19 March 2020

ANU to pause classes as unis respond to COVID-19

| Michael Weaver
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Student with laptop

Students at ANU should not stop studying due to a pause in classes. Photo: Supplied

Updated, 19 March: The Australian National University will pause coursework teaching for one week from Monday, 23 March. Coursework teaching will recommence on 30 March.

The University remains open, including libraries, childcare centres, retail outlets and residential halls.

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said during the pause, all staff, including casuals, will continue to be paid and the pause will not affect any planned leave or self-isolation arrangements. He also said students should not stop studying.

“I want to be clear. This does not mean coursework students should stop studying. You should continue your studies. The pause is in teaching, not learning. Students are encouraged to keep studying independently,” Professor Schmidt said.

The Australian National University is also recalling staff and students from overseas while moving to deliver its classes online as Canberra’s two universities respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Professor Brian Schmidt emailed all staff and students on Monday (16 March) detailing how classes would be delivered online where possible to limit the spread of the virus.

The University of Canberra’s vice-chancellor and president, Belinda Robinson, said classes will be held as normal, but all staff and students are being encouraged to adopt social distancing and personal hygiene protocols.

UC’s graduation ceremonies scheduled for the first week of April have been cancelled, though their awards will be conferred as scheduled.

“Testamurs will be promptly posted out and graduands will be offered the opportunity to participate in a future ceremony,” Ms Robinson said.

“All large gatherings have been cancelled and members of our university community have been advised not to participate in any non-essential meetings or gatherings where social distancing of 1.5 metres may not be possible.

“We are well advanced in our planning, particularly through online course delivery, to ensure that our students are able to continue with their studies regardless of whether our campus remains open.

“These are extraordinary and challenging times. It goes without saying that our number one priority is the health and wellbeing of our staff and students while being mindful of the role we can play in helping to stem the spread of COVID-19 within the broader community,” Ms Robinson said.

University of Canberra graduation ceremony

Graduation ceremonies at the University of Canberra have been cancelled. Photo: University of Canberra.

Professor Schmidt said all ANU staff and students who are overseas or on an exchange would be recalled back to Australia where they would have to self-isolate for the mandatory 14-day period.

“This week we are going to start to push for full online delivery of many of our large classes and look at those smaller classes and tutorials, where social distancing is hard,” Professor Schmidt said.

“That way we can find appropriate solutions.”

The ANU will also cancel public events and social gatherings as an additional precaution to minimise the risk of the transmission of COVID-19.

Essential activities related to teaching and research, including lectures, tutorials, team meetings and community support such as childcare, will continue as normal.

The university will stop all non-essential public and social events on ANU campuses from 16 March until the end of semester one on 20 June.

Among a raft of measures, he said a community wellbeing group will support all staff, students and visitors to the university.

Information is being provided on current travel restrictions, public health measures, support for those needing to self-isolate and work or study arrangements.

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt. Photo: File.

In the email to staff and students, Professor Schmidt said the university would continue to respond as the COVID-19 virus evolves. He said the ANU’s chief operating officer Paul Duldig would be coordinating more than 100 staff in their support team across the campus.

“The university has also suspended all future international travel until further notice. Staff who are currently overseas on university travel will be contacted and be provided with support to return home.

“Domestic travel on university business is actively discouraged,” Professor Schmidt said.

He said there also needed to be a balance with the continuation of some form of normality with the avoidance of a large-scale breakout of the virus.

“We also know that if the disease does break out, it can be controlled by large scale shutdown of activity, as demonstrated in China and Korea. The risk is then that spread may happen again unless subsequent measures are enough to stop its spread.

“We all have a role to play. The better we do at containing the disease by our actions, the less draconian measures we’ll need to take in the future, and the safer our community will be. So, pay attention to personal hygiene and social distancing. And keep washing those hands,” Professor Schmidt wrote.

For information on COVID-19, visit ACT Health or the Federal Health Department’s website. You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

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