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Media statement: response to novel coronavirus

University of Sydney media statements about the COVID-19 outbreak
Latest updates for journalists about our response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and how we are supporting our community.

Update: Tuesday 27 October 2020

The Vice-Chancellor wrote to all staff, with an update on our Semester 2 census data:

Dear colleagues,

Census data for Semester 2

Following our delayed start to Semester 2, I am pleased to confirm our student enrolment results from the census taken at the end of September.
 
I am grateful and proud that we are in a better position than anticipated and have come much closer to achieving the original budget, set prior to the pandemic, than we thought possible. This vote of confidence in the University by our students both in Australia and overseas speaks to the quality of our teaching and the strength of our global reputation as a world-class institution.
 
In Semester 2 our domestic enrolments in both undergraduate and postgraduate courses remained relatively strong across all faculties and schools, resulting in a full-year outcome 2.4% higher than our original budget.
 
Our international student numbers for Semester 2 are far more positive than we had anticipated. At census our international enrolments were just 3.6% lower than originally budgeted. There has been an overall reduction in student load for the year against our original budget by 4.3% or the equivalent of 2,480 full-time students.
 
These very positive results for Semester 2 are by no small measure due to the efforts of many colleagues across the University to provide greater certainty for students around the delivery of teaching and to re-engage those students who deferred or suspended from Semester 1. My sincere thanks to you all.
 
Our overall student revenue position for 2020 is now 5.3% or $98m lower than our original budget. The impact of the continuing global pandemic on international student enrolments for 2021 remains difficult to predict, so while we welcome these results we must continue to prepare for a number of future possibilities.

Yours,
Michael.
 
Dr Michael Spence AC
Vice-Chancellor and Principal


Update: Thursday 17 September

Update on the voluntary redundancy program

The Vice-Chancellor wrote to staff today to advise them on the next steps for the voluntary redundacy program.

Read the email here

Update: Tuesday 1 September 2020

Update on the University of Sydney's financial position

The Vice-Chancellor wrote to staff today to advise them of the next steps we are taking in an effort to ensure we are as financially prepared as we can be for the uncertain future we face.

Read the email here.


Update: Tuesday 1 September 2020

Confirmed case of COVID-19 briefly visited campus

Last night, NSW Health informed us that a member of the public who has since tested positive for COVID-19 briefly visited Carslaw Building between 8-8.10pm on Friday 28 August. 

Read full statement here.


Update: 21 May 2020

The University today released figures showing the contribution made by University to the national and state economies, including details of the potential impact of COVID-19.

Independent economists ACIL Allen Consulting, who authored the report commissioned by the University of Sydney, said that in 2019, the University of Sydney alone contributed $5.3 billion to the NSW economy and $5.9 billion to the national economy. Since 2006, the university has contributed $68.3 billion to the Australian economy.

Last year that contribution helped support the equivalent of almost 31,300 full-time jobs in NSW and over 35,600 nationally. Those jobs are outside of the university and found across the economy, including in retail, construction, tourism, real estate and hospitality.

Read the full media release here.


Update: Thursday 14 May 2020

Semester 2 will commence on Monday 24 August

Yesterday Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to staff and students to inform them the University has decided to delay the start of Semester 2 by three weeks, with most units of study to be delivered remotely.

In the email to students he said:

“A delayed start will give our staff more time to prepare for teaching in Semester 2, building on our experience of Semester 1, 2020. It will also help us to plan for and implement a gradual re-introduction of face-to-face teaching.”

The full email to students is available here, and his email to staff is available here


Update: 3.30pm Tuesday 28 April 2020

Update on savings measures

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence today outlined further measures the University Executive has considered to meet the estimated total budget shortfall of $470 million in 2020, while working to minimise the impact on jobs.

In an email to staff, the Vice-Chancellor said: “We must extend the measures currently in place and increase the rigour with which they are applied. Some measures involve stopping existing activity, and some involve not starting activity that we had planned on the basis of a higher anticipated student load."

