The University Grants Commission on Thursday issued guidelines for the re-opening of universities and colleges that can be adapted according to local conditions and directives of government authorities.
In the detailed document, UGC suggested graded or phased re-opening with “not more than 50% of the total students should be present at any given time”. Before reopening of any campus, the central or concerned state government “must have declared the area safe for opening of educational institutions”, it said.
Universities and colleges will only be allowed to reopen if they are outside containment zones and students and staff living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend. Students and staff will also be advised not to visit areas falling within containment zones.
While defining the modalities for the physical reopening of colleges and institutions outside containment zones, the UGC advised re-opening in a graded manner after consultations with concerned state governments and subject to adherence to the guidelines for safety and health protocol prepared by UGC.
According to the guidelines “universities and colleges may plan opening the campuses in phases with such activities where they can easily adhere to social distancing, use of face masks and other protective measures".
Universities and colleges can bring back researchers first because they are not in huge numbers. “Students of all research programmes and post-graduate students in science and technology programmes may join as the number of such students is comparatively less and norms of physical distancing and preventive measures can be easily enforced,” said the guidelines.
Final year students may also be allowed to join for academic and placement purposes as per the decision of the head of the institution. However, the UGC advised “it should be ensured that not more than 50% of the total students should be present at any point of time and necessary guidelines/protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are observed”.
For other programs the guidelines ensure “online/distance learning continue” as the preferred mode of teaching. However, if required, students may visit their respective departments in a small number for consultation with the faculty members. For this they must seek prior appointments to avoid crowding, while maintaining physical distancing norms and other safety protocols.
Some students may opt not to attend classes and prefer to study online while staying at home. Institutions may provide online study material and access to e-resources to such students for teaching-learning.
For international students, UGC advised that institutions should have a plan ready. Online teaching-learning arrangements should also be made for them.
The UGC guidelines said crowding must be avoided at entry/exit points and there must be staggered timings of entry and exit with limited strength for different programmes. “For ensuring queue management, inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of 6 feet may be made and be adhered to,” it said.
Regarding hostels, the UGC advised that they 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.”
For residential students joining from different locations, they must “remain in quarantine and self-monitor their health for a period of 14 days before being allowed to attend classes or as per the policy opted by the respective state government for quarantine (even if they bring a negative test report or the university/college plan to test them on arrival)”.
There should be no crowding in hostel areas where students live in close proximity and share common facilities and utilities. “Hence, their numbers need to be limited appropriately to avoid crowding. Also, hostel students should be called in phases.”
“Cleanliness is to be maintained in dining areas. Meals should be served in small batches, avoiding over-crowding. Take away options should be available for students and staff,” said the UGC guidelines.