Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) universities have announced that they would provide medical equipment, research expertise, financial support, flexible study arrangements and counselling to Indian students, colleagues and families affected by COVID-19. This comes following concerns over the sharp spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. The Indian variant is reportedly more transmissible than the version of COVID first discovered in Wuhan, China, reported the BBC.
In a statement, Go8 said they have over 10,000 students from India studying at one of their universities, 80% of whom are studying at the postgraduate level. “These students have stuck by Go8 universities since Australia’s borders closed in March 2020 and many have continued to study online from their homes in India,” they said. “Our eight-member universities are adopting responsive and flexible study arrangements for their Indian students and are maintaining regular contact with all of their Indian partners. We know that their focus at this time must be with their families and friends who are being deeply impacted by the unfolding COVID-19 situation in India.”
Go8 offers financial, mental support to Indian students
Many Go8 universities have partnerships with institutions in India and manage research academies in the country. Monash University, for instance, manages a research academy in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) in Mumbai with approximately 200 joint PhD programme students as well as staff who are being affected. The campus is currently in lockdown. Financial hardship packages and the extension of study timelines have been made available to academy students. The same goes to access to mental health support and financial counselling services.
The Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales is working on COVID-19 treatment options in India. The University of Queensland, which manages an Academy of Research in India in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (UQIDAR), is offering financial support, fee waivers and counselling to affected students and staff.
Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said Go8 universities have been working closely to provide study extensions, financial support, counselling, and messages of support to their Indian partners, staff and students. “We know that many of our Indian students and staff are facing great hardship as a result of the unfolding situation in India and we stand ready to assist in any way possible. At the same time, we acknowledge the hardship and trauma being faced by our Go8 colleagues and students around the globe whose lives are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Thomson said she has written to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne and Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Hon. Barry O’Farrell AO, to offer support during the crisis. “Go8 universities are committed to offering their expertise and ongoing financial and social support to our Indian students and colleagues during this most challenging of periods,” said Thomson.
Australia’s federal government recently announced that it was banning all travellers from India, including its own citizens, from entering the country until May 15 due to the surge in COVID-19 cases there, warning offenders will be prosecuted and penalised. The controversial decision makes it unlawful for anyone — including the country’s citizens — to enter Australia if they have been in India in the past 14 days.
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