The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued guidelines for the reopening of universities and colleges across the nation, in line with the process of gradually opening the lockdown enforced due to COVID-19 pandemic. As per the new guidelines, universities and colleges outside the containment zone can be opened in a sequential manner after consultation with the respective State/UT Governments. The guidelines have been vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Education.
UGC suggests six-day weeks, smaller class-sizes to enable social distancing, however, teaching hours in a day may be extended, as per the institution’s requirements.
“Six-day schedule may be followed so that classes can be conducted in phases and the seating arrangement be made keeping in view the requirements of physical distancing. Universities and colleges may consider reducing the class size and break them in multiple sections to maintain physical distancing during the classes,” read the official statement.
The new guidelines have asked the institutions to ensure that “before reopening of any campus, the Central or the concerned State Government must have declared the area safe for reopening of educational institutions. The directions, instructions, guidelines and orders issued by the Central and State Government concerned regarding safety and health in view of COVID-19 must be fully abided by the higher education institutions.”
Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ took to Twitter and announced the release of the new UGC guidelines. He said, “It is a request to all educational institutions, students, parents and all those associated with the education world to ensure compliance of these guidelines for the survival and bright future of themselves and others.”
In addition to this, all the institutions must be ready to handle the inflow of students, faculty and staff in the campus. Campuses must comply with monitoring disinfecting measures, safety and health conditions, screening and detecting the infected persons, containment measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the campus.
UGC allows students of all research programmes and post-graduate students in science and technology programmes to join the institution as the number of students studying at PG level is less. However, it is to be ensured that the norms of physical distancing and preventive measures are followed. Final year students may also be allowed to join for academic and placement purposes, as per the decision of the head of the institution.
Institutions have to provide online study material and access to e-resources to such students who prefer to study online while staying at home. Institutions are also requested to make online teaching-learning arrangements for international students who could not join the programme due to international travel restrictions or visa-related issues.
Only if accommodating the students at the campus is necessary, the universities will be allowed to open the hostels. “Hostels may be opened only in such cases where it is necessary while strictly observing the safety and health preventive measures. However, the sharing of rooms may not be allowed in hostels. Symptomatic students should not be permitted to stay in the hostels under any circumstances,” read the statement