UCD leaves decision to take part in exchange up to students

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

UCD has recently decided mobility may proceed for the Spring trimester 2021, leaving the decision to travel or not up to the student.

The decision was reached following a recent staff and student university-wide consultation process. Dr Douglas Proctor, the director of UCD Global stated that although the decision rests with the student, UCD advises “extreme caution”. He outlined that the decision for an exchange to proceed is subject to conditions.

Dr Proctor further provided that all exchanges are optional, including courses with a mandatory exchange programme. He outlined that students who decide to travel must adhere to a “criteria checklist”, which among other things includes explicit approval to travel to the relevant destination and an academic contingency plan. Students must also complete a UCD Risk Assessment before departing and agree to any crisis management procedures UCD deem necessary. It was outlined that host universities may cancel, and it is not possible to offer an alternative partner university.

Students who decide not to travel and to follow UCD’s modules will be supported with an alternative academic programme “where possible”. If students wish to avail of a virtual exchange offered by the host university, approval must be sought from UCD.

Many UCD students will now be faced with the decision of whether to travel or not. The unpredictability of the virus makes this more difficult. Exchange programmes may be cancelled at the last minute, leaving students in a situation where they are no longer registered for modules in UCD and may find it difficult to get back into their desired modules.

Students who have an exchange as an essential component of their degree are also in a difficult situation. Although these students may choose not to go on exchange, their degree may be demoted. For example, for students studying a BA in International Modern Languages, if they choose not to participate in a mobility they will receive a BA rather than a BA in International Modern Languages. The degree may also be demoted if their partner university cancels, and the student does not choose to take part in the exchange the following year.

Seán McCleary, a third-year student studying a BA in International Modern Languages described how he feels “uncertain” about the exchange. His exchange to Toulouse was cancelled for semester 1 but is currently planned to go ahead for semester 2. McCleary has had to take final year modules this semester, which he described as “very difficult” as they are “designed for students who have had the benefit of participating in an exchange”.

If McCleary decides not to go to Toulouse next semester, or if it is cancelled, he will have to complete all his final year modules next semester and take part in exchange the following year. If he does not or cannot go on exchange the following year, he will either graduate with only a BA or he must add another year onto his degree. McCleary describes the situation as “bleak”.