Coronavirus outbreak

Students on overseas placements to be recalled as soon as possible

Students on official overseas placements, including all internships and exchange programmes, will be asked to return to Singapore as soon as possible, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a statement yesterday.

With developments on the coronavirus outbreak - including new border restriction measures announced yesterday to reduce the number of imported cases in Singapore - the MOE and institutes of higher learning (IHLs) have decided to suspend all official overseas placements until the end of July.

"Students who are currently on such overseas placements will be recalled as soon as is practicable," said the ministry.

MOE said that IHLs will address students' concerns about the loss of credits earned during their exchanges or placements.

There will be no delay in students' graduation, and IHLs will support affected students by providing alternative learning arrangements, such as credit-bearing modules during the summer semester or local internship placements.

"As most of the affected students are second-or third-year students, they also have the option to take additional credits in subsequent years.

"In the coming weeks, the IHLs will work with each affected student to finalise these alternative arrangements," the MOE said.

It added that the alternative arrangements should not impose additional financial costs on students, and the additional modules or local internships will not add to the current school fees.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has already asked students to come home. It is recalling some 200 students on an overseas internship programme after the MOE last Friday afternoon issued a directive requiring all overseas students at IHLs to return to Singapore as soon as possible.

The recall by NUS will be a large-scale operation that needs to be done in phases due to the size of the programme's cohort, according to an e-mail sent by the university to students on the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme, which was seen by The Straits Times.

NOC is an internship programme with an emphasis on technology entrepreneurship, and participants spend either six months or a year at a start-up overseas and take entrepreneurship courses at a designated partner university.

NOC director Chee Yeow Meng said in the e-mail: "NUS has been closely monitoring the Covid-19 outbreak across the world with great concern.

"We now feel it prudent and urgent to recall all overseas NOC students back to Singapore," added Professor Chee, who is also NUS associate vice-president for innovation and enterprise.

Providing more details on the recall, he said the students' location managers and directors will be in touch with them on the dates, periods and logistical arrangements for their journey back to Singapore.

"We will ensure that you will suffer no academic loss and financial loss due to this recall," he wrote, adding that the university will put in place a meaningful programme for students to continue their NOC programme in Singapore even after they return. They will also fully receive their academic credits for the programme.

Prisca Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2020, with the headline 'Students on overseas placements to be recalled as soon as possible'. Print Edition | Subscribe