The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Thursday released guidelines advising higher education institutions, outside containment zones, to reopen in phases, starting first with research, masters and final-year undergraduate students. However, the number of students attending classes on campus, at a given time, should not be more than half the total student strength, the guidelines state.
Higher institutions and schools across the country are closed since March 16, on the orders of the union government, to break the chains of COVID19 transmission. Last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed state governments to decide on phased reopening after October 15. The Punjab government, for instance, has announced the reopening of universities and colleges after Diwali, from November 16.
Aside from standard precautions of regular disinfection of premises and screening of teachers and students on campus, the higher education regulator has also suggested institutions extend teaching hours and follow a six-day schedule to accommodate students in batches and ensure social distancing. Wearing a mask is mandatory for all teachers and staff on campus. Attendance for students will be voluntary. Universities have been asked to continue online classes for students who wish to study remotely.
Residential campuses will be allowed to operate hostels “where it is necessary”, but sharing of rooms has been forbidden. “Symptomatic students should not be permitted to stay in the hostels under any circumstances,” the guidelines state.
“Isolation facilities for symptomatic persons and quarantine facilities for those who were in contact with the positively tested persons should be there on campus or a tie-up may be made in advance with some Government hospital or approved premises or as advised by the local authorities so that, in case of necessity, prompt action may be taken. Proper arrangement of safety, health, food, water etc. should be ensured for those in quarantine and isolation facilities,” the guidelines also state.