He provided examples of what the Executive thinks can be achieved in 2020:

  • More savings from capital investment and the deferral of small capital works, building improvements and new technology and facility upgrades. Only core maintenance programs to keep our campuses safe will continue. We anticipate that in 2020 this could save us $127 million.
  • Further savings in projects, consultants and contractors including a further reduction of allocated project budgets, deferral of some project investments to next year, and extended delivery timeframes for projects. In doing this we are expecting to achieve at least $52 million in savings overall.
  • The hiring pause will continue with tightened controls over any proposed new hires for continuing or fixed-term staff. Casual staffing budgets will be reviewed by each faculty and school to reflect expected student load. We believe that this should save $93 million.
  • In addition to the above we are anticipating that travel restrictions will remain in place; that in 2020 we will be paying less than we had budgeted for in international agent fees; and that we will award fewer scholarships than we planned. We anticipate that this will save an additional $23 million overall.

The full email is available here.


Update: 5pm Friday 24 April 2020

Staff encouraged to apply for JobKeeper Payment scheme

The University Executive believes the University is eligible to receive funding under the recently announced JobKeeper Payment for entities that have been significantly affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Our media statement is available here.


Update: 2pm Wednesday 8 April 2020

Census numbers and University's financial position

Today Vice Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to staff with an update on performance compared to 2020 targets and the likely impact on the University’s financial position.  

"For Semester 1 at census we have 9.9% fewer students enrolled than we had planned for in 2020," Dr Spence said.

"Our domestic student numbers remain relatively stable and are 4.8% below target. However, the global pandemic and the impact of travel bans on our international students has resulted in enrolments 16.8% below our target for 2020, which has significant revenue implications.

"We are now assessing what this means for the University’s overall financial position for 2020... we estimate the University’s COVID-19 related shortfall for this year will be $470 million."

The full email is available here


Update: 9am Wednesday 8 April 2020

Support for Higher Degree by Research students

Last night, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to students, expressing the University's commitment to supporting our Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students undertaking research projects through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Spence outlined several steps the University is taking to support HDR students and thier progress:

  • Extensions on submission deadlines and other project milestones
  • Extension of scholarship stipends
  • Waiving fee impacts of an extension for international HDR students
  • Support for financial hardship

Dr Spence also noted further steps on a case-by-case basis are likley, as the full impact of the pandemic becomes clearer.

The full email is available here.


Update: 1pm Tuesday 7 April 2020

Support for students

No-disadvantage assessment

In an email to students, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence outlined the suite of financial support and other measures the University had put in place to help them focus on their studies.

He also expressed the University's commitment to ensuring no student is academically disadvantaged as a result of the health crisis and announced the University had adopted a ‘no-disadvantage’ position on assessment.
 
Part of these measures include:

  • Adjustments to special consideration requirements and the use of discontinued and other grades for students whose studies have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 circumstances
  • In addition to the existing Weighted Average Mark (WAM) system, the University will also calculate a COVID-adjusted WAM  that excludes Semester 1 2020 results, and will be added to final academic transcripts. 

The full email is available here.


Update: 8.30pm Sunday 22 March 2020

NSW Government moves to shutdown non-essential services

Confirmed case of COVID-19

Today Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to staff, after the NSW Premier announced changes to rules that govern how we operate in NSW.

NSW Health also confirmed over the weekend that unfortunately a member of our staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member, who works in one of the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centres on the Universty of Sydney-RPA Campus, followed NSW Health advice and did not come to work when they were unwell or infectious.

The full email is available here


Update: 1.30pm Thursday 19 March

Sydney University Football Club player tested positive

All attendees of 14 March post-match function considered close contacts and required to home isolate

Further to our statement below, NSW Health has advised that all those attending the Australian Club Championship post-match function (following a game between Sydney University and University of Queensland rugby clubs), held at the Sydney University Football Ground Function Room on Saturday 14 March starting at 7.30pm and finishing at 10.30pm are considered close contacts, and will be required to home isolate until midnight Saturday 28 March.


