Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Last updated 01/04/20

At present University College is monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and implementing measures to keep our community safe and continuing to operate. We need to be proactive and have decided to introduce additional measures to increase social distancing as outlined below. Some of our students, staff and wider visitors could be particularly vulnerable to the severe complications that may come with contracting COVID-19. So now is the time to listen to expert advice, which is recommending that we all have to do our bit to minimise transmission and the impact on our already strained health services.

We will update these FAQs regularly and continue to review our response to this evolving situation in line with recommendations from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer and the DHHS. Please do not hesitate to contact the College on info@unicol.unimelb.edu.au if you have any further queries or concerns.

Have there been any COVID-19 cases at UC? What will happen if there is a case?

While there are no current cases (or suspected cases) of COVID-19 at UC, we have developed a health care plan for students, outlining possible scenarios if a case of COVID-19 were to be suspected or confirmed. We will also inform you immediately should a suspected or confirmed case occur.

Is UC going to close?

The College continues to operate as an essential service for our students and has no intention of closing unless instructed to do so by government.  Rest assured that our students’ welfare remains first and foremost and students will continue to have access to all academic and wellbeing support services via online or telephone. While there are no current cases (or suspected cases) of COVID-19 at UC, we have developed a health care plan for students, outlining possible scenarios if a case of COVID-19 were to be suspected or confirmed. We will also inform you immediately should a suspected or confirmed case occur. The College has no plans to shut at this time. We remain committed to supporting our students to stay in college at any stage of this crisis as long as they do not have a confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus, or we are required to shut by relevant authorities.

We know that some of our students cannot go home during the Easter break and they will stay at the College under our existing guidelines. We have a secure food supply and stock and can continue as needed. For anyone choosing to stay at College, we ask them to follow our social distancing rules and hygiene practices as directed. These may become even more restricted depending on what happens with the virus, our government’s response and expert medical advice.

While the College has no plans to close at this time, all students and their parents must have a ‘plan B’ in the event that the College is directed to close for a period of time. This is something you must take action on and we recommend you investigate options for alternative accommodation.

When can I come back to UC?

This is a challenging time for all, and for many of you it will be more important than ever to have a supportive environment in which to continue your studies via online learning, while having the companionship of your friends, facilities and services here at UC. One of the key challenges we face at the moment is developing strategies to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 from interstate and international sources as students return to the college.

The Stage 3 government directives ask you to limit your movement (where possible) to contain the spread of COVID-19 throughout the community. If you are intending to return to UC we ask you to have a conversation with our Dean of Students regarding your plans. Monitoring the number of people in our community also helps us to support the wellbeing of our students and ensures that we can provide services (i.e. college food) accordingly. Of course, if you can stay home, government advice would advise you to do so in order to limit international, interstate and domestic travel.

Please know that we continue to operate as an essential service, as per current government / medical advice, and are here for you! Nonetheless, it is essential that you advise us if you intend to return to UC. Those not intending to return for the time being will keep their room allocation unless otherwise advised.

What is life like on campus right now?

We acknowledge that due to the government measures the nature of the college experience will be very different, but we all have to do our bit to keep each other safe. As with other colleges, within our community here at UC we have taken practical steps to support you in implementing the latest government guidelines. However, upon returning to college, you would be expected to observe the same social distancing and isolation measures that you are currently experiencing at home. Sites of accommodation and residential colleges are certainly not exempt from government / medical advice, and as such, returning to college cannot, and must not, be considered as a way to ‘escape’ the rules of social distancing, group gatherings, and hygiene practices.  We are each responsible to stop the spread of this virus, and the same expectations apply here at UC, just as they do across Australia.

What additional measures is the College taking in response to COVID-19?

