On-campus teaching will be minimised and “given to teaching and learning that can only take place on-site” in Dublin’s universities, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) said today.
The government today agreed on extra restrictions in line with level three of the coronavirus roadmap for Dublin.
In response, the Dublin universities are introducing “enhanced measures”, which include a shift to online learning where possible.
Universities will prioritise courses and research involving laboratories, practical tuition and workshops for on-campus learning.
They are also expected to prioritise on-campus attendance for small tutorials and elements of first-year induction “which cannot be undertaken on line”.
These will be “conducted on a staggered basis to avoid congregation or large on-site attendances”.
University libraries will remain open, and research will continue “as normal”. All society activities will be suspended “until further notice”.
In a press statement, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris welcomed the enhanced measures.
“The introduction of heightened restrictions for Dublin at the exact time when most students are commencing their academic year has created a unique set of circumstances”, the minister said.
“Earlier this week, in light of the deterioration in the COVID-19 situation in Dublin, and following NPHET’s request, Government asked that higher and further education institutions consider enhanced protective measures.”
“I really want to commend stakeholders right across the sector for their engagement, initiative and their willingness to adapt to the situation.”
“Additional protections are now being introduced which will see a more gradual reopening of higher and further education facilities in Dublin as well as a shift to more learning online and less on-site. Individual institutions are revising their plans and I am pleased to say will be communicating with students shortly”, he added.
Trinity’s revised plans for the coming year are expected to be published in the coming hours, according to an email sent by Provost Patrick Prendergast to students yesterday.
The Provost also said that “the roadmap, as we understand it, does not envisage further curtailing of face-to-face teaching unless we reach Level 4”.
The new level-three restrictions for Dublin that the government is expected to confirm tomorrow will, however, “envisage additional measures to ‘limit congregation’”.
Speaking to The University Times earlier today, Union of Students in Ireland President Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “We know there’s talk about restrictions and additional measures for a period of three weeks and there’s hundreds of students who are due to be coming back on campus – if not thousands – over that period of time. Our question is what they’re supposed to do now, and I think one of the biggest knock-on factors of the lack of clarity here, or one of the biggest impacts from the lack of clarity, is going to be for students who have booked accommodation and have maybe signed leases or have paid deposits.”
“We’re meeting with the Minister for Housing on Tuesday to discuss this and try to see what additional measures can be put in place to protect students and student renters.”
“But overall”, she added, “it’s really confusing and I think the colleges, because they’re autonomous bodies, because each one of them is different in terms of size and in terms of courses, they need to make decisions and they need to make them quickly. But I think the thing that needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind is student safety and while students most definitely want to be back on campus, they want to be back on a safe campus”.