University of Wollongong vice-chancellor Patricia Davidson has backed moves to sell three student accommodation properties.
The financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic saw UOW announce on Thursday it was selling UOW's International House, Weerona College and Marketview residences.
They will be offered for sale from mid-August with the transactions expected to be completed by early 2022.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed both our student profile and ways of delivering educational content. Divestment of existing properties that are unoccupied will allow us to divert financial resources to strengthen support for students through enhanced services and technologies," Professor Davidson said.
Having experienced COVID issues during her time in the US last year, Prof Davidson said she wanted to reassure staff and students that the university could survive the pandemic and thrive in the future.
She has also unsurprisingly joined the chorus of people urging everyone to get vaccinated.
The lockdowns and other issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have made the new vice-chancellor's first three months in charge "quite difficult".
"It is definitely a worry with COVID. We thought we were getting students back this semester. We were all so excited and geared up for it but like the rest of the country we are back in lockdown, but we will get there," she said.
"I want to thank our students and staff for sticking with us and understanding we have no real option but to return to remote learning.
"It is definitely tough for our students and our staff."
The university boss held out hope UOW could welcome some international students back as early as October.
Her optimism comes after Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge reaffirmed his commitment to getting international students back into the country.
'We are still hopeful of the NSW corridor program probably starting to get some students back in October," Prof Davidson said.
"In terms of our academics here we are really hopeful that there will be a relaxation of the borders and we will be opening up to get international students back for semester 1, 2022.
"In the meantime we are just doing everything we can to support students who are onshore and offshore."
She added the wellbeing of students was critically important and UOW was committed to working with its communities to do all it could to help students through these challenging times.
This includes a range of strategies to support students' health and welfare, and wherever possible enable them to continue their studies and succeed in them.
Many of the services students can draw upon have transitioned online. Some of these services funded by the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) include mental health support and sexual assault and harassment support; health and wellbeing activities; access to Student Support Advisers; digital learning programs; and career development and employability services.
In recognition of the financial hardship some students are facing, UOW have left 2021 fees for full fee paying international and domestic students at 2020 rates in acknowledgement of the move to online delivery and an uncertain job market.
A number of bursaries are also available to students, including a 20 per cent bursary for fee paying international students currently in Australia in recognition of the additional challenges they face living and studying away from home and finding and maintaining employment under current circumstances.
"We understand many students are doing it tough," Prof Davidson said.
She said UOW was providing access to free and low-cost food options to students. The UOW Pulse Pantry is a new initiative to assist students by providing free food and groceries on the Wollongong campus.
UOW is also a Wollongong pick-up point for the Study NSW and Food Bank Partnership, which provides a limited number of free food hampers to international students.
The former nurse is also helping and encouraging staff and students alike to get vaccinated.
"Just the other day we had a vaccination program at our Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people got priority access to the vaccine. This was done in collaboration with the local health district," Prof Davidson said.
"We are also looking to provide information to our students on where to get vaccinated.
"I can't stress enough how important it is to get vaccinated. That is the only way we will get out of this pandemic."
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