May 28, 2020

Two-Metre Rule Could Mean Only 20% of Students on Campus for Lectures

Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff told a meeting of University Council that an online learning experience for incoming freshers ‘was not ideal’.

Donal MacNameeEditor
Eavan McLoughlin for The University Times

Ireland’s current two-metre social distancing protocols could mean Trinity is able to accommodate just 20 per cent of students for lectures on campus when it re-opens, The University Times has learned.

Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff warned at University Council earlier this month of the “challenges presented by the two metre social distancing requirements for face-to-face teaching approaches”, according to unpublished minutes seen by this newspaper.

This, Barkhoff told Council members in a discussion document on May 13th, “will result in only 20% of the student population being accommodated on campus”.


He admitted that an online learning experience for incoming freshers “was not ideal”, but said government regulations on social distancing – the subject of much debate at a national level in recent weeks – would mean College is limited in how many students it will be able to teach on campus.

Final decisions on how many students Trinity will be able to accommodate have not yet been taken, with the matter likely due for further discussion at a meeting of University Council next week.

Catherine O’Mahony, a Trinity media relations officer, told The University Times in an email that decisions on teaching next year – including a proposed start date of September 28th, reported by this newspaper yesterday – “have yet to be taken”.

“Many are due to be taken next Wednesday when they are also due to be communicated to the college community”, she wrote.

Today, Minister for Education Joe McHugh told RTÉ’s Today Show that the two-metre rule will make it difficult to return all students to school in September, though he didn’t discuss the implications for universities.

Trinity will adopt a “blended” approach to teaching when it re-opens, with a combination of online and in-person teaching.

Large lectures will be delivered online while smaller lectures, seminars and tutorials return to campus, Provost Patrick Prendergast announced in March, in a video on social media.

Yesterday, The University Times revealed that classes of up to 25 students could be taught in person next year, with groups bigger than that taught online.

Barkhoff told Council members on May 13th that it is “expected that the commencement of the academic year will involve a blended learning approach, with online teaching provided to groups of 25 students and greater, and face-to-face teaching with small class groups and tutorials”.

Students, according to minutes from the same meeting, are set to return to College on September 28th, with first-term assessments likely to take place in January 2021.

Sign Up to Our Weekly Newsletters

Get The University Times into your inbox twice a week.