The Irish Universities Association (IUA) has welcomed recent remarks made by the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris, who has pledged to return students to campus to the fullest extent this September.
The IUA have expressed unity in their commitment to follow through with Mister Harris’ promises. Active plans are now in the process of being worked on by universities, in the effort for a return to campus in the next academic year to the “greatest extent” within public health guidelines, according to a statement released by a spokesperson for the IUA.
The general hope among members of the IUA, is that the roll out of vaccines in the summer will create greater opportunities to return students and staff to campus in the Autumn and “facilitate a much greater level of activity on campus than in the current year”.
It is the current objective of the IUA to maintain close relations with Harris and government stakeholders in regards to planning the reopening of campus.
Student and staff representatives, both at a local and national level, will be involved in the process of ensuring a safe return to campus is possible.
One proposal put forward for a return to campus by Harris is to implement rapid testing on third-level campuses.
Speaking with Bryan Dobson on RTÉ Radio 1, Provost-Elect Linda Doyle has spoken of the gains to be had from rapid testing on campus. Doyle has spoken of the imperative of returning students to campus as “there’ll be students now who have had two academic years disrupted”.
And whilst Doyle has expressed support at Harris’ pledge to reopen campus, she has said that clarity will be needed if college is to “plan and move forward in a constructive way for our students”.
These comments follow the announcement by Harris of the rollout of four rapid testing schemes across four colleges campuses.
Doyle has expressed optimism that students will be able to return to campus in September, emphasising the importance it would have on student welfare and education.
However, she expects this to be possible with restrictions being implemented in gatherings, such as the use of facemasks.