In a statement released by the UCD Students’ Union on Wednesday, July 15th, UCDSU President Conor Anderson called on UCD to be transparent about their plans for on-campus learning in the coming academic year and clarify how much time students will spend on campus.
“I am worried that UCD has been over ambitious in the hopes of attracting international students and filling on campus accommodation. This, alongside plans to increase both fees and the number of enrolled students, belies a total lack of concern for student welfare and the public good.”
“The Registrar has said that undergraduate students can expect “40-60%” of their learning to take place on-campus, while graduates can expect “75-100%. However, based on a cursory look at the proposed timetables for some of UCD’s master’s programs, this seems to be an exaggeration. In one course, students will have zero in-person class-time for the first five weeks of term, after which they will be expected to be on-campus one day per week. That is closer to 0% than it is to 75%”.
The statement released by Anderson echoed the concerns of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT). Speaking on RTE News on July 9th, Frank Jones, Deputy General Secretary of IFUT explained; "Our concern is that commercial factors are weighing heavier with some universities than health and safety concerns".
In comparison, University of Limerick has released a clear timetable of when students will be on-campus, which is as little as one week a month, leading to many students abandoning full-term accommodation in favour of commuting or temporary solutions. Other third-level institutions such as Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology have told certain courses that will have no on-campus tuition for the entirety of the semester, with Dr Orla Flynn, President of GMIT telling Galway Daily “The on-campus experience is important but our focus is on ensuring the health and wellbeing of the entire GMIT community; most theory classes will be delivered remotely”.
In a letter to Prof. Mark Rogers, UCD Registrar on Wednesday July 9th, the UCDSU Welfare Officer Ruairí Power highlighted that the lack of clarity surrounding plans to reopen UCD for the coming year affected all students, but in particular those with disabilities and underlying health conditions; “No specific guidance was offered to vulnerable students/staff in yesterday's email, and many students are at a loss as to where they should seek further information”. In it he asks “What public health advice has led UMT to determine that 40-60% of lectures (undergraduate) will be able to take place on campus and 75% to 100% for graduate students? What level of engagement has the Dept. of Health had in the drafting of the reopening plan?” and “What provisions will be made for immunocompromised staff and students when campus reopens?”.
In sentiments echoing all worried students and staff of UCD, Anderson emphasised: “Students deserve to make informed decisions on whether they will need accommodation near campus or if it will be safe to return to campus, and if they should travel from abroad to UCD”.