Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Colleges around the country are preparing for a return to in-person classes from September following the announcement of new guidelines.

Higher institutions, represented by the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) announced the plans for a safe return to campuses for the next academic year “with maximum on-site presence”.

A statement from the group said institutions will commit to following Government guidance regarding Covid-19, in addition to enhanced safety measures, such as the use of face masks “in indoor on-site shared settings”, optimising ventilation systems, and actively managing large lectures through occupancy and time limits.

The approach will build on the Safe Return Plan published by the Department for Further and Higher Education in June, with individual institutions also afforded the ability to adapt mitigation measures to meet their own requirements in consultation with staff and students.

The group said the plans have the support of Government and have also been endorsed by public health authorities noting “the overwhelming desire of students to get back to campus”.

The guidelines state institutions will also collaborate with the HSE to ensure rapid access to testing and vaccination, “including on-site provision if practicable, subject to such measures being approved by Government and the necessary resources and infrastructure provided”.

Commenting on the announcement, chair of the IUA and president of NUI Galway, Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaig said: “We are looking forward to welcoming our students back to our campuses. We are determined to put in place all the measures advised by public health to make the return to campus safe and sustainable for our students, our staff and for society.

“A key element of this determination is personal as well as institutional responsibility and we urge all our students to take up the offer of a vaccination in good time for September.”

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