University College Dublin (UCD) is to proceed with plans to re-open campus for students with face-to-face teaching in the academic year 2021/22, as has been revealed in a special bulletin addressed to staff by UCD President, Andrew Deeks. 

The bulletin states that “the UMT is confident we can proceed safely with our plans to return to face-to-face teaching, albeit with appropriate risk mitigation in place” given the fact that “the great majority of our employees and our students will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19” by the start of the academic year.

Campus activities will take place subject to public health guidelines and measures agreed upon across the third-level education sector. These measures were drafted with the collaborative effort of the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Royal College of Surgeons (RSCI) through a joint statement issued on the 3rd of August 2021. 

UCD Plan to Return to Face-to-Face Teaching With No Social-Distancing Requirements

Following this agreement, the University Management met on Tuesday, 17th of August, to decide on measures specific to UCD. These include: 

  • Adherence to standard hygiene measures with a