Covid-19: What are Malaysia's public universities doing? Online classes and more...

File picture showing graduates attending the International Islamic University Malaysia’s 34th convocation ceremony in Gombak. IIUM on March 12 urged its staff and students who had attended the Sri Petaling mosque event to report to the university’s clinic, health and medical centres, and on March 13 cancelled its Student Activity Week scheduled from March 16 to March 20 in conjunction with IIUM Takrim Month 2020 in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
File picture showing graduates attending the International Islamic University Malaysia’s 34th convocation ceremony in Gombak. IIUM on March 12 urged its staff and students who had attended the Sri Petaling mosque event to report to the university’s clinic, health and medical centres, and on March 13 cancelled its Student Activity Week scheduled from March 16 to March 20 in conjunction with IIUM Takrim Month 2020 in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Malaysia yesterday saw its highest-ever jump in Covid-19 cases when numbers of confirmed cases almost doubled to its current tally of 428 cases, further highlighting the need to ramp up precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11 declared the Covid-19 as a pandemic, while Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in a special message on the night of March 13 announced several measures including the temporary suspension of all gatherings including sports, social or religious events until April 30 and the Education Ministry’s cancellation of all gatherings at schools.

With schools now on a break as part of a pre-scheduled week-long holiday, what about public universities? Do they have to cancel classes and are there alternatives to lessons involving face-to-face interactions such as online learning?

Here’s a list of what all the 20 public universities in Malaysia have been doing or have announced this month up to noon today, based on their websites and official Facebook pages:

1.         Universiti Tun Hussein Onn (UTHM) 

After having yesterday confirmed that one of its staff at its Pagoh campus had tested positive for Covid-19, this Johor-based university shared prevention tips as well as hotlines manned by its crisis management team to provide quick and accurate information.

In regular updates throughout yesterday, UTHM said it would suspend all lessons at its Pagoh campus for one week from March 15 to March 19 with lessons to resume via a full online course from March 22 until April 2, while all classes at its main campus at Parit Raja to be fully online from now until April 2.

UTHM also announced that its Pagoh campus will be closed down to all from today until March 19 for decontamination works except for certain essential staff such as those at its health centre and with all other staff allowed to work from home, while also urging all students who had attended a mass religious gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur from February 27 to March 1 to immediately show up for screening.

2.         Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

Today, UKM announced that it would conduct its classes fully online from today onwards with students allowed to follow such classes from their residence, and that all practical and out-of-classroom activities would be postponed while lab research could continue on.

On March 13, UKM issued a series of announcements, including an early notice for lecturers to prepare for online lessons with the university to order for full online lessons if the situation becomes serious, also urging for the immediate suspension of all mass gatherings including workshops and seminars.

Besides making it mandatory for all staff and students who attended the Sri Petaling mosque event to go for Covid-19 testing, UKM also on March 13 banned its community from travelling to high-risk countries, advising for travel to other countries to be postponed and requiring the seeking of special permission for overseas trips for critical purposes.

3.         Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM)

Today, UUM said lectures from March 15 to 26 will go on as usual with lecturers allowed to use online teaching, while the mid-semester break from March 27 to April 4 would continue with students allowed to return home, while lectures from April 5 onwards would be fully online with students allowed to follow such lessons from outside campus or at their hometowns.

UUM today said all exams, quizzes, assignments and project presentations will also be done online, including the final exam from May 31 to June 27, while noting certain students such as international students, those from Sabah and Sarawak would be allowed to remain within campus during and after the semester break.

UUM had on March 12 told its staff and students to postpone trips to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran during the upcoming semester break or face disciplinary action and requirement to undergo home surveillance upon return from such countries.

UUM said staff travelling abroad must seek approval while students travelling abroad must notify the university, further encouraging domestic travels instead in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2020.

UniMAP announced the postponement of its royal gala hi-tea event initially scheduled on March 24 in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture via Facebook/UniMAP
UniMAP announced the postponement of its royal gala hi-tea event initially scheduled on March 24 in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture via Facebook/UniMAP

4.         Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP)

Today, UniMAP announced the postponement of its royal gala hi-tea event initially scheduled on March 24 in Kuala Lumpur.

It also released today a four-page advisory to ban all staff and students from travelling abroad for official or personal purposes, to postpone all mass gatherings, to shorten library opening hours and recommending the use of online library resources, and to provide guidelines on lab research work, among others.

