The University of Sydney has announced it will begin moving many units online in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
“Whilst for now, our campuses are open, new advice from the NSW Chief Health Officer is to try and avoid, where possible, using communal facilities where lots of people congregate,” an email from Vice Chancellor Michael Spence to staff and students states.
All student, academic and public events and conferences on campus will also be cancelled from Monday, 16 March. The cancellation does not affect regular classes or research, but does include graduation ceremonies. Affected students will be able to graduate in absentia, with the option to attend a graduation ceremony at a later date. Spence also encouraged clubs and societies to cancel or defer events “for the time being.”
It is unclear when events will be able to proceed as normal. Experts estimate that Australia will see a peak in COVID-19 cases in July or August this year.
The decision comes amidst uncertainty for staff and students as to whether the University will close campuses, moving teaching online. On Wednesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that University staff had been asked to prepare online class plans for the rest of the semester.
Several American universities, including Harvard and Columbia University, have already closed their campuses seeking to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
The University has already cancelled several exchange programs in response to the virus.
It is unclear whether this ban on campus events would extend to events not hosted by the University itself. This includes the planned National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) rally protesting the University’s austerity measures in response to the coronavirus, due to be held on Wednesday 25 March.
More to come.