Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has announced the return to campus for university students in September
The return of in-person attendance for students includes learning facilities such as tutorials, workshops, libraries, smaller lectures and laboratory teaching. The reopening will also extend to include more socially-oriented facilities such as canteens, clubs and societies, sporting facilities and on campus bars - all of which are subject to current public health guidelines.
The plan notes the increased concern for vulnerable students and the importance of ensuring a return to campus that caters to the needs of everyone in attendance. It is noted that the proposed plans are under the assumption that the vast majority of people over the age of 18 in Ireland are vaccinated, and a successful return will be closely controlled and monitored by universities.
Accompanying video material published alongside the plan highlights the importance of in-person learning from a social context “How you learn, the people you learn with, and the experience of being with others.” While the focus lies in ensuring safety for those who choose to return to campus, one of the seven main objectives of the plan is to ensure colleges can continue to offer the option for virtual learning to their students, with the intent of facilitating students who cannot attend in-person lectures due to health limitations.
While the focus is to be fully prepared for as much of a return to on-campus learning as possible for September, there is going to be a small amount of in-person learning taking place during the Summer trimester across select institutions that facilitate education and training for apprentices, various research activities and English Language Education.
The publication also states that Irish institutions will be forthcoming with regard to their willingness to operate within the boundaries of government guidelines and uphold changes made to plans as a result. Regarding student accommodation, it is noted that institutions such as UCD have committed to ensuring the “timely communication with students and learners on timetabling and on-site attendance to enable decision making on accommodation.” It also extends to offering flexible accommodation offerings to reflect student timetables, and to refund fees to students who were unable to use their accommodation as a result of public health guidelines.
The position regarding large scale lectures is due to be finalised in July.