The Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins, spoke about the recently announced return to campus on Newstalk this Friday. UCD has announced a full return to the in-person learning experience, without strict social distancing measures in place. In his interview, the Minister emphasised that the rules regulating this milestone in the post-pandemic recovery will be largely left to individual institutions, stating “one size does not fit all here.”

Interviewed alongside Minister of State Collins, UCDSU President Ruairí Power gave his stance on the return to campus, citing uncertainty as the main concern with UCD’s plan for a long-awaited return to in-person learning. When asked how he felt about the return to in-person learning, Power firstly stated that the news was positive: “It’s overwhelmingly being welcomed by students.

However, he raised the issue of uncertainty; last year’s return to campus was pulled at the last minute, giving rise to some hesitancy with what he called an “ambitious” plan. Any last-minute introduction of restrictions, he pointed out, could compromise students where they had paid for accommodation near campus.

I don’t expect that there’ll be any reversing or unravelling of the plan in terms of how we approach college.” – Niall Collins TD

Power sought clarity from Collins as to whether further restrictions could be expected should the reopening not go as planned. Collins responded that he did not anticipate this: “I don’t expect that there’ll be any reversing or unravelling of the plan in terms of how we approach college.”

The Minister noted the strong uptake of vaccinations in the 18-29 cohort, of which the majority of the college population is composed; this strong uptake, he believes, will help to withstand the danger posed by the highly transmissible Delta variant. 

When questioned over his concerns regarding the lack of strict social distancing on campus next year, Power highlighted the provisions which would be in place with immunocompromised students in mind. The provision of lecture recordings will be mandatory in lectures with over 250 capacity and will be strongly encouraged in every other case.

In UCD’s case, the larger and medium-sized lecture halls have been fitted with the necessary equipment to carry out this function. This, Power hopes will alleviate some of the concerns students may have over the lack of social distancing. 

Rosie Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor