Universities and colleges are set to reopen from next week, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has confirmed.
It follows a meeting on Friday between student, staff and management representatives to discuss the resumption of on-site activity.
Mr Harris said: “Education is an essential service and I am pleased to confirm the reopening of third level on site will proceed consistent with public health advice from Monday. Our priority will be teaching and learning.”
He said there will be a staggered reopening of third level with five higher-education colleges reopening on Monday and a further five reopening the following week.
Others will follow throughout the course of the month. Apprentices are already on site in the technological sector continuing their training.
“Since third level reopened in September, public health teams have been working with third-level providers to ensure staff and students can safely access education,” Mr Harris said.
“Last month we provided a fund of €9 million to purchase antigen tests for staff and students to provide an extra layer of protection. This will continue to be rolled out over the coming weeks and months.”
He confirmed that his Department is also working with the Health Service Executive to roll out "vaccination week" again this semester to ensure students can access their boosters.
Colleges will operate in line with a detailed framework for a safe return to campus, which enabled the return to on-site classes in higher and further education and training since last October.
Trinity College Dublin, meanwhile, has confirmed that it plans to press ahead with in-person and online exams for first-year students from next Monday.
The university’s students’ union has called for all exams to be moved online in light of the current public health situation.
However, a spokeswoman for Trinity confirmed that in-person exams will take place in various venues on campus, all operating at significantly reduced capacity.
“Trinity plans to proceed as planned with those examinations and has introduced additional mitigations to ensure social distancing,” she said.
“There has been no update regarding any change in guidelines for third-level institutions, and consequently we have decided to proceed as planned. Our plans are broadly in line with those of other colleges and universities.”
Separately, Trinity will operate a walk-in vaccination centre in the college’s dining hall from Monday to Thursday for all staff and students. Boosters will be available as will first and second vaccinations.
The university said it is encouraging everyone in its community to be vaccinated.