Colleges encouraged to increase on-campus activity in the coming semester

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has advised colleges to increase on-campus activities due to a concern over the potential rise in drop-out rates for first-year students

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris is encouraging colleges across the country to increase in-person learning, in a bid to decrease drop-out rates.

Harris has reportedly been in negotiation with third level institutions in recent days about the increased allowance of on-campus activities and in-person learning in the next semester.

The minister says his priority going into the new year will be in “increasing on-campus activity as much as we can and as safely as we can”.

Harris confirmed that his department has “started these discussions with colleges”, stating that “it is my view we need to provide certainty as soon as is possible”.

Harris expressed particular concern for first and final-year students, as well as those living away from home for the first time.

Harris affirmed that he would like to see more on-site activity for said students, stating: “We want to create new ways to promote small-scale, in-person contact, especially peer engagement, for new entrants to further and higher education, especially for students and learners that may be living away from home for the first time and those who may be at risk of dropping out.”

He urges colleges to “hold off” making decisions for the coming semester until final decisions have been made within the department.

Dublin City University (DCU) and Maynooth university have both confirmed that no in-person lectures will take place next term.

Trinity’s Provost, Patrick Prendergast, confirmed in October that only practical classes in which it is necessary to deliver them in person will be allowed under level five restrictions.

He asserted that “all lectures and tutorials that can be delivered online should be delivered online” and that “there is now little chance we can increase in-person teaching before Christmas”. Plans for the next semester, however, have yet to be confirmed.

The student counselling service at Trinity has seen an increase in the number of student enquiries in recent weeks, with over 600 emails from students looking to avail of their mental health services. 

This increase in enquiries points to a growing concern amongst students for their mental well-being, as Covid-19 restrictions tighten, and on-campus activities are brought to a halt. 

Bonnie Gill

Bonnie Gill is current News Analysis Editor for Trinity News and previously served as the College Correspondent. She is a Senior Sophister Film Studies and English Literature student.