UniMAP yesterday announced that its staff are banned from today onwards from using their thumbprints on biometric scanners to record their attendance, giving them three other options of signing in using GPS coordinates, Wifi log-in, or using their staff card at biometric systems. 

UniMAP also announced that all classes will now be conducted online instead of face-to-face from March 16 (today) until April 5, while also banning all students from returning home or leaving the campus and campus hostels during the same period, with anyone needing to leave campus to seek permission first. 

It also amended its schedule for the second semester for bachelor degree students such as for lectures and deferring the mid-semester break, while also postponing the diploma final examination for the second semester initially from March 24 to April 12 to the new dates of April 6 to April 26.

The university previously also decided to carry on with the two events of Perlis International Engineering Invention Innovation Exhibition (March 20-22) and an international conference on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (March 19-20) but with participants asked not to attend and to email their materials instead, and for the jury’s evaluation to be conducted online.

5.         Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS)

UMS previously shared on its Facebook page an announcement dated March 13 of its encouragement for online lectures using the university’s existing platforms to replace classes or activities exceeding 30 students, while allowing lectures, tutorials, classes, labs of 30 students or less to continue on with precautions of students seated at least one metre away from each other and allowing only healthy students to attend.

A further update yesterday however showed that all lectures and tutorials would be conducted through virtual classes using the university’s existing platforms from today onwards, and that all practicals and outdoor activities would be suspended for now.

Yesterday, it also advised for students to not come to its treatment centre if they have no Covid-19 symptoms and no close contact with affected individuals and merely want to get checks, pointing out that swarming the place en masse would increase the risk of healthy people getting infected and also potentially result in true positive cases being missed while busy attending to too many healthy people.

Apart from sharing official information on the Covid-19 situation and tips, the university had on March 13 advised for the cancellation or postponement of all events involving mass gatherings such as seminars and workshops, limiting or postponing all club and association activities, banning travel to high-risk countries while also urging postponement of travel to other countries not listed as high-risk, and urging staff to take care of themselves and their families during the school holidays from March 14 to March 22.

UMS today also shared its official social media accounts and announced the closure of its Dewan Kuliah Pusat to any activities or events beginning from today until further notice.

6.         Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI)

Today, it announced shorter operating hours for its library as a Covid-19 prevention measure.

On March 14, UPSI announced a series of measures including the postponement of all gatherings including those exceeding 50 participants, workshops, seminars, sports events, and postponement of all overseas travel with special permission needed for any critical travels and a review of the need for any domestic trips.

In the same announcement, UPSI said all lectures will go on as usual, with lecturers encouraged to use online learning for classes involving more than 50 individuals, and for classes involving less than 50 to be carried out with only healthy students allowed entry, students to sit at least one metre apart, advising students to frequently wash their hands or use hand sanitisers and to shorten the interaction time.

7.         Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP)

Aside from sharing official Covid-19 prevention tips and contributing 10,000 medical gloves to hospital workers at partner university Hebei University in China, UMP also shared on March 14 news reports of its decision to postpone all programmes and gatherings including the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET), Entrepreneurship and Career Carnival initially scheduled to be held on March 21 at its sports complex.

Today, UMP announced that the entry to Taman Teknologi dan Inovasi (TTI) and the TTI building at its Gambang campus will be temporarily closed from today for disinfection work until the end of such cleaning up works, while also advising its academic staff on the online learning methods that can be used.

8.         Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT)

On March 13, UMT said all face-to-face classes for bachelor degree students would be replaced by e-learning from March 16 to March 20, with lab lessons or small-group projects allowed to carry on with the necessary health precautions.

On March 14, UMT said student activities within campus involving less than 50 persons can continue if no external individuals are involved while out-of-campus activities are to be cancelled, also cancelling all visits to or from China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, France, Spain and Germany and for personal trips to countries affected by Covid-19 to be avoided.

UMT also advised for the suspension of seminars and academic meets as well as all academic and community programmes for this year, and said it is compulsory for staff and students to undergo health checks if they had attended the Sri Petaling mosque event or had contact with family members who attended and tested positive and that they would be denied entry to campus until their health status is determined.

Today, UMT announced a webinar by its technical team to help lecturers conduct online classes, and also announced the temporary closure of its gym from today until further notice with cleaning works to be carried out.

