Following a six-day schedule, staggered classes, thermal screening and strict adherence to Centre’s Covid-19 norms are among the guidelines issued by University Grants Commission on Thursday, for the phased reopening of higher education institutions across the country.
The commission has allowed colleges and universities outside containment zones to reopen after consultation with the governments of their respective states or Union territories. Further, only the students and staff living outside containment zones will be allowed to attend the colleges or universities.
In the case of centrally funded universities and colleges, the heads of institutions have been asked to take the call.
“For centrally funded higher education institutions, the Head of the Institution should satisfy herself/himself regarding the feasibility of the opening of physical classes and decide accordingly,” the guidelines stated.
No timeline has been set for the reopening of the colleges.
Among its suggestions, the UGC has asked institutions to extend teaching hours, plan six-days a week schedules, and reduce the size of classes. “Depending on the availability of space in classrooms or learning sites, up to 50% of students may be allowed on a rotation basis to attend the classes…,” the guidelines stated.
The UGC has allowed all research scholars and postgraduate students in science and technology programmes to join considering their strength is relatively low. “Further, final year students may also be allowed to join for academic and placement purposes, as per the decision of the head of the institution,” the guidelines stated.
The UGC has also directed all the higher education institutions to prepare a plan for international students who are unable to join due to international travel restrictions or visa-related issues.
The institutions have been asked to ensure regular disinfection of frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, chairs, benches, and washroom fixtures, etc, using 1% sodium hypochlorite.
For hostels, the UGC has advised reopening only in necessary cases. “The sharing of rooms may not be allowed in hostels. Symptomatic students should not be permitted to stay in the hostels under any circumstances,” the guidelines stated.
Universities and colleges suspended physical classes on March 16 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The guidelines received mixed reactions from universities and colleges in Delhi.
Delhi University dean of colleges, Balaram Pani, said that the University will consult all the stakeholders before taking any decision.
“Right now the number of cases is increasing in Delhi and the condition doesn’t look favourable to reopen the university immediately. We will have to take a wider consultation from all the stakeholders before taking any decision,” he said.
Ujjayni Ray, hostel warden at Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College, pointed out that before reopening hostels, universities and colleges will have to check whether the existing infrastructure is adequate or not.
“We have to assess whether existing infrastructure allows us the space to isolate symptomatic students,” Ray said.
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