Dilemma as coronavirus outbreak affects universities, international students

The human, economic, and academic loss from the coronavirus outbreak keeps mounting across China and the world in general.

The emergence of the coronavirus has affected the 2020 academic year negatively as several universities and students are in a conundrum whether to resume school or not.

Notably, more than 100,000 (56 percent) of Chinese students who traveled during the holiday is yet to return to their various academic institutions.

On January 30, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

After the declaration, various countries and institutions noted they were working on strategies to help students and staff, whether the impact of the epidemic.

Currently, the death toll from the coronavirus is nearing 500, with more than 24,500 people infected globally.

Australia, where universities are highly reliant on Chinese enrolments, imposed a travel ban on any foreign national from entering or transiting in Australia until 14 days after leaving or transiting through, anywhere in mainland China.

Universities response to the coronavirus outbreak

Many universities responded to the coronavirus outbreak in mixed manners. While some were reassuring and supportive, other noted structures were being put in place to prevent contamination.

Monash university noted it is postponing the resumption of its semester by one week, because of the outbreak.

Also, the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, and the Queensland University of Technology have asked it’s’s Chinese students to enroll later or defer their admission. At the same time, some other universities are rescheduling their summer exams because of the coronavirus outbreak.

However, some universities have also responded inclusively by reassuring students, Chinese students, in particular, that they will be welcomed back with little disruption to their studies.

Notably, most universities haven’t shifted their semester resumption dates. Others have instructed their students coming from China to self-isolate and not come to campus for 14 days. Others are offering online courses specifically for students stuck in China.

How academic institutions can assist

It is general knowledge that the coronavirus outbreak is affecting all spheres of people’s lives, and the educational sector is not left behind.

The need to embrace and support international students, especially those from China, is currently sacrosanct.

Universities and the government should provide support to the broader student cohort, including transitioning late international students to classes mid-semester.

It is also crucial universities provide academic advice and support to students feeling left behind in their courses. They must also strengthen services for distressed students affected directly or indirectly by the coronavirus outbreak.

Notably, the best way to proceed for academic institutions should be based on respect and empathy.