University closures on the table in response to potential coronavirus outbreaks
UTS deputy vice chancellor (education and students) Shirley Alexander said the university has a pandemic plan and would work closely with NSW Health.
With a partial or full campus closure, the university will make alternative teaching arrangements available depending on the duration of the outbreak including online, private study or altered teaching periods.
“Like any other organisation the health of our community is our major priority,” she said.
“If there is a major outbreak we will follow the advice of NSW Health and that advice will probably include whether or not we need to close the campus in full or in part.”
Charles Sturt University Vice-Chancellor Andrew Vann said his university campuses have installed extra sanitiser stations while encouraging stricter hand hygiene.
“In the event of an outbreak, we are prepared for additional cleaning, self-isolation and to close residences, or if necessary an entire campus,” Professor Vann said.
“As an experienced provider of online learning, we will enable our students to switch to online modes if face to face is not available. Around this, we have student support services and processes to request extensions or special consideration.
“Our staff will also have ability to work from home if required. Critical operations have continuity plans to enable us to continue operations should an outbreak occur.”
The University of Sydney said it is considering a range of options to mitigate risks.
“These include provisions for increased cleaning and sanitiser stations, use of masks, online teaching and meetings, flexibility and support for staff and students, cancellation of larger events, daily monitoring of our community and more – depending on how the situation ultimately unfolds,” a university spokeswoman said.
“We will continue to adhere to the advice of health authorities, and take any further required actions as directed by NSW Health. The safety and wellbeing of our community is our highest priority.”
Another university said online learning would be restricted because not all faculties could maintain the same level of quality without face-to-face teaching.
A Western Sydney University spokesman said: “Above all else, this is a public health issue, and we are following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, and Commonwealth and State authorities.”
Australian Catholic University said it was considering a number of options in the event of an outbreak including flexibility around class and exam timetabling and online course delivery.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said each university would have developed its own approach with measures and actions “appropriate for its unique circumstances”.
A TAFE NSW spokesman said it would look at changes to the delivery of courses “in the event of extended disruption to operations” as a result of the coronavirus.
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.