Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Education Officer Niamh McCay has admitted that “many students will be discouraged from going on Erasmus” next year as a result of the pandemic, but said the College’s decision to let students decide for themselves was “logical”.
TCDSU President Laura Beston, meanwhile, said that “the Erasmus experience is one that is behind many students’ choice to study here and that denying the opportunity outright when there is a possibility for it to continue would be unfair”.
On Friday, Trinity told students signed up to travel abroad next year that it will run, “where possible”, its study abroad schemes next year, and make a decision about the viability of exchanges in the second semester.
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.
In separate email statements to The University Times, Beston and McCay highlighted the challenges likely to arise as a result of the coronavirus, and warned students to make their decisions based on public health advice and with travel restrictions in mind.
But despite opposition in some quarters to a decision that makes Trinity the only Irish university to allow students the chance to travel abroad next September, both officers cautiously welcomed the decision.
McCay wrote that “if students feel they are comfortable enough to go abroad for study, they should not be denied this opportunity”.
“Therefore”, she said, “I think it is a logical decision but we must ensure our students are fully supported in this”.
Beston said that while “various institutions may have opted for a blanket approach before more information came in, Trinity is aware that the Erasmus experience is one that is behind many students’ choice to study here and that denying the opportunity outright when there is a possibility for it to continue would be unfair”.
She advised students planning to travel to “look at the national health board’s recommendations and check with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade regarding travel restrictions”.
McCay added that “the reality is that health must come first”, and students who chose not to participate in Erasmus “will be fully supported in their decision”.
“Overall, I understand entirely students may be confused and frustrated when hearing that it is their own decision whether or not to go on Erasmus”, she wrote. “However, this means that if they are comfortable enough, they will be able to attend their host university.”
Beston said: “We also have no idea what society will look like in second term or what level Erasmus will be functioning at so it’s very hard to critique this.”