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Covid-19: Universities in UAE hopeful about returning to on-campus learning

nandini@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 14, 2021

(Amity/Twitter)


Universities in the UAE are gearing up to welcome students on campus in the fall semester.

While face-to-face learning was open to students in the last semester in most universities, the country’s robust vaccination drive in the past few months has instilled further confidence in the education sector.

As students express their desire to return for on-site learning, varsities are equally ready to welcome them back, with designated staff monitoring the implementation of all Covid protocols and assuring everyone that it’s once again safe to resume face-to-face learning.

Dr Kavita Shukla, Vice President of Student Recruitment, Amity University Dubai said: “Students are ecstatic and hopeful about returning to on-campus learning. We are looking forward to seeing an increase in the number of students opting for face-to-face learning next semester.”

Colleges conduct summer campaigns to boost vaccination drive

Even summer campaigns are being launched to encourage all students to get vaccinated.

“Once everyone is vaccinated, we are planning and expecting a 100 per cent return. Our 700,000 square foot campus is equipped with the facilities and space to accommodate students and staff, while also adhering to the social distancing norms”, added Shukla.

Additionally, universities are working on alternate academic schedules and class structures for every programme to take into account the increase in student capacity for the new semester.

She added further: “Flipped classes and digital learning will also continue to accommodate international students or students with any health concerns. With hundreds of new students joining us in September, we are determined to ensure that their University experience includes social interactions, events and practical course work in a safe and secure environment.”

Dr Vikas Nand Kumar Batheja, Co-Founder & Director, Capital University College, opined: “We already have face-to-face learning for practical programmes, which we will be transitioning for other courses too for this fall intake. We also intend to restart our cross-country/city industrial tours this year that will make them better equipped and reflect positively on their student experience. Lastly, we have identified select subjects/modules from different programmes that have been more effective through online means. We hope to continue those similarly for our students to have quality teaching, international exposure and practical learning as the primary focus.”

Varsities are also in the process of streamlining weekly sterilisations and following the highest safety measures so that their learning is not compromised in any way.

Officials point out colleges are committed to keeping a closer eye on the on-campus activities to prevent any infections and implement programmes that will create further awareness of the rules that must be adhered to.

Prof Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice Principal, Heriot-Watt University Dubai avers: “Given the rapid roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines in the UAE and as we look forward to the new term, we anticipate that there will be an increase in on-campus, face-to-face engagement with social distancing, mask wearing and similar precautions in place. However, some elements of teaching will continue to be delivered online. Additionally, we have created the new position of a ‘Response Manager’, whose role is to oversee health and safety of employees in the office as well as ensure compliance with all Covid-19 protocols.”

Whilst universities deliver classes on campus, they further expressed their commitment in supporting those students who would not be able to physically attend classes on campus, offering more flexible options to them.

Parallelly, varsities are also working on maintaining hygiene facilities in hostels as students return to campus.

Nahid Afshan, Senior Manager-Admissions, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus said: “Plans are ongoing to reduce the larger batches into smaller class sizes to comply with all the safety protocols. Around 40 per cent of our students are from other countries and avail hostel facilities. The on-campus hostels will be available to accommodate the students who are returning now, ensuring that the operation and organisation of the hostel is in accordance with the protocol and maintaining all the safety and hygiene measures.”

Nandini Sircar





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