UGC guidelines: Colleges and universities across the nation have started reopening their gates for offline classes after being closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure the safety of students, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued post-COVID-19 guidelines. As per the UGC guidelines, the universities and college campuses will function with 50 percent of students in attendance, and outside college activities will be restricted. Apart from physical distancing norms, colleges are expected to ensure students and staff members wear masks at all times and ensure the campus is disinfected every day.

Apart from the attendance, students and staff in colleges have been asked to follow the social distancing norms strictly on campus and wear a mask at all times. All students must also wash their hands in regular intervals and carry sanitizers.

Smaller class size in colleges, universities

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued guidelines to ensure that the colleges and universities in the country reopen with a smaller class size in order to maintain proper social distancing and avoid overcrowding.

The guidelines issued by the commission to colleges state, “Before reopening of any campus, the Central or the concerned State Government must have declared the area safe for reopening of educational institutions.”

Delhi University colleges have already opened their gates for the final year undergraduate and postgraduate students. The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has allowed entry of fourth-year Ph.D. and MSc and MCA students in its fifth and sixth phase of reopening. The Banaras Hindu University has decided to reopen its campus for final-year students from February 22, 2021.

UGC, in the guideline, has also asked colleges and universities to mandate regular visits of a counselor to ensure mental wellness and stress-free campuses. The commission has also asked the educational institutions to set-up helplines for the mental health, psychological concerns and well-being of the students. “Regular mentoring of students through interactions, and appeals/letters by the Universities/ Colleges to remain calm and stress-free. This can be achieved through telephones, e-mails, digital and social media platforms,” UGC guidelines added.

The educational institutions have been advised to restrict activities including visits of outside experts on campuses, study tours, and field works. The faculty, staff, and students of the university and college should be encouraged to download the ‘Aarogya Setu App’.

Colleges and universities have to provide online study material and access to e-resources to the students who prefer to study online while staying at home during this period. Institutions are also asked to make online teaching-learning arrangements for international students who could not join the program due to international travel restrictions or visa-related issues. “Faculty should be trained for online teaching-learning practices,” read the official UGC guidelines.