Update: 8pm Wednesday 18 March 2020

Sydney University Football Club player tested positive

We’re aware a player with Sydney University Football Club has tested positive for COVID-19 and that the Club is working with NSW Health to manage the situation. We understand the player is not a University of Sydney student, but that students of ours are on the team and now need to self-isolate and monitor their health.

We have offered our support to the Club at this difficult time and urge any of our staff or students who are concerned to first follow the advice of NSW Health regarding self-quarantine and self-isolation, and to seek medical advice if they feel unwell. 

Additional support is also available from our Counselling and Psychological Services for students and our Employee Assistance Provider.

While affiliated with the University, Sydney University Football Club is administered and coordinated by its own executive board, overseen by independent company Sydney University Sport and Fitness Limited.


Update: 5.30pm Tuesday 17 March 2020

Online teaching and learning only, staff encouraged to work remotely

In order to protect our staff and students and broader community, the University of Sydney's Crisis Management Committee today made some important decisions:

  • to accelerate our move to online teaching, with all teaching and learning to be delivered online from Monday 23 March
  • to encourage as many staff as possible to work from home or remotely where possible.

For further details please refer to today's emails sent from our Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence to all staff and students.


Update: 5:30pm Sunday 15 March 2020

Confirmed case of COVID-19

Six locations on the University of Sydney campus are being intensively cleaned today (Sunday 15 March) after a student was diagnosed with COVID-19 on the weekend.

Read the full statement here.


Update: 5pm Friday 13 March 2020

New policies to protect students and staff announced

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence today sought advice from NSW's Chief Medical Officer to confirm whether any extra measures were needed to better protect the health of staff and students, and the broader community.

In light of that conversation, the University Executive has announced new policies.

Read the full statement here.


Update: 6pm Friday 6 March 2020

Study options and support for affected students

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence also wrote to our students from China today, after the Australian Government  extended the travel restrictions from China until 14 March, and concern about the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate.

In the message he outlined study options and the University's support available to affected students.

Read the full email, and his subsequent message to staff.

Update: 1:30pm Friday 6 March 2020

Our plans for students needing to self isolate

The University of Sydney is planning for several scenarios in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the safe and appropriate housing of all our students living in our University-owned accommodation.

The full statement is available here.


Update: 1pm Tuesday 3 March 2020

Safeguarding against the financial impact of COVID-19

The University of Sydney today announced a series of measures to safeguard the institution from the growing economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

The full statement is available here.


Update: 5:30pm Tuesday 18 February 2020

University of Sydney study options for students affected by the travel ban

The University of Sydney today confirmed there are more than 800 Units of Study across many programs available for online supported learning for part or all of Semester 1. 

This information is now available on our website to help students plan the study options that suit them best.  

Options for affected students include:

  • Remain in China for all of Semester 1 and choose up to four units that offer full semester online supported learning. 
    These units will allow students to take a full semester of online supported learning. Lectures, tutorials and assessments will take place online for the majority of these units. Students will still be able to join an on-campus class if they are able to arrive in Sydney during semester. If there is an ‘in person component of study’ they will be able complete it once they are able to attend on campus, and prior to the commencement of Semester 2. This information will be updated on the Canvas page for each unit.
  • Commence studying up to four units in China with part-semester online supported learning and join classes on campus once travel restrictions are lifted. 
    For these units, the first five weeks will be delivered online. Students will need to attend in-person classes on campus in Sydney by week 6, Monday 30 March to complete the remainder of the unit and have it counted towards their degree. These units may require students to sit exams in person, attend laboratory sessions and/or undertake practical assessments at our campus in Sydney.
  • Students can choose to withdraw from a unit or defer their studies by 31 March 2020 and enrol again in a later semester. There will be no fee to defer or withdraw.

