Universities with ties to UK and US are being asked to remain closed in China. Source: Shutterstock

As the coronavirus epidemic afflicts China and the rest of the world, foreign universities are ordering its Chinese outposts to shut down for an extended period of time, following local universities’ lead.

As there is currently no vaccine or cure for the virus, it is uncertain how long the coronavirus epidemic will last. Campuses are hotbeds for spreading contagious viruses, leading to the closure of several universities in China that are foreign-owned in efforts to contain the outbreak.

According to The Guardian, Nottingham, Birmingham City and Leeds universities in China were among those told they have to delay the return of students and academics until Mar 2. They were initially told to shut down until Feb 24.

A spokeswoman for Nottingham University said, “Our overriding priority is for the health of our students, staff and community. However, our aim will be to ensure that none of our students are academically or economically disadvantaged.

“Along with other universities in China, [the campus] is observing all advice from the health authorities and has extended the lunar new year holiday. The new semester is now planned to start on March 2.”

“The university has longstanding contingency arrangements to amend semester dates and provide additional learning resources and support through online methods.”

There are currently 40,171 confirmed infections of the virus in China, most them in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, with 908 fatalities reported at the time of writing.

According to The Guardian, the university sector contributes about £22bn or 1.2 per cent to the UK’s annual £2 trillion GDP – considered one of the UK’s most successful export industries.

Meanwhile, students at Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China – a partnership between Duke University and Wuhan University –  are reportedly given a US$1000 travel stipend to return home.

The university has prolonged its Lunar New Year break until Feb 17 and is restricting access to the campus except for “essential personnel”.

According to a message by Executive Vice Chancellor Denis Simon released on the school’s website, “Postponing the opening of school was a decision not taken lightly or made precipitously. The highest priority was the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. It was also a decision highly consistent with what many other schools and universities in China are doing.

“To assist with logistical challenges, we felt it important to offer financial support to students on campus and at the Scholars Hotel who wish to return home and to those currently travelling who are now unable to return to campus until Feb 15.”

Around the world, universities are also cancelling study abroad exchange programmes to China while travel bans in some countries are preventing Chinese students from continuing or beginning their studies abroad.

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