‘Very late notice’ as lectures in third-level institutions to move online

Eimear Curtin, University College Cork Students' Union Education officer, said the announcement has added to the "already extreme uncertainty" surrounding student's return to college
‘Very late notice’ as lectures in third-level institutions to move online

The restrictions have already been in place for higher education institutions in Dublin after the capital was moved to a level three lockdown last week. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Universities and higher-level education institutions across the country have been asked to move lectures online for the next two weeks according to the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris. 

Mr Harris made the announcement today and said students have been asked to only attend classes that cannot be completed remotely including labs and practical lessons. 

Society and club activities on campus have also been suspended however libraries will remain open with social distancing protocols and entry registration. 

The restrictions have already been in place for higher education institutions in Dublin after the capital was moved to a level three lockdown last week. 

The measures have been introduced as universities prepare to reopen next week. Institutes of Technology have already returned. 

Public health officials are trying to limit the amount of people traveling across the country as third level institutions start the academic year.

Mr Harris confirmed the measures this afternoon as warnings were raised about the current case numbers in cities. 

"I am conscious that people are looking for certainty and I wish I could give it to them. 

"But what I can tell them is this. The colleges are not closing, far from it, but we are asking people to use common sense here. 

"If you can provide a lecture online that saves everybody from having to trek to another part of the country and the impact of that in terms of movement, please do it," Mr Harris said.

In a statement this afternoon, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) said Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are complying with the government's request and that staff and students will receive communication in relation to necessary health protection measures. 

"Due to rising Covid-19 numbers across the country, at the request of government, all HEIs will now move to the enhanced public health protection measures applied in Dublin-based HEIs last week.

"While the safety of staff and students has always been a priority of the new academic year, the focus of the next 2-3 weeks is on limiting the cross country movement of students and avoiding congregation of large groups on campus.

"In addition, the universities will ensure that all necessary health protection measures are in place and that there will be clear communication to students and staff in this regard. 

"This is underpinned by national guidance for the further and higher education sectors and by more detailed implementation guidelines developed by public health experts," the statement said. 

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) welcomed the enhanced measures this afternoon. 

In a statement, Joan Donegan, General Secretary of IFUT, said that the health and safety of staff, students and the broader community must be central to the reopening of third level colleges around the country.

Reacting to today's announcement, Eimear Curtin, University College Cork (UCC) Students' Union Education officer, said the announcement has added to the "already extreme uncertainty" surrounding student's return to college.

"[The restrictions are] for two weeks now, but who is to say that by the end of the two weeks, they won't say it's being extended."

She added that there is now a lot of stress on students to decide whether to give up their accommodation or to stay in Cork. "It has been very late notice. This was announced today on Friday afternoon when we were due to start on Monday."

It is understood that the guidelines mean club and society events will not go ahead, but the library will remain open. "We are encouraging students to stay at home if at all possible, but some students do not have proper environments to study in. They could be in rented accomodation, or in a family home where they are caring for someone, or there are young children."

Ms Curtin also said lecturers and staff were now under pressure to deliver tutorials and other modules online, which were previously scheduled to take place in-person and on campus.

"I don't think there will be a delay in content being delivered as our staff are excellent, but it adds to the stress. It is not an ideal learning environment."

Ms Curtin is hopeful that the spread of the virus will slow down enough to allow students to return to campus safely, and that she understands the advice has been given in the interest of public health.

Speaking earlier today, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Cork city is now a “danger area” for coronavirus as cases have increased rapidly in the past two weeks

Infection rates have been rising in urban areas, and public health officials are “very concerned” that the cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford will have to go into lockdown as universities and institutes of technology reopen, Mr Martin said.

 

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