Third level students urged to consider if they need rented accommodation
Colleges warn students that breaches of Covid-19 regulations may lead to expulsion
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris announced the addtional restrictions on third level colleges on Friday. Photograph: PA
As many third level students start their new academic year today they are being asked to consider whether they need to travel to rented accommodation in light of new restrictions which will limit on-campus activity.
In addition, several colleges have warned students that any breaches of Covid-19 regulations - including guidelines on the numbers who can attend house parties and other social gatherings - could result in expulsion.
UCC, UL and NUI Galway have all warned students in recent days that how they act in the coming days and weeks will have a direct impact on the wider community.
The Government has requested all third level colleges to move as much teaching online as possible over the coming weeks in a bid to reduce student contact.
In most cases, only small-scale laboratory work or practicals are taking place on campus and most social gatherings or society events have been cancelled for the time being.
Ms Fitzpatrick said : “If you are a student due to start college on Monday and have secured accommodation, it’s important to consider whether you really have to travel. If you have no on-campus activities, would you be better off staying at home and not moving outside of your region?
“If you are still at home and were planning to move closer to your college, or if you have already travelled, think about where you would be happier if travel is further restricted.
“We are being asked to minimise travel as much as possible to help limit the spread of the virus.”
She said the USI was extremely concerned at the last-minute nature of the announcement, given that most students already had plans in place.
Ms Fitzpatrick said: “This decision is coming very late in the day. There are many students who have already started back and thousands more who are due to start on Monday. This adds to what is and has been a very stressful time for many students and their families.”
As most college activity will now take place online for the coming weeks, and with the risk of that period being extended, she called on the Government to act immediately to protect and support student renters.
“Exactly one month ago today, USI called on the Government to introduce six emergency provisions to ensure student renters were not hit by a repeat of what happened in March when colleges and universities closed and deposits and prepaid rent were not returned and students had to fight for on-campus accommodation to be refunded,” she said. “Now we are already looking at this becoming an issue again for students.”
In light of the new guidelines, the USI is urging students to mind themselves and their classmates and friends.
Ms Fitzpatrick added: “We are very concerned about students feeling isolated. We know the impact it has on our mental health. Please make sure to reach out to friends and stay in touch, we all need to support each other now.” She said there were resources and support available by texting “Hello” to 50808 any time, day or night, to speak with a trained volunteer.
“It is an anonymous and free service and we encourage students to use it when needed,” she added.