The University of Auckland will suspend teaching across its campuses next week because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In-class tests scheduled for next week will be postponed and replaced with off-campus assessment exercises.

Staff and students have been advised about the decision, which the university is calling a Teaching Free Week.

While students would not be required to attend campus, they were free to do so if they wanted, the university said in a statement.

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"This covers all campuses, but does not include teaching for students on placement/practicum and it does not affect research students," they said.

"All student services will remain open and operating on standard hours, including libraries, Kate Edger Information Commons, AskAuckland Central, Recreation Centre, retail outlets, as well as all our student accommodation."

The University's intention was to be in full digital teaching and learning mode from the following week - March 30 - onwards.

Semester one would be extended by one week to account for the break, meaning the timing for semester two might also shift.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater was confident working remotely was positive.

"We are also very aware of the challenges to the continued delivery of our research commitments, which will also need some careful consideration," Freshwater said.

"Suspending teaching activities for next week provides an opportunity for our staff to focus fully on these areas of core business and to adapt and adopt through creative problem solving and collaborative working."

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The purpose of the suspension was to allow staff to focus on completing their preparations for remote teaching in the event of a partial campus closure.

"The University wants students to continue to receive the best possible learning experience, regardless of the format," the statement said.

"The Teaching Free week will enable them to prepare for digital learning via online tools.

"There will be a range of on-campus support available to help students next week, including support guides and drop-in clinics."

Meanwhile, Derek McCormack, Universities New Zealand Chair and Vice-Chancellor of AUT, said universities were working constructively with Government and stand ready to offer support in any way they can during this time of crisis.

"Universities are already opening their facilities and sharing their expertise, and are here to help with whatever Government needs," says McCormack. "We are also committed to supporting our students and staff, both here in New Zealand and those offshore. We want to continue delivering the world-class education and research our community deserves."

Universities have a number of public health experts speaking about health aspects of COVID-19 in the media at present. Others are explaining and commenting on the economic measures.

"As well as offering expertise, universities have made their laboratories available to help with COVID-19 testing," McCormack said.

"Our main focus is on our students and staff. Although universities are exempt from the latest restrictions on meetings, universities are taking prudent steps to safeguard students, staff and their communities, including preparing for the possible partial or full closure of campuses.

"We have planned for a wide range of contingencies to try and maintain the educational experience for our students," says McCormack. "All universities are working creatively to ensure as much work as possible—including lectures and tutorials—is available through other means, including online.

"We are also looking at adjusting the academic calendar, including rescheduling events such as graduation ceremonies, exams and assessments.

"We are acutely aware that we have a responsibility of care for our students, particularly the more than 16,000 in university accommodation. Universities are well positioned to manage contagious outbreaks, having dealt many times with infectious disease outbreaks such as meningococcal disease, flu and mumps.

"We will do what is needed to manage the health of students, staff and the public."