Universities extend closing times to early hours of morning to cope with demand

UCC’s main library has been staying open until 1.30am before exams

Universities are increasingly extending their main library closing times into the early hours of the morning to cope with a surge in demand for late-night study.

Colleges say they are responding to demand for extra study time in the run-up to the exams, while trying to balance this with student welfare.

UCC’s main Boole library has been staying open until 1.30am in the lead-up to exams, while the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland library introduced 1am closing last March.

At UCD, opening hours at the main James Joyce library have recently been extended from 11pm to 12 midnight during peak times, while University of Limerick's main library regularly stays open until midnight.

There are early closing hours of 10pm at NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublln. However, Trinity has introduced 24-hour study halls in a number of locations in the face of demand for after-hours studying.

The move comes as many universities acknowledge that pressure is growing on students due to a combination of factors, such as a rise in part-time work among students or increased competition due to records numbers at third level.

Colleges health services have also recorded record demand over recent years for counselling for anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health problems.

Figures compiled by the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education show that numbers seeking therapy or counselling have surged since 2010, from 6,000 students to well over 10,000 in 2017.

Anxiety was the single biggest issue of concern among students last year, accounting for 40 per cent of all those seeking counselling.

John Phillips, president of the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education group, said pressure to succeed in college is just one of a number of factors behind the rise in numbers experiencing anxiety, panic attacks or acute stress.

Other triggers can include social media use, relationship break-ups, isolation, long-term effects of family issues and increasing openness around mental health problems.

Against this backdrop, students’ unions at a number of colleges have reported that engagement levels have been dropping in recent years for events, especially one which take place in the evenings.

The numbers using on-campus student bars - once thriving hubs throughout the academic year - are also declining, though there are large in spikes in demand around certain events.

“It’s a symptom of the pressure students are under,” said Barry Murphy, president of UCD students’ union.

He said students these days have to compete harder and are more career and employment focused from the moment they enter college.”

“You have students stressing about only getting 2:1s. instead of 1:1s; there’s peer pressure when they see others doing well; there are parental expectations; and there’s self-imposed pressure , too.”