  • Food Services: The College’s main kitchen will be isolated from the College community, with efforts being made to avoid cross contamination and ensure continuity of service.
  • Cleaning: will be increased to three times per day in communal areas and student room cleaning schedules will be reduced to protect the student community from potential exposure. We have also improved access to soap and hand sanitiser and distributed communications about hygiene and cough etiquette.
  • Social distancing: we are encouraging all students and staff to follow social distancing precautions – which include avoiding unnecessary contact, avoiding crowded areas and peak meal times, and staying one 1.5m apart.
What do you mean by social distancing?
  • Avoid handshaking, hugging and other close interactions
  • Utilise online learning where possible
  • Avoid large gatherings and peak meal times
  • Isolate yourself if feeling ill
  • Students are now asked to remain on the campus at all times, with the exception of leaving for exercise, medical appointments, essential supplies (i.e. food) or work/study that can’t be performed remotely.
  • A maximum of two people are permitted in student bedrooms at one time and time in enclosed spaces with another person must be limited to 30 minutes
  • Students are not to gather in groups of five or more in any space in College
  • All gatherings must comply with social distancing parameters of at least 1.5m between each student in accordance with the stipulated health guidelines
Can I still bring guests to College?

Now that the government has introduced Stage 3 restrictions we are asking students not to bring external guests on campus for at least the next four weeks as per the government guidlines.

Are student events and tutorials still happening?

As universities have now transitioned to online delivery, the College has adapted accordingly. The Academic Support Program will now focus on supporting students to navigate a fully online learning experience, which is no doubt daunting for many. College tutorials are being conducted online and our resident tutors are readily available for online mentoring, consultations and academic advice. The Dean of Studies is also increasing the number of individual consultations available. 

For those of you who do not receive formal, scheduled college tutorials, our Resident Tutors are continuing to offer private consultations for each of your more specific subject / course needs. We are in the process of organising this now, and for any questions regarding academic support please do not hesitate to get in contact with our Dean of Studies.

Our Student Wellbeing Program will continue to proactively support the mental health of our students and you can still book online appointments.

We have cancelled high tables and postponed formal dinners and alumni gatherings at UC (such as Scholar’s Dinner). Large social gatherings are no longer permitted under the new government guidelines, including ball games and contact sports.

I am showing symptoms of being sick – what should I do?

We are asking students to report any symptoms of COVID-19 (including fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath) to uchealth@unicol.unimelb.edu.au or ring the resident tutor on duty. Please avoid reporting your illness in person. We will assess the need for any further testing, self-isolation or GP visits on a case by case basis.

Is my university course affected?

Universities are continuing to operate, with most of their lectures moving online, although not across all subjects at this time. As the Easter break approaches however, some universities have brought forward or are extending their time frames for the break. The situation is changing every day, so it is best to check their individual updates via the web pages below. We are here to help you transition to this new way of learning, so whether you remain on or off campus you can still contact our Dean of Studies for academic support.

UniMelb – www.unimelb.edu.au/coronavirus/update
Monash Uni – www.monash.edu/news/coronavirus-updates
RMIT – www.rmit.edu.au/students/news-and-events/news/2020/update-coronavirus
ACU – www.acu.edu.au/about-acu/news/2020/january/coronavirus-update/coronavirus-fact-sheet
VU – www.vu.edu.au/about-vu/news-events/news/vus-response-to-the-coronavirus-covid-19

Should I travel?

It is advisable to limit travel where possible at this time due to various border restrictions and self-isolation periods now required and enforceable by law. Interstate travel in many states is now restricted to essential travel only. Please keep up-to-date by following information from the Federal Government’s Coronavirus Australia app, available on the App Store and Google Play. A new messaging service on WhatsApp is also available at oz.gov.au/whatsapp

How can I help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Dry your hands with disposable paper towel or hand dryer.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if you can help it.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don’t have a tissue. Not your hands!
  • Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick.
  • Phone your GP first if you think you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do.
  • Continue healthy habits like exercise, drinking water and getting plenty of sleep.
  • Wearing a face mask is not recommended if you’re well.
  • Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol.
  • If you’re a smoker, today is the day to stop and call the quit line.
  • Get the flu shot from the beginning of April
  • To be really cautious, avoid shaking hands and implement other social distancing measures

Refunds and fees

In regards to questions and concerns around fees, refunds and payment plans, please be assured that this policy is under review. We ask you to bear with us at this time as this is not a decision that can be made easily. A final decision regarding to what extent refunds may take place will be determined by our Council at a meeting on Wednesday, 8 April, after which you will be advised. We are also exploring options for student access to the various university financial hardship grants that are available. We greatly appreciate your patience on this matter.

Emergency Support Fund for University of Melbourne Students

The University of Melbourne has established an emergency support fund for students. It is need-based, and available to all currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate coursework students that have experienced financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

Full details about the support and application process can be found here.