 February, while the first semester started on 10 February.
At the Australian National University (ANU), the first semester will commence as planned on Monday, 24 February. Orientation week is from 17 to 21 February.
An ANU spokesperson said if students are unable to start classes by 10 March they would be able to defer studies for a semester.
“ANU is committed to supporting affected students so that they can still complete their studies with as minimal disruption as possible,” the ANU said on its website.
“We are exploring a range of options to do this. These include online courses and teaching, weekend catch up classes and lectures, intensive summer and intensive winter courses and, where appropriate, allowing students to enrol in an increased study load.
“The ANU is considering how to respond to the needs of students who are prevented by the Australian Government travel restrictions from coming to the ANU to commence living in their on-campus accommodation.
“The ANU residential community is being proactively provided with up-to-date health and safety measures that they can take to ensure that all staff, students, contractors and others who visit the campus remain healthy. This includes the use of hand sanitising, face masks and a 14-day self-isolation in dedicated residences.
“ANU has followed the advice of health authorities every step of the way. That means everyone you meet on campus has already been through the required period of isolation.”
The ANU has a dedicated page on its website with the latest information, while a coronavirus fact sheet for students is available on the University of Canberra website.