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GIBS surveyed 800 of its post-graduate students to better understand what the business school could do to support them during the pandemic. Picture: SUPPLIED/GIBS
GIBS surveyed 800 of its post-graduate students to better understand what the business school could do to support them during the pandemic. Picture: SUPPLIED/GIBS

The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) is pleased to announce that its Illovo campus will officially reopen at 50% capacity on October 1 2020, in line with level 1 lockdown regulations. 

Most of 2020 has been an unusually quiet time for the normally vibrant GIBS campus, with staff working from home, and only a minimal amount of students permitted on campus. As restrictions lifted, a small number of construction workers returned to complete projects. But still, with the school’s normally bustling coffee shops, restaurants and hotel closed, a sombre atmosphere prevailed.  

“The decision to get back to the future and formally reopen the campus was not taken lightly,” says communications manager Luleka Mtongana.

To gauge the receptiveness of students, GIBS surveyed 800 of its postgraduate students to better understand what the business school could do to support them during the pandemic. Responses varied from those who were eager to get back on campus and interact personally, to those concerned about Covid-19 who preferred the option of participating remotely via a blended learning approach.

“Students can either return to class under strict hygiene controls (including a maximum classroom occupancy of 50%) or to participate digitally from home. They will be contacted by their programme manager regarding their preference.”. 

For students who choose to return, the improvements and upgrades made to the GIBS campus during the hiatus will be more than evident: an expanded and completely refurbished auditorium with state-of-the-art audiovisual technology being the most notable.

Capacity has been increased to 200 seats, each of which has access to a microphone, allowing fully interactive sessions with participants outside the room. A control and translation booth has also been added for when international conferences are again permitted. 

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Info Central, the school’s study and research space has been redesigned and includes more syndicate meeting rooms, a contemplative space in the form of a lounge overlooking the quad, as well as new outside areas where students can study or finalise their research. With large glass frontage, the new-look facility will be more integrated into the campus experience, offering students a quiet, productive space. 

A new admissions centre has also been completed, moving what was previously a back office to the centre of campus. With a number of additions to the academic portfolio in the last few years (and with more on the cards), a bigger, more accessible space was a must.

And finally, the school’s operations team have taken the opportunity to deep clean, paint, upgrade and tackle a large number of maintenance tasks to ensure the campus is in pristine condition for returning students and delegates.  

“Over the past six months a detailed plan for the considered reopening of the campus was devised, focusing on ensuring the health and safety of our students, staff and the broader GIBS community,” says Robert Thompson, general manager of operations. 

This plan included the installation of more than 45 strategically placed sanitation points around the campus, and the appointment of health ambassadors, Covid-19 safety officers and sanitation specialists. 

Even before entering the campus all visitors will be required to fill out a questionnaire using the health department’s Higher Health app, and everyone’s temperature will be recorded on arrival. The wearing of masks will be compulsory — except when eating. Social distancing will be enforced at all times. Visitors who are not on a specific programme should apply for entry here. 

Particular care has been taken to ensure the school’s catering fulfils all safety protocols. Numbers in the coffee shop and restaurant venues will be strictly limited and social distancing enforced. After consultations with health and safety experts, a limited Covid-19 menu will be offered, which will be served by a specially trained member of the catering team wearing a mask, gloves and face shield. Cutlery will be hermetically sealed in a plastic bag. 

“We are excited to be reopening,” says Mtongana. “The GIBS campus is such a dynamic place of collaboration which, over the years, has seen so many new ideas sparked and actioned. We are committed to ensuring it remains a safe environment, which is a critical part of how our campus must operate for the foreseeable future.”

This article was paid for by The Gordon Institute of Business Science.

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