Universities and colleges will be allowed to remain open to students and staff, after the government today granted higher-education institutions “essential service” status under Ireland’s upcoming lockdown.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris announced today that college libraries are permitted to remain open for “scheduled access”, and teaching and research which is considered “essential” and cannot take place online may be held in person.
In addition, onsite mental health services may remain open, and teaching and research which cannot take place online may also take place in person, as well as small-group teaching with learners “whose particular needs require additional support over and above that which can be provided online”.
Campus accommodation will remain open to students and staff but visitors will not be permitted, as was previously the case. Students are encouraged to walk or cycle to and from campus if they can but “public transport can be used where necessary”.
Ireland is due to enter level-five restrictions, the strictest category in the government’s framework for living with coronavirus, from midnight on Wednesday.
In a press statement, Harris said: “We are now in a scenario where Ireland as a whole must move to Level 5 of the Government’s plan for living with COVID, and that means that all further and higher education institutions should continue to deliver the vast majority of classes online.”
“The Level 5 measures announced last night designate higher and further education as essential insofar as onsite presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely. Institutions and providers are best placed to determine where onsite presence is required.”
“This has been a very difficult time for students and for those working in further and higher education, and I want to acknowledge that”, Harris said. “It is clear that programmes will continue to operate primarily online for the remainder of this semester. We will review the position with relevant institutions and stakeholders in the light of experience and the progress of the disease and communicate the position for next semester before the end of the year.”
Trinity is set to release updated information on the running of the university today, College confirmed this morning.
Yesterday, the Head of the School of English in Trinity confirmed that the “current arrangements for teaching” – which are predominantly online – will remain in place for the duration of term.
In an email to students, Jarlath Killeen wrote that the decision to continue with online teaching for the rest of term had been made “given the current public health situation and the unlikelihood of things improving in the short term”.
Last week, it was announced that laboratory classes for third-year microbiology students would be moved online for the rest of the semester.
An email sent to students on October 15th, signed by third-year microbiology coordinator Ursula Bond, said that “the decision was made to reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and for the safety of staff, students and the wider society”, citing increasing community transmission of the coronavirus and the new level-four restrictions for Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan as reasons for the move to online teaching.
On September 18th, College announced that all classes apart from those which must be delivered in person would be moved online due to Dublin entering level-three restrictions.
The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences were the most affected, while much of the in-person teaching for Health Science and Engineering, Mathematics and Science students continued as planned at that time.
In an email to all students, signed by Provost Patrick Prendergast, Vice-Provost Jürgen Barkhoff and Chair of the Resumption of Teaching Working Group Áine Kelly, College said that the in-person science teaching would continue “either because it is laboratory, practical or other teaching requiring physical presence or because it is required for professional accreditation”.