Canberra's universities are still planning on starting classes as normal this semester, even though thousands of students may be prevented from returning due to travel bans related to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Australian government announced on the weekend that only citizens and permanent resident would be able to travel from China, leaving universities dealing with the fallout affecting the country's third biggest export - education.
The University of Canberra has three students who have travelled from China living in self-isolation in a separate part of on-campus accommodation, and is developing a triage system for students who may arrive from China.
Interim vice chancellor and president Belinda Robinson said the university had contacted the around 600 students from China, approximately half of which are in Australia already with O-week starting on Monday.
For those still in China and unable to get to university, options like deferment, intermission or distance study were being developed.
Ms Robinson said the health and well-being of students and staff was the university's number one priority, and that significant resources had been invested in supporting students both in China and Australia.
Australian National University Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt said more than 5400 of the university's student population, around one in five, was from China.
Professor Schmidt said his priority was getting clarity for those students and minimise the disruption to them.
Asked about the decision by Monash University in Melbourne to postpone the start of semester, Professor Schmidt said the university still had time until classes started on February 24, and options were still available to the university.
"We are looking at all options at this point. And I think it is very difficult to know what tomorrow or the next day will bring and so I think we have to be realistic that a whole range of options may be on the table."
He emphasised the importance of empathy in the university's response, as well as taking the risks and advice of the government seriously.
"We're not going to worry about getting down into checking lists and being very officious," Professor Schmidt said.
"We're going to be very flexible and very generous in our response."
In an email to the university community on the weekend Professor Schmidt addressed the fears of racism around the coronavirus outbreak.
"Simply put, viruses don't discriminate. And neither do we."
He said the point was important to make because when people become fearful, they aren't always rational.
"I want to make sure we treat everyone with dignity that they deserve and that they come to expect here," he said.
Professor Schmidt said the university's measures would cost money, but that he was focusing on being generous to students.
"Are the things we're going to do expensive? Yes. But are they appropriate? Yes. And can the university afford it? Yes. So that's how our approach is: do what's right for the students, the rest of the things will take care of itself."
ACT government schools return this week, with students starting class on Monday and Tuesday.
- With Dan Jervis-Bardy