Coronavirus: Universities plan to limit student access to campuses

Third-level institutions preparing for hybrid online and in-person approach

Students on the UCD campus before the pandemic. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Students on the UCD campus before the pandemic. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

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Most Irish universities are planning to limit access to campus to a few days a week for students and replace most lectures with online tuition in the new academic year.

However, colleges say students will still be able to access smaller face-to-face tutorials, laboratory work and other forms of group work on campus.

In addition, many are planning that students on campus will work together in “pods” or small groups to minimise physical mixing.

The capacity of larger lecture theatres in many colleges cases will have to be reduced by up to 90 per cent in order to comply with 2m social-distancing requirements.

University College Dublin, whose academic year is due to begin on September 21st, said it was planning to live-stream lectures, which would be physically attended by a much-reduced number of students.

The university’s president, Prof Andrew Deeks, said it would seek to ensure students can use the campus “to the greatest extent possible” and that core modules would have elements delivered in person.

“We are committed to delivering the best face-to-face teaching and campus experience possible within whatever restrictions apply at the time,” he said.

Physical mixing between students will be minimised, with students encouraged to work in stable groups or pods when on campus.

Campus activities with more than 50 people present in the same room will not be undertaken until public health guidelines allow, he added.

Trinity plans

Trinity College Dublin is due to announce details of the new academic year shortly, but a spokesman confirmed that it will involve moving larger lectures online and facilitating laboratory work and tutorials in small groups on campus.

Unlike most other colleges, TCD is advising students that they are welcome to take part in Erasmus programmes, though it will no longer form a compulsory part of any course. In-bound Erasmuc prgrammes will also continue.

At Technological University Dublin, president Prof David Fitzpatrick told students there would be a a maximum of 30 per cent occupancy in lecture theatres, laboratories and other learning and social spaces.

“This will have a significant impact on timetabling and the mode of delivery, and also on how you experience university life in semester one,” he said.

Dublin City University said it was planning a “hybrid” of online and face-to-face classes.

DCU president Brian MacCraith said while current DCU students would start on October 5th, incoming first years would be brought in two weeks earlier to take part in an orientation programmes.

Maynooth University, NUI Galway, University College Cork and University of Limerick are also understood to be planned a “blended learning” approach when college reopens.

In a message to students, UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald, said the university was examining the option of allowing groups of students and staff – perhaps 20 per cent – to rotate in periods of on-campus learning with periods of off-campus online delivery.

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