Higher education sector to focus on safety and health

PETALING JAYA: Higher education institutions (HEIs) are ready to adhere to the strict standard operating procedures when their students return in stages from Oct 15 to continue and complete their studies.Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh (pic) said they are ready to abide by the SOP which is designed for the safety of all students and staff.

“At the same time, over the last 18 months, we have become familiar with all the protocols in managing a safe environment and are determined to ensure that no clusters emerge,” said Parmjit, who is the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation chief executive officer.

He also said students, who are waiting to complete their practical work, can now do so in their campuses, which was previously not possible on a remote basis.

Yesterday, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad said HEIs will reopen in stages starting Oct 15, involving all categories of HEI students who are fully vaccinated, in all phases of the National Recovery Plan.

“This decision was made during a discussion session with the National Security Council (MKN) and Health Ministry as well as HEI management involving vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors, representatives from private HEIs, student representative council and student union/association representatives,” she said.

The National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napei) welcomed the updated SOP, stating it was an important step so as to allow students to return to campuses to continue with face-to-face learning.

“During our discussion with the minister, we suggested that students who are yet to receive their student IDs be allowed to use their offer letters to access vaccination centres to get their vaccines.

“What we hope will be addressed is allowing students who have not attained the age of 18 due to their date of birth, to get approval from MKN to be vaccinated. These are the group of students who will be joining pre-university courses, such as foundation and diploma.

“Even if most students or all students are vaccinated, we still cannot allow all of them to return due to the SOP and each HEIs capacity,” said its president Elajsolan Mohan, adding that HEIs must ensure that those outside the HEI ecosystem, such as vendors and visitors, must be fully vaccinated before they are allowed in the campus. This is to create a ‘campus bubble’,” he added.

Universiti Putra Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international) Prof Dr M. Iqbal Saripan said the varsity will be allowing students back to campus in three phases, based on the updated SOP.

UPM’s 2021/2022 academic year, he said, starts on Oct 18.

“In the first phase, we will allow 25% of students to be on campus; these are clinical students, interns, teaching practicums, students who need to use the Internet and those who require special assistance in their learning.

“Phase two will be in mid-November, where another 35% will be allowed back. These are students who require labs, studios and on-site work.

“Meanwhile, the last phase will begin in mid-December where another 10%-20% will be allowed back,” he said, adding that the rest will continue studying online.

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