UMT said those with symptoms and higher health risks are discouraged from going to the university’s mosque while those who travelled abroad have to self-quarantine for 14 days before visiting the mosque, with physical contact discouraged and hand sanitisers to be provided.

It also said the university mosque will continue to hold congregational and Friday prayers but with the time to be shortened, while all mosque activities would be suspended until April 30.

9.         Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)

Yesterday, USM announced 16 initiatives that have been or are being implemented, including a special allocation of RM350,000 to deal with Covid-19, and with a special crisis committee already set up with meetings at least once a week to plan strategies to prevent and manage Covid-19, and with sanitisers provided at lecture halls but with stock limited until April and with face masks to be supplied to staff who are frontliners.

The initiatives also include replacing all lectures with online learning from March 15, postponing or cancelling seminars and workshops with online meetings considered as the best solution and with screening and preventive measures required if the events have to go on.

USM is also banning all staff and students from overseas official trips and advising the replacement of domestic official trips with online communications instead and also urging the postponement of non-official travel both locally and internationally, and the postponement of visits to the university by external visitors.

10.       Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM)

UTeM yesterday announced that it has set up a crisis team to meet daily and monitor the Covid-19 situation to advise and provide recommendations to the university’s top management.

On March 13 (Friday), it shared the Education Ministry’s decision to suspend all mass gatherings such as sports and co-curriculum activities for March, while also announcing that the university’s mosque would have a shortened Friday sermon period that day and also advising congregants to perform ablution elsewhere and use hand sanitisers prepared by the mosque.

On March 12, it also shared that its Pusat Islam had hand sanitisers prepared to help prevent Covid-19.

UM posted its notification to its academic staff, where it strongly encouraged them to use online learning methods to replace physical classes and to take the necessary Covid-19 precautions for situations that have to be done in a physical setting such as clinical work. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
UM posted its notification to its academic staff, where it strongly encouraged them to use online learning methods to replace physical classes and to take the necessary Covid-19 precautions for situations that have to be done in a physical setting such as clinical work. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

11.       Universiti Malaya (UM)

On March 14, the university posted its notification to its academic staff, where it strongly encouraged them to use online learning methods to replace physical classes and to take the necessary Covid-19 precautions for situations that have to be done in a physical setting such as clinical work.

UM also told them that it is compulsory to find alternative methods for all community engagement and out-of-campus activities or activities that require overseas travel.

12.       Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)

On March 13, UPM’s deputy vice-chancellor announced that for the period of March 14 to March 22, all lectures would be conducted via virtual classes, while all practical and out-of-class activities would be postponed with students allowed to participate in virtual class activities from their hometown.

13.       International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)

IIUM on March 12 urged its staff and students who had attended the Sri Petaling mosque event to report to the university’s clinic, health and medical centres, and on March 13 cancelled its Student Activity Week scheduled from March 16 to March 20 in conjunction with IIUM Takrim Month 2020 in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

On March 14, IIUM’s student union election commission announced the postponement of the election, while the student union separately clarified that IIUM classes will continue on as normal and that a class session being postponed until April 30 is only for the Master of Education School Holiday programme.

14.       Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

On March 1, UTM highlighted that it had already on February 29 advised staff and students against travelling to China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy, with international students from such countries advised to defer their registration if they had yet to arrive in Malaysia.

On March 12, UTM said all academic programmes such as workshops held outside the university are to be suspended, while lectures and small-group projects can carry on with the necessary precautions while also encouraging e-learning or the online delivery of lectures.

The university said it would allow all student activities within campus such as club activities, but disallowed any activities involving external visitors such as forums and seminars.

15.       Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)

UiTM on March 12 announced the suspension of a series of planned expos on March 13-15 and March 21-22 at several UiTM state branches, while also postponing the university’s 92nd convocation ceremony to a new date to be announced.

On March 14, UiTM also announced that its football match with the police’s football team scheduled for the next day would be held behind closed doors without any supporters allowed to attend.

Others

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) on March 13 shared the Higher Education Ministry’s decision to cancel the Jom Masuk IPT programme initiallly scheduled to be held in Perak, Terengganu, Sarawak and Selangor this month.

Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), which had shared the same Jom Masuk IPT cancellations and the Education Ministry’s suspension of sports events, yesterday denied a Whatsapp message of a purported lockdown of its medical faculty as fake news.

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) and Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) posted Covid-19 prevention tips on their Facebook page, while Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia’s (USIM) today shared the hotline for its Covid-19 response centre.

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