Students at Trinity College Dublin are planning to protest next week over the university's lack of on-campus lectures and reliance on remote learning.
The university has introduced a more cautious approach to reopening than many third level institutions but promised students that all courses would have an element of in-person teaching.
However, at a virtual town hall meeting hosted by the Trinity’s students’ union on Friday, dozens of students complained that all their lectures were online and accused the college of “broken promises”.
One second year law student said: “I was considering deferring my course over the summer because I did not want to do another year online. I got in contact with the Trinity admissions team and was promised the majority of my lectures would be in person ... I found out last week that every single one of my lectures are online.”
A final psychology student said her course was fully online apart from a single module.
“The majority of my friends are completely online, which I have recently found out is a breach of promises Trinity made,” she said.
Leah Keogh, president of Trinity College Dublin Students' Union, said a group of frustrated students have organised a protest to take place next Wednesday to share their discontent with the situation.
“TCDSU are committed to lobbying the college to maximise the amount of in-person teaching for all students,” she said.
In a statement, Trinity’s vice-provost Orla Sheils said the university’s approach to reopening has been “deliberately cautious” and based on the best available public health advice.
“We were conscious of the need to strike a balance between securing the health and safety of our college community while also offering our students a more normal campus experience. We regret that some students have been disappointed by this. There are few easy answers in the present climate,” she said.
Prof Sheils said the university was making every effort to ameliorate issues where the "amount of face-to-face teaching is less than we hoped for".
She said the college remains on track to move to resume teaching activities with no social distancing measures in place from November 1st, 2021.
This will increase the amount of face-to-face teaching for our students significantly to more than 75 per cent.
After Christmas, the university plans to resume all teaching face-to-face for all teaching activities whilst operating under our normal “pre-pandemic” timetabling procedures and policies.
In the meantime, teaching up until October 22nd is on the basis of 1m social distancing.
“The reasons for this include public health advice we received in planning our reopening, which modelled case numbers continuing to rise through September. It is clear the modelling was more pessimistic than our vaccination programme has allowed. However, we anticipate an increase in cases as we reopen,” she said.
Separately, a series of walk-in and pop-up vaccination centres are to be established in colleges and universities later this month as part of a final “big push” .
The Department of Further and Higher Education said it is working with the HSE and colleges to provide walk-in clinics or pop-up centres across most higher education institutions in the week of September 27th.
Latest figures show about 84 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 have had their first dose vaccination, with around 78 per cent fully vaccinated.
“This is our final big push, in the last mile of the vaccination initiative, and we are aiming to make vaccination as easy and accessible as possible for as many people as possible, including international students,” a department spokeswoman said.