The Department of Further and Higher Education announced today that a plan to see students and staff returned to campus will be released in June.
Plans to see the country eased from Level 5 restrictions, put in place four months ago, were announced by government yesterday. As part of this announcement yesterday evening, Taoiseach Michael Martin had said that he “wants to see our students on campus for the new academic year, enjoying the further and higher education experience that they deserve”.
He continued: “You have done everything that has been asked of you. We as a government will continue to do everything we can to support you.”
Under Level three, four and five restrictions, College campus has remained off limits for the majority of students this year. However, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris has announced today that a plan will be laid out come June in efforts to return students to campus.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said that “Over 250,000 people attend further and higher education every year”.
“This year, the bulk of their work has been online,” Harris continued. “We know we had do it and we know why but we also know we cannot have an academic year like the last.l.
“I know this has been a tough year for students and staff but thankfully, a better year awaits you,” he said.
Harris has also said that working groups of students, colleges, staff representatives, further education and training providers and the Department had met to develop a plan for reopening colleges.
However, no details have yet been given as to what exact steps will be taken to ensure this return to campus can be achieved, nor what time frame will be put in place for returning students.
Harris has said he believes this return could be made possible through the rapid antigen testing of students, a sentiment also expressed by Provost-elect Professor Linda Doyle.
Third level education has been almost completely online since the beginning of the pandemic, with some exceptions for essential in-person activities.
While students were informed before the beginning of the first term of the academic year 2020/21 they would resume a hybrid learning approach in September, this was cancelled a few weeks prior due to concerns about a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country. Similarly, students were told in January that due to a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases following the Christmas period, online learning was to remain the primary form of education in Trinity for the remainder of the academic year.