Malaysian Universities have plans in place for semester delay.

PETALING JAYA: Any delay to the start of the second semester of the academic year will not cause any major disruption to teaching and learning, say higher education institutions (HEIs).

But varsities will adopt different approaches should there be such a delay due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international) Prof Dr M. Iqbal Saripan said a delay would not really affect its planning and students’ education.

He said the varsity’s current plan is to start the semester on March 22 and if 10 days’ isolation was required to observe the students, the varsity would arrange for them to return on March 12.

“Even if we delay the start date, we can adjust their long break at the end of the semester to be shorter or we can also move the start of the September semester to October or November.

“We could cap on-campus student capacity at 50%, based on requirements of the programmes, especially in courses like medicine and engineering, ” he said.

On Monday, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad said the ministry would review the start date for the second semester of the current academic year for HEIs in light of the high number of Covid-19 cases.

Following an online discussion with members of the National Student Representative Council (MPPK) last Sunday, she said the ministry would consider changing the start date for Semester 2 of the 2020/2021 academic year, scheduled to begin in March.

Any decision would be announced at least a month in advance, so that students can make appropriate arrangements, she said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) deputy vice-chancellor (student affairs) Prof Datuk Dr Othman A. Karim said the university is gathering feedback from its faculty deans and institute directors to determine what programmes could be conducted online and what required face-to-face interaction.

Like UPM, UKM too is planning to start the second semester on March 22, he said.

“If the categories of students who are allowed to be on campus remain, then a possible delay in the start date will not be an issue for us, ” he said.

Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said the association supports Noraini’s announcement.

“On the other hand, private HEIs operate on a wide variety of academic calendars and not uniform dates of admission or semesters. Therefore, the level of student movement at any one time is insignificant, ” he said.

Universiti Malaya first-year student Muhamad Danial Nashri Zaidi, 19, said he and his friends are keeping their fingers crossed in hopes that face-to-face classes can resume.

The Bachelor of Science in Microbiology student said he does not like online learning because there is “little to no interaction between lecturers and students, so learning becomes difficult.

“Some students do not have an ideal environment at home to study in and Internet connections are unstable, ” he said.

On the other hand, final year Bachelor of Accountancy student Muhammad NurSyahmi Shaare, 26, said a postponement could be a good thing in the current climate of rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

“A delay could also allow students to plan their return to campuses better, provided it is announced a month or more in advance.

“Blended learning is a good alternative to ensure our continuous educational progression as students while keeping ourselves safe, ” he said.

Source: Thestar