Colleges told to further restrict onsite activity to “most essential” work

Only the “most essential” work will be allowed to take place on college campuses as schools and childcare facilities shut

Third level institutions have been instructed by the government to further limit the amount of onsite activity in response to the spiking number of Covid-19 cases. 

Only the “most essential” work will be allowed to take place on college campuses.

In a statement issued this evening, the Department for Further and Higher Education said that institutions have so far used some “limited discretion” to identify and schedule essential onsite activities this year.

Colleges and universities are now being instructed to “restrict onsite attendance further, only allowing the most essential work to take place onsite”.

The statement further indicated that in-person internal assessments “will focus on activities that are not capable of being delivered through alternative means and are time-critical for students and learners during this period”.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris stated today that “this has been an incredibly challenging year for our colleges, students, our community educators but we all must restrict our movements to stop the spread of Covid-19”.

Harris acknowledged that “this is a particularly stressful time for students, many of whom are doing assessments and assignments at the minute”, and sought to reassure students “this will not be forever. The college experience will not always be like this.”

Trinity, along with other higher education institutions, has been operating primarily online this year, with in-person teaching limited to only a few activities, such as those required for professional accreditation. 

The Library has remained open throughout the year, along with the student breakout spaces that were introduced on campus at the start of the first semester.

A survey of Trinity students carried out near the end of last year found that four in five students wanted more in-person teaching in Hilary Term if Level Three restrictions were in place, while 64% wanted more in-person teaching at Level Five.

The survey polled 6,053 students on their opinions of how Hilary Term should be handled and how well they coped during Michaelmas Term.

Vice Provost Jürgen Barkhoff said at the time that College was considering “in detail” the “actionable issues” that the survey identified.

On Tuesday, in anticipation of further restrictions to be announced by government, Barkhoff wrote to students to indicate that College would communicate details by Friday “on how these new measures will affect second semester teaching, exams, assessments, access to the libraries and accommodation as well as research”.

Also announced by the government today was the closure of schools and childcare facilities until at least January 31 with the exception of Leaving Certificate students, who will attend schools three days a week.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government intends to run the Leaving Certificate exams as normal this year.

Special education schools and classes will also be allowed to continue to operate.

Finn Purdy

Finn Purdy is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister English Studies student, and a former News Editor and Assistant News Editor.