The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has criticised universities and colleges for not showing “alignment” in their decisions to cancel or go ahead with exchanges abroad in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Trinity confirmed that it would not be cancelling upcoming Erasmus exchanges, after a handful of other universities said that outbound exchanges would not be going ahead.
Speaking to The University Times today, USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick said that “it would have been much more beneficial and positive, I suppose, if they could have had an alignment between all of the institutions and that they all could have made the one decision”.
The differing approaches being taken by universities, Fitzpatrick said, have led to “more questions than answers”.
“We still don’t have full information around when certain airports are going to open and all of those things, so there’s still so many questions in relation to it”, she said. “I think one of the big things is that each institution needs to make sure that they have measures put in place to ensure that there’s no disadvantage for any students.”
“So if outward mobility was a required element of your course, and either your institution has decided not to allow outward travel or you’re not in a position to go yourself — maybe you’re immunocompromised or maybe you have family who are or whatever the situation may be.”
“People need to be able to make the decisions themselves. But whatever decision they make they shouldn’t face any sort of academic penalty for that.”
In Trinity, all exchanges will be voluntary, meaning that students who are normally required to go on exchange as part of their degree will not be penalised if they do not go abroad.
College is discouraging students from going ahead with their exchanges if their host university is offering online teaching and learning only. Furthermore, if students who go abroad encounter difficulties when they are away, they can return to Trinity and re-integrate with their programme there as long as they return before the end of the fourth week of semester one.