COVID-19 response update: No Hibernation for University

UOW Council briefed on pandemic response

COVID-19 response update: No Hibernation for University

Members of the University of Wollongong (UOW) Council have been updated at their meeting today (Friday 3 April), on the work and planning being done in response to the large scale impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on University operations.

Council members were reassured UOW is continuing to follow all guidance and directions of the Commonwealth and NSW Governments while prioritising the health and wellbeing of its students, staff and communities in all aspects of its response to COVID-19.

The University’s governing body was briefed on actions taken in response to the outbreak since early January to protect the health and wellbeing of students and staff, transition to remote course delivery, maintain business continuity, and support the Institution’s financial resilience.

These began with convening a Crisis Management Team in late January, supported by working groups from across the University, and establishing expenditure controls, effective from 10 February.

An overview was also provided of the measures already implemented and being explored to assist students suffering disruption and financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include waiving the Student Services and Amenities Fee for the first half of 2020, providing flexibility in student accommodation contracts, extending the enrolment deadline to Friday 3 April and deferring census date-the date after which students become financially liable for their enrolment-from 31 March until 16 April.

Economic impact and recovery

The Council was advised that, like all Australian universities, global travel restrictions meant UOW’s 2020 international student numbers are much lower than planned and also noted that, due to the census date deferral, the availability of confirmed data about current student numbers and enrolments has also been pushed back.

“This pandemic is clearly having a financial impact on the institution through reduced student numbers and the global downturn in investment returns. These impacts continue to be modelled as reliable data becomes available,” UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, said.

UOW, with support from the NSW Vice-Chancellor’s Committee and Universities Australia, is in discussion with the Commonwealth and State Governments about the significance of higher education in training students needed in the health systems and during an economic downturn to help reskill Australians who are now jobless.

“In an economy where some sectors are going into hibernation in order to ride out the pandemic, the last thing that should slow is the university sector, as high level training is one of the only routes back to a resilient and vibrant economy,” Professor Wellings said.

Remote course delivery

The briefing also included the institution-wide collaborative effort to transition to remote course delivery that has resulted in 1026 subjects prepared for online teaching, staff from all faculties trained in technology enhanced learning techniques and arrangements being made for the small number of subjects that cannot be delivered online.

The census date deferral gives students a chance to experience UOW’s new remote delivery offering before being financially committed to their chosen subjects.

Professor Wellings also praised the work done by staff in recent weeks to achieve this transition.

“Under the guidance of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Theo Farrell and his team, staff across UOW have pulled together to do an extraordinary job in transforming the delivery of our degrees, putting in place the technology and developing the skills required to provide our students with a positive remote learning experience.

“Achieving this outcome is a key part of our current five-year strategic plan, so to have achieved so much toward this objective in just weeks is a truly remarkable achievement,” Professor Wellings said.

Autumn Session recommences in remote delivery mode from Monday 6 April.

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