Universities in Singapore take Covid-19 precautions as students head overseas to study and work

The overseas programmes of all universities in Singapore were suspended from March 2020 because of Covid-19. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Students embarking on overseas programmes planned by their universities in Singapore must be fully vaccinated and have parental consent.

The local institutions said those going abroad are covered by student travel insurance policies and the coverage includes expenses for Covid-19 medical treatment.

A National University of Singapore (NUS) spokesman said it conducts pre-departure briefings for students to ensure they are aware of current developments in the country and partner university they are heading to.

"They must also complete and pass a compulsory travel preparedness module, and submit a risk acknowledgement and consent form signed by their parent or guardian," she added.

"Prior to their departure, they will need to e-register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and upload their travel itinerary onto the International SOS portal, so that support can be swiftly provided if the need arises," she said.

The overseas programmes of all universities in Singapore were suspended from March 2020 because of Covid-19. NUS resumed student exchanges in January this year and some 1,000 students will be travelling this semester.

The spokesman said NUS will continue to closely monitor the Covid-19 pandemic situation worldwide as it remains volatile. Programmes will be adjusted accordingly, in line with prevailing guidelines and travel advisories from the authorities.

A Singapore Management University (SMU) spokesman said its students' health and safety are its top priority, and they are allowed to travel only to countries deemed safe by the Health Ministry at the time of travel.

"The university has made provision for all students embarking on overseas travel to be able to utilise the International SOS' global assistance programme," she added.

About 450 students from SMU are going on exchange this semester, with some flying out as early as last December.

Professor Tan Ooi Kiang, deputy provost for education at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said students are required to attend pre-departure briefings and complete risk assessment modules.

NTU will be gradually resuming its exchange programmes in the new academic year starting in August.

A spokesman for the Singapore Institute of Technology said it is working with its overseas university partners to ensure that contingency measures are in place to cater to students in case they are infected while abroad. These include quarantine and hospitalisation protocols, as well as lesson continuity via virtual platforms. 

Its students are expected to start travelling from the first quarter of this year.

Some universities added that they are still relying on remote means of conducting certain programmes.

The SMU spokesman said it plans to continue with virtual internships this year, to allow students the flexibility of working with international companies without taking on the risk of travel and uncertain border control situations.

"Beyond the pandemic, we are keen to continue to offer virtual internships due to their strong learning outcomes arising from working with cross-cultural teams. This form of internship also allows students to work with firms in countries where internship visas are typically harder to obtain," she added.

SMU is tentatively hoping to resume students' community service work overseas in December this year. In the meantime, students will continue to support overseas beneficiaries virtually, such as through academic and enrichment programmes and skills training.

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