Coronavirus: S'pore universities suspend exchange programme to Italy, recall students

A circular to staff and students said NUS was in the process of contacting all its students based in Italy, and arrangements were being made for them to return to Singapore.
A circular to staff and students said NUS was in the process of contacting all its students based in Italy, and arrangements were being made for them to return to Singapore.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU) have suspended student exchanges to universities in Italy, in the light of the growing number of Covid-19 cases there.

NTU is also deferring student exchange programmes, deemed as non-essential travel, in Iran and Japan.

Late last month, exchange programmes to South Korea were suspended across NUS, SMU, NTU, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Such measures come as the number of coronavirus cases in these countries climbs.

On Monday, NUS senior vice-provost (undergraduate education) Bernard Tan sent a circular to students and staff that said the university is contacting affected students and that arrangements are being made for those who are in Italy to return to Singapore as soon as possible.

Prof Tan said: "The university is closely following the Covid-19 developments in countries where our students are on exchange. The safety and well-being of our students are of the highest priority - we will make the necessary decisions should the situations in these countries escalate."

In response to queries, an NUS spokesman said alternative arrangements for affected students are being explored, such as helping them obtain local internships.

"Students may also apply for a leave of absence for this semester and the university will assist them to secure modules in the summer semester, without incurring additional tuition fees," he added.

Meanwhile, an NTU spokesman said the university is monitoring the global situation and will take guidance from Government travel advisories to assess if there is a need to step up measures.

A spokesman for SMU said it has also contacted all affected students, noting that it is "disappointing news for students, but we have made a considered decision that has taken note of a range of emerging advice on safety in Italy".

"The university is in discussions with our partner universities in Italy on the possibility of offering distance learning as an alternative to those affected by this cancellation and will keep students informed of the latest arrangements in due course," the spokesman added.

The Singapore University of Social Sciences and Singapore Institute of Technology do not have any exchange students in Italy.

From today, travellers who have been to South Korea, northern Italy and Iran within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore, it was announced yesterday.

Singaporeans, residents and long-term pass holders who had been to these places in the last 14 days will be issued a Stay-Home Notice when they return, which means they must remain in their place of residence at all times for that duration.

KEEPING UNDERGRADS SAFE

The safety and well-being of our students are of the highest priority.

PROFESSOR BERNARD TAN, NUS senior vice-provost (undergraduate education).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2020, with the headline 'Universities suspend exchange programme to Italy, recall students'. Print Edition | Subscribe