Campus activity in third level colleges in Dublin is to be heavily curtailed under new Covid-19 restrictions.
Most lectures and teaching will take place online where possible, with the exception of small tutorials and laboratory work.
All social and club activities on-campus will be suspended, while access to libraries will be subject to strict social distancing protocols and booking systems.
On-campus orientation for first-year students is likely to proceed in some cases , but on a staggered basis so overall student numbers on-site are limited.
The moves follow discussions between the Department of Higher Education and representative bodies for third level colleges on foot of updated advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
Universities and colleges began to communicate revised plans to students and staff on Friday afternoon.
The last-minute changes have disrupted college reopening plans for many large higher education institutions including UCD, Trinity College , DCU, TU Dublin and the RCSI. Maynooth University has also announced it will limit on-campus activity due to its proximity to Dublin.
The changes will also affect colleges such as IADT, NCAD, further education colleges and private third level institutions.
UCD, which is due to resume classes next week, said scheduled on-campus activity for the coming week will not take place unless students were informed otherwise.
Orienation for first years - which was due to take place on-campus - will take place online, while most lectures will take also take place remotely.
The university’s registrar Prof Mark Rogers said the measures it was taking were equivalent to Level 4 on the Government ’s new Living with Covid plan.
Trinity College Dublin has also taken steps to limit congregation on campus by moving more teaching online in some areas.
Provost Patrick Prendergast said in a message to students that in-person teaching will continue in the faculty of health sciences and in the faculty of engineering, mathematics and science either because it is laboratory, practical or other teaching requiring physical presence or because it is required for professional accreditation.
However, for courses in the faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences, some timetabled in-person teaching will need to be moved online until restrictions are lifted. Timetables will not change because teaching switches from in-person to online.
There will be in-person events on campus to welcome students, but they will be more limited than had been planned.
In addition, he said all research activity will continue and libraries will remain open. More information about this be posted online, he said.
TU Dublin said all activities which do not require attendance on-campus will move to remote delivery where possible, while more practical classes - such as laboratories, kitchens or workshops - will continue on-campus.
At IADT, discretionary social activity has ceased in order to limit occasions for congregation. It sibrary will remain open but with controls on capacity and physical distancing.
Maynooth University said larger lectures will be taught online while small classes and tutorials will be limited to 30 students. Most of its "welcome week" for first years will take place online.
The Irish Universities Association confirmed that it has agreed a set of “enhanced measures” in response to a request from NPHET to deal with rising incidence of Covid-19 in the county.
It said universities in the capital will use discretion when deciding between onsite and remote for the scheduling of particular activities where remote delivery is feasible during this period.
On-campus provision will be minimised with priority given to teaching and learning that can only take place on-site.
This will include teaching and research in laboratories, practical tuition and workshops.
All university research activities will continue as normal, it said. It is anticipated that these additional measures will be reviewed after an initial period in view of evolving public health advice, the IUA said.
Outside Dublin, most universities and institutes of technology are continuing with their existing plans to re-open and to welcome students on campus based on their blended learning approach for the coming semester.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris welcomed the shift to more learning online and less on-site activity
“Individual institutions are revising their plans and I am pleased to say will be communicating with students shortly,” he said.
“The reopening of facilities outside Dublin will proceed as planned, based upon a model of blended learning and full adherence to public health advice.”
The Union of Students of Ireland (USI) said any restrictions must ensure student renters are not left thousands of euro out of pocket.
It said it has been repeatedly calling for Government to protect students who had to make decisions on whether to rent accommodation near their colleges despite a lack of clarity over how much time they would be spending on campus.
USI president, Lorna Fitzpatrick said: "Student safety is our first priority and we will always support and promote the public health advice.
“If the reports in relation to the Dublin measures are correct, and face-to-face learning is delayed, Government must act immediately to protect and support student renters.
“We cannot see a repeat of what happened in March where students were left hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of euro out of pocket due to deposits and prepaid rent not being returned.
The USI said it was calling on colleges and universities affected by the new public health measures to support students in every way they can by facilitating access to vital on-campus services, where possible.