Canterbury University has made an abrupt U-turn and cancelled face-to-face lectures amid the Covid-19 outbreak, despite previously telling students it was safe to attend.
The move, which will see all degrees move to online learning from Monday, follows a student petition which reached 1500 signatures.
An email sent to students tonight, following a 1 NEWS story highlighting the petition, says that from Monday all lectures, tutorials and workshops will be moved online, with all face-to-face labs and assessments paused.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but it is a sensible precaution to take in this fast-evolving pandemic,” the email reads.
“It is understandable that there is an increasing level of anxiety and for some students a desire to be at home (and we support that, if it’s the best decision for the student).”
The organiser of the student petition, Molly Thomas, previously told 1 NEWS she felt like attending lectures would put her health at risk.
“When I'm missing like weeks and weeks, and assignments are coming up, and I have no way to get the full learning experience that I'm entitled to without my health and well-being, that pisses me off,” she said earlier today.
“I just feel very unheard and like the university has not been transparent at all with its communications to students.”
Fellow student Natasha Beattie said the situation had left her feeling like she had to choose between her education and her health, as she is immuno-compromised and at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
“I'm now having to pick between, oh, do I get my grades, do I get my degree, or do I stay home for my own safety. I don't think that's very fair.”
As late as 2pm today, the University was still planning to stay open, telling 1 NEWS they would do so as long possible, but went on to explain a sudden change of approach in the email tonight.
They said they had previously aimed to stay open on Ministry advice to “create a sense of normalcy in people’s lives”.
However, that had changed: “Today with the Prime Minister's address to the nation, and the increase in Covid-19 cases around the country, we have again met to review the situation. We have decided this is the right time to step up to our next phase of delivery.”
The campus, halls and library will remain open with students advised to practice safe physical distances.