Aruna Verma, Associate Professor and Programme Director at ULaw's Hong Kong campus

6 plans the UK education system should put in place in the event of a #Coronavirus shutdown #COVID-19UK

In February, The University of Law (ULaw) launched a number of initiatives at its Hong Kong campus, including suspension of all face to face teaching, due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the city. 

We followed Hong Kong government guidelines and in line with other institutions, we decided to suspend all face to face teaching at our campus.

The utmost importance to us was ensuring continuity of study for our students and to that end we delivered (and continue to deliver) online workshops and lectures in real-time, to ensure students are receiving their scheduled training from home.

In light of the recent news regarding the decision to move from the “contain” to the “delay” phase of the government’s Covid-19 strategy, there’s speculation that the UK government may decide to close colleges and universities and stop face to face lectures.

How would the UK education system cope if it goes into complete shutdown? 

Having already handled this situation at ULaw’s Hong Kong campus, here are some plans UK university providers should consider putting in place, if the government decides to close all campuses:

1. Follow the advice from the Department for Education (DfE) and Public Health England

The Office for Students wrote to all universities on 9th March requesting ongoing information on the number of confirmed and suspected cases of the virus on campus, as well as details of how institutions are responding to them. Should providers have confirmed cases on campuses, they must notify OfS immediately.

It’s also vital providers keep up to date with the latest advice from the Department for Education. Following government guidelines and setting up the right methods to ensure we could respond quickly were the most important factors when making key decisions at our Hong Kong campus.

2. Virtual classrooms

An essential action for us in Hong Kong was to ensure that all colleagues and students were familiar with virtual teaching software as soon as possible and had the appropriate training to be able to use it. Students and staff should be provided with links to access the virtual classrooms and staff should have a document to hand that is easy to access, providing the links for the virtual classrooms for each campus.

Taking learnings from our Hong Kong campus, we’ve made contingency plans to ensure a business continuity across our UK campuses.

3. Student wellbeing

In the event of closures, ensure dedicated members of staff are on hand to contact students frequently to check on their wellbeing and answer any questions or concerns they may have - this can be done via virtual systems that providers may introduce. Staff should make sure each student knows they’re fully supported throughout this process and that their wellbeing and studies are extremely important to the university.

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4. Extracurricular activities

The social distancing at our Hong Kong campus affected us all (both staff and students), therefore we decided to schedule extracurricular sessions for students to engage in.

These sessions covered various topics including ‘how to negotiate’ and ‘writing a CV and covering letter’.

We recommend providers consider running similar activities to keep both staff and students engaged, whilst continuing learning and development throughout the process.

5. Regular and consistent communication

Sharing newsletters with both staff and students during the closure will ensure both parties are kept informed of relevant business updates.

This gives providers the opportunity to communicate any further plans or actions that are being put into place with staff and students. 

6. Online taster sessions

Should campuses close, face to face taster sessions won’t be able to take place. Therefore, we advise running online taster sessions instead. Providers should have a dedicated member of staff running the sessions and look to target new students interested in their offerings. This will ensure providers still have the opportunity to speak with prospective students.

No one had planned for this outbreak, however, there are many measures providers can put into place should universities have to close. I can’t stress enough the importance of following government guidelines and putting strict measures in place based on its recommendations.

Regarding our Hong Kong campus, we’ve resumed face to face teaching from today, Monday 16th March.

Aruna Verma, Associate Professor and Programme Director at ULaw's Hong Kong campus

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