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Campus life resumes as students allowed back into lecture theatres

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University lecture theatres in Queensland will be allowed to return to 100 per cent capacity in time for classes next week, Queensland Health announces in a late-night change to public health directions.

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University lecture theatres in Queensland will be allowed to return to 100 per cent capacity in time for the start of classes next week.

A late-night change to public health directions gave the green light for universities across the state to start making plans.

Under the rules, seating must be ticketed and allocated to students.

Other spaces like tutorial rooms and laboratories will not be subject to occupant density requirements but people should socially distance when possible.

Restaurants, cafes, and other businesses operating on campuses must continue to adhere to one person per 2 square metres, and maintain an electronic record of patrons who dine in.

University of Queensland Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry welcomed the updated health directive.

“Uni life is certainly getting back to normal very quickly,” Terry said.

Preparations are now underway at the university to ensure the barcode sign-in system is in place in time for next week.

But she said online classes would stay in place for the foreseeable future, given the number of students still interstate and overseas.

“We are very conscious of providing obviously as much support for them as possible — we hope as soon as we can to welcome those students back to Australia but conscious obviously of the health advice.”

University sector not in the clear yet

Data from Universities Australia showed 17,000 jobs were shed across the sector in 2020.

The University of Queensland had a voluntary redundancy program in place for staff last year, shedding employees at the height of the pandemic.

Terry said while the university could not guarantee there would not be more, enrolment figures were strong and had put the university in a strong position.

The will be 15,000 new students at UQ this year, up from 10,500 in 2017.

“Overall our enrolment numbers are looking pretty good actually,” she said.

“We’ve come into 2021 reasonably optimistic, but conscious of the fact that with the closed borders still in place that does pose challenges for our international students.”

Terry said while international student numbers were down, it was to some extent offset by a significant increase in domestic post-graduate students.

“I think graduates out there looking to ensure they’re competitive for rapidly changing work environments,” she said.

– ABC / Stephanie Zillman

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