Courses with a delayed start
In a small number of courses the start of Semester 1 has been delayed by two weeks to begin on 9 March. This does not mean a later finish date. Classes will conclude at the normal time for exams, and students will not be at any disadvantage.  If a course has a delayed start, students will have received communication from their faculty directly. 

Online supported learning
In most units, lectures will be recorded and made available for download using ECHO360, Zoom will be used to support tutorials, and Canvas will be used to share learning resources. The University is also putting solutions in place to improve the access experience for online materials from within China. More detail on the tools and resources for online supported learning will be available on the Canvas page for each unit.

As we prepare for classes to begin next week, we ask our students in China to stay strong. They are very much part of our community and we hope to be able to welcome them to Sydney in person soon.


Update: 11am Friday 14 February 2020

Today the University of Sydney issued a statement, following yesterday's announcement that Australia would extend entry restrictions for a further week from 15 February.

The full statement reads:

"The safety and wellbeing of all our students is our highest priority. Since the outbreak occurred, we’ve been closely monitoring the situation, liaising with other universities and taking advice from the federal government and NSW Department of Health to help mitigate the impact of this terrible situation on all our students, both here in Australia and those still in China.

We remain committed to supporting our students still in China with their studies during this uncertain time. We are working to enable options to enrol in Units of Study that will provide online supported learning for the first five weeks of Semester in some programs, and the whole of Semester in others. These options will allow students to join classes in person on campus when the ban is lifted.

Units of study that are able to offer online supported learning will be available on Tuesday on our website. Students in China also have the option of withdrawing or deferring without penalty until March 31.

For our other students it is business as usual. All courses are set to begin on the first day of our semester (24 February, 2020) apart from our Master of Commerce and Master of Professional Accounting which have both been delayed for two weeks till 9 March.

Today, we’ll also inform students five additional specialist postgraduate Business programs will also be delayed for two weeks until 9 March.

Our international students are wonderful ambassadors for Sydney and Australia both back in their home countries and around the world. We value and are proud of all the contributions they make to the academic and cultural life of the University and we encourage everyone to continue to be respectful and compassionate during this difficult time."

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to all staff and affected students in China on 14 February 2020. 


Update: 4pm Friday 7 February 2020

Today Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence wrote to staff and international students about the work we are doing to help those unable to join us on campus for the start of semester 1 – including remote study options for as many programs as possible and special study arrangements.

His full message to students is here, and to staff here


Update: 11.30am  Thursday 6 February 2020

Last night Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to all University of Sydney staff and our students in China, informing them:

  • the last date students need to be on campus to join classes has been extended to 30 March
  • we are exploring alternate commencement dates for a small number of post-graduate programs
  • we're working to confirm remote teaching arrangements where feasible 
  • we have launched a hotline to provide advice and support. 

Read his full message here.


Update: 4pm Monday 3 February 2020

Today Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence wrote to all staff, to advise them that Semester 1 will commence on 24 February as planned. 

Read his full message here.


Update: 8.45pm Saturday 1 February 2020

We note the announcement made today about entry restrictions to Australia and are considering its implications. The safety and wellbeing of all our students is our highest priority. Since the outbreak occurred, we’ve been closely monitoring the situation, liaising with other universities and taking advice from the federal government and NSW Department of Health.

A high-level staff response team has been convened to monitor and manage the situation on a daily basis.  

We’ve been communicating directly with students (current and commencing) who may have been in the affected regions. We have asked them to provide us with an update on their circumstances and offered support.

Last week we announced that we had implemented the following measures:

  • Stopped all student and non-essential staff travel to China and Hong Kong until further notice;
  • Allowed all affected students the flexibility to enrol up to two weeks after the start of semester (by day 1 of week 3, Monday 9 March) unless there are exceptional circumstances which would prevent them from completing the course; and
  • Offered commencing students who have been impacted and unable to travel to commence their studies the option to defer or have their fees refunded.

