Colleges to remain online as January restrictions tightened

Colleges are to remain online until January 12 as part of a tightening of restrictions

Colleges and higher level institutions are to remain primarily online in the start of the new year, Taoiseach Michéal Martin has said.

This comes after a sharp rise in Covid cases over recent days, after the UK announced a new variant of the virus had broken out in London and other parts of the country. Colleges are to remain online until January 12 as part of a tightening of restrictions.

Some colleges had been planning for a partial return to face-to-face teaching, with a recent survey of students in Trinity finding that 4 out of 5 students wanted more in person learning next term if the restrictions allowed for it.

Vice Provost Juergen Burkhoff, following the publishing of the survey, stated that he will be Barkhoff said he will be “discussing with staff how we can increase the amount of face-to-face teaching in small group seminars and tutorials, especially in those programmes that under Level 5 were entirely online”. This announcement is in stark contrast to university wishes for the new year, however restrictions are online to remain in place until January 12, while Michaelmas exams start on January 11. 

The survey found that more than half – 52% – of students would like “as much in-person activity as possible” next semester.

Around a third – 31% – want a small increase in in-person activity but are happy to study remotely some of the time, while 13% would prefer to study remotely as much as possible and 4% would prefer “not to return to campus at all”.

Among key concerns that students raised at the prospect of returning to College were using public transport, living with a family member in a high-risk category, and finding accommodation in Dublin.

The government have announced a cohort of new restrictions to come into effect on Christmas Eve, December 24, with restaurants and gastro pubs being closed from 3pm, and inter country travel being banned after St Stephen’s Day, December 26. 

Household visits are to be reduced to one household as opposed to three, and non essential retail will remain open, however January sales will not be allowed. 

On RTÉ News, Professor Kingston Mills said that it “was tough on people” to change their Christmas plans, and there is currently no evidence that the new variant of Covid-19 is in the country. 

This week, the Pzifer vaccination was approved in the European Union. It is already being distributed throughout the UK and the USA.

In a statement to students following the news of a third lockdown across the country, Burkhoff stated: “We had hoped and planned to confirm to you at this point our definite plans for teaching in semester 2 which begins on 1 February 2021, following on from the communication we sent at the end of November when the country exited level 5 restrictions.”

The statement continued: “The rapid increase in cases over the last few days and the increased uncertainty about the impact the new strain of the virus might have on public health guidelines and restrictions unfortunately has made this impossible and we have to ask you for a little more patience.”

”We are absolutely committed to enabling the best possible educational experience that conditions allow while prioritising the health and safety of students and staff.”

Burkhoff added: “With this goal in mind we will carefully monitor the evolving situation and the government responses to it. We now plan to communicate our decisions on the format of semester 2 teaching in the week starting Monday 4 January 2021 based on public health guidelines.”

This post was updated at 9:16 am with a statement from Trinity College’s Vice-Provost Juergen Burkhoff, about College’s response to the third lockdown and the extended date for plans to be finalized about the second term.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.