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University cancels semester exchanges in response to the coronavirus

The University is cancelling several exchange programs and is activating a financial shock recovery plan.

In a travel advice update, the University of Sydney (USyd) has cancelled all semester exchange programs in mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea and northern Italy, and is encouraging students in these areas to return to Australia and self-isolate for 14 days.

This is part of a broader policy to suspend all student and non-essential staff travel until further notice, and includes exchange programs, field schools and all other overseas placements in affected areas.

Tim Livingstone is one student who had already flown out of Australia for his exchange at the University of Pavia, Italy. He told Honi, “Before waking up to this email, I received zero communication from the University of Sydney regarding the COVID-19 situation and zero warning that my exchange might be cancelled. Up to this point, all I had heard from USyd was regular COVID-19 messages from the Chancellor that were sent out to all students, but I received nothing from Study Abroad to check up on myself or other students in affected countries and we certainly had no warning that the University was going to shut down exchanges.”

Students were given two options to ensure that their study is not affected: complete the coursework from their exchange university online, or pull out of the exchange and re-enrol in classes at USyd. However, as the latest date that students can add or change units for Semester 1 is this Friday, 6 March, it’s likely that this will be impossible for some students and that it will disrupt their study significantly.

This comes as the University evaluates the financial impact of COVID-19 and introduces five key savings measures. 

In an email sent out to staff yesterday, Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence announced that USyd will be activating a financial shock recovery plan as it expects to fall short of its $2.8 billion budget by more than $200 million. 

The measures include limiting capital spending on equipment and infrastructure, deferring project spending that is not a priority, reducing money spent on entertainment, international travel, contractors and consultants, and putting a pause on recruitment. The University has also advised that Faculties and Schools should review their casual teaching budgets, though they have emphasised being mindful of the impact that this will have on employees.

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