We’re working to ensure disruptions to all of our students, both commencing and continuing, are minimised as far as possible - including looking carefully at the viability of offering online lectures as one option for students in China.

We will continue communicating with our students and staff on our approach, including available support, throughout this unsettling period.


Update: 12 noon Thursday 30 January 2020

Further to yesterday’s update, our recent correspondence with all staff and current and commencing students also provides revised health advice in line with the updated guidance for universities provided by the federal Department of Health

In particular:

  • Students who have recently travelled to Hubei Province or have been in contact with a person infected with novel coronavirus virus must self-isolate for 14 days after leaving the province or having had contact with an infected person. We will be contacting these students to offer support.
  • Self-quarantine does not currently apply to university students arriving from the rest of China or any other country unless they are unwell or have had contact with a person who has been infected.

We continue to advise our community to follow the basic hygiene guidelines provided by the NSW Health fact sheet and to refer to guidance provided by the federal government Department of Health

Staff requiring additional assistance or arrangements should talk to their manager as these will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Staff can also access our Employee Assistance Program for support if needed.


Update: 4.20pm Wednesday 29 January 2020

The University of Sydney will write to all staff and current and commencing students, providing an update on precautionary measures we are taking in response to the novel coronavirus.

We note the current risk to staff and students in Sydney remains low, however the safety of our staff and students is our priority.

Key updates for our community are:

  • Following Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advice to reconsider travel to China, there will be no student or non-essential staff travel to China and Hong Kong until further notice (transiting via Hong Kong airport is considered safe).
  • All affected students will be allowed to enrol up to two weeks after the start of semester (by day 1 of week 3, Monday 9 March) unless there are exceptional circumstances which would prevent them from completing the course.
  • Commencing students who have been impacted and are unable to travel to commence their studies will have the option to defer or have their fees refunded.
  • We will try and support any continuing student who is able to demonstrate that their studies have been constrained by being unable to leave the Hubei province or coming into contact with an affected person. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis to support students in these circumstances.

Our community should continue to follow the basic hygiene guidelines provided by the NSW Health fact sheet and continue to refer to guidance provided by the federal government Department of Health

Staff requiring additional assistance or arrangements should talk to their manager as these will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Staff can also access our Employee Assistance Program for support if needed.


University of Sydney statement: Tuesday 28 January 2020

The safety and wellbeing of all our students is our highest priority.

We’re closely monitoring the situation, liaising with other universities and taking advice from the Australian Government and NSW Department of Health. A high-level staff response team has been convened to monitor and manage the situation on a daily basis.  

Since the outbreak occurred, we’ve been communicating directly with students (current and commencing) who may have been in the affected regions. We have asked them to provide us with an update on their circumstances and have offered support.

Students still in China have been asked to follow the advice of the Chinese Government and to avoid travel if they are ill. We have assured them that we will support them if they are unable to travel to Sydney in time for the start of semester one on 24 February 2020.

We are currently assessing a range of different enrolment options and more information about those options will be released soon.

We have advised staff and students to avoid travelling to the Hubei province until further notice and are assessing options for students due to commence placement or study exchanges to China in semester one.

On campus, staff at our University Health Service have been providing advice and support. As NSW Health has directed, students or staff who are feeling unwell are being advised to phone a general practitioner or their local hospital for information and not to visit in person.

We’ve also reminded staff and students to follow the basic hygiene advice below to stay healthy:

  • Using soap or alcohol-based hand wash frequently and washing hands for at least 20 seconds each time;
  • Covering their mouth or nose if sneezing or coughing with a flexed elbow and disposing of tissues immediately,
  • Avoiding contact with anyone who is unwell, including avoiding areas where there are people sneezing
  • Not attending study or work if they’re unwell.

28 January 2020

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