Covid-19 Lockdown: UGC drafts plan to reopen campuses

Covid-19 Lockdown: UGC drafts plan to reopen campuses

Colleges and universities, when they eventually open after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) lockdown, may do so by first inviting only research scholars back to the campus and gradually open their doors wider to let in other students.

All higher education institutions will also need to form strategic tie-ups with medical facilities and put protocols in place to deal with students who are unwell. Students and teachers with a history of health conditions will be asked to opt for online learning and teaching.

As the human resource development (HRD) ministry readies for consultations on the reopening of institutions, teachers, students and parents, higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC), has drawn up an initial list of do’s and don’ts for campuses, officials familiar with the development said.

While the final standard operating procedures (SOPs) for schools and colleges will be published by the government after discussions between the health, HRD and other ministries, the UGC’s draft norms were part of the agenda at a meeting on the subject on Friday. According to an order issued by the Centre on Saturday, the health ministry may issue a protocol after discussions with the other ministries.

In the draft prepared by the UGC, it was suggested that the process of admissions be conducted online to avoid visits by students to the campus.

“It is advisable the admissions are done online so that students don’t have to come to campuses needlessly. It is also planned that some students, who have the online facility, should be encouraged to not to come to class and study on the web,” said one official, requesting anonymity.

Students and faculty with a history of ailments like heart disease or diabetes would be told to prefer the online mode. For international students, too, the focus would be on promoting the online mode of learning.

Institutions would be advised to stay in touch with health facilities and put in place a mechanism for quarantine; contact tracing would be followed in case a Covid-19 case emerges. Hygiene in common facilities like kitchens and libraries are among the issues raised.

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Regular screening of faculty and students and awareness drives are also part of the plan. In higher educational institutions, regular visits by counsellors to help stressed students are also planned.

Another suggestion, especially for teaching of subjects that have a practical component, is to teach half the students in the classroom and engage the rest in laboratories. Even in common facilities like labs, it will have to be ensured that equipment is not widely shared.

Varsities and colleges will also require to have plans in place to regulate the movement of outsiders.

“This is a very serious matter because initially it may seem just an isolated case, but the disease may spread quickly. Therefore, the measures need to be elaborate and detailed. However, these are preliminary suggestions and a final draft will only come after discussions with all stakeholders,” said a second official, who also requested anonymity.

Inder Mohan Kapahy, a former UGC member, said, “We should remember that implementing such SOPs shall be herculean task. The total number of students in higher education is about 40 million which is more than population of more than 150 countries. Numerical expansion has taken place without creation of matching infrastructure. Yet non conventional methods shall be required in post-Covid period.”

Courtesy: hindustan times

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