Students urged not to travel home at weekends

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

Students have been asked not to travel home every weekend, even when it is permitted under guidelines. The Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris TD made the call following further restrictions.

Minister Harris recommended students instead decide where they will live for the duration of the increased restrictions and remain there “as much as possible”. The Minister elaborated that some students may be happier in their rented accommodation where internet access and friends are more available, but others may prefer to stay at home.

This recommendation follows a previous suggestion from Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Chairman of the CAO Board and Deputy President of NUI Galway, in early September. Professor Ó Dochartaigh also urged students not to travel throughout the academic year in order to minimize the spread of Covid-19. Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne he recognised it’s a “tough ask” to spend the majority of the academic year in rented accommodation but asked where “anybody [that] can reasonably do that and can cope with that… should seriously consider it”.

Recognising that this could cause significant problems for students who work part-time jobs at home, Professor Ó Dochartaigh outlined how he didn’t want people to lose out on income but urged students to limit their travelling.

Lorna Fitzpatrick, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) rejected the call at the time. Fitzpatrick said it would be unfair to ask students to refrain from visiting their homes at weekends, many of those who rent do travel home therefore it would affect a large number of students. 

Fitzpatrick further outlined that if it was Government-mandated, students would follow the advice. However as stated as it was not, and it was too much to ask of students. She emphasised that many students who of those who do travel home do so as they have jobs in their community. Fitzpatrick described Professor Ó Dochartaigh’s recommendation as “an additional burden to be placed on students”.

The advice not to travel home at weekends will come as a blow to many students, especially those who are already dismayed at being confined to a lease for rented accommodation for a trimester that is now online.

"Loneliness and isolation on campus is appearing as a big issue for students staying on campus residences, particularly international students. Students are doing their best to limit their contacts but it's a very difficult situation to manage. We're grateful for the work of the RAs in particular who have been checking in on students while visitors to Residences are restricted” said Ruairí Power, UCDSU Welfare Officer . 

“We have been inundated with emails from students who are trying to work out whether or not to cancel their room booking. While the flexibility in the cancellation policy is very welcome for students, it's frustrating that a lot of international students took up accommodation under the premise of a lot more time on campus in lectures delivered in person as a result of the predicted figures released by the University. This highlights the urgent need for clarity on how lectures will be delivered in trimester 2 so students can make an informed decision going forward".