Students 'left in dark' over return to college

NUIG, UCC, UCD, DCU, Maynooth and Trinity will have in-person learning for tutorials and labs; classes for larger groups will be online 
Students 'left in dark' over return to college

Third-level students say they have been 'left in the dark' in relation to colleges reopening.

Third-level students say they have been 'left in the dark' in relation to colleges reopening.

While some universities have given their students a preliminary indication of their hours, most institutions have not clarified how many in-person hours students will have on exactly what days, leading to confusion around booking accommodation for the entire year.

Waterford IT announced on Thursday that all lectures, tutorials and classes will take place online, and only labs or courses which need to use special equipment will take place on campus.

Meanwhile, UL has said first-year students will have in-person lectures one week in every three weeks, with all other students on campus for lectures one week in four. There will also be face-to-face teaching for labs and tutorials.

NUIG, UCC, UCD, DCU, Maynooth and Trinity have said there will be in-person learning for tutorials and labs, combined with some online classes for larger groups. 

UCD have said timetables will be released on September 7. DCU said as far as possible, students will be scheduled on campus for a reasonable length of time (no less than half a day), to help minimise commuting times to campus. "This could mean, for example, that campus activity is concentrated in specific weeks."

President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Lorna Fitzpatrick, says the uncertainty surrounding the academic year is starting to affect student's mental health because they are worried about accommodation.

"How often will students be required on campus, how much of their learning is due to take place online? A number of issues result from that.

"We have so many students getting in touch, and parents of new students, asking us if they should sign a lease. If the student is only going to be on campus for one week a month, or one day a week, is it in their best interest to sign a full-term lease?"

Ms Fitzpatrick says the difficulty is that each institution is making its own decision, and even within the colleges, different schools and courses could have varying degrees of in-person contact hours.

"Some have more information than others, but at this stage, it is the end of August and for people not to have any sort of clarity on the new academic year leaves them in a very difficult situation."

She added that the colleges should facilitate the club and society activities to go ahead, whether in-person and socially distant or virtually. She says these provide a source of support for students and shouldn't be cancelled outright.

Ellen O'Donoghue, who is in her final year of Arts with Journalism at NUI Galway, says students know very little about their return to college, but they have been promised more information by the end of August.

"I have days of panic where I feel like I need to get accommodation, then I think how can I find accommodation when I don't know if I'll be on campus yet."

Ellen is from Donegal and has a job there, but is considering commuting to Galway when her course resumes.

If I have to go up to Galway twice a week, that is €70 on the bus, not including an Airbnb. It will nearly be cheaper for me to get a house.

"But you don't know whether the price of rent will fall or go up, and if I even need it."

Two of Ellen's friends have been paying rent since June but continued to live at home, just to keep a room available.

She wishes that the university was more forthcoming with specific information about timetables. "We are just left in the dark."

Ellen adds that if some of her course is going to be online, her internet at home is not strong enough to complete college work.

In a statement, the NUIG said: "All taught programmes will be delivered in a hybrid of online and on-campus classes."

"Irrespective of the size of the class, we will have on-campus learning... through tutorials, seminars, laboratories."

NUIG also said that large-scale lectures will be delivered online and won't be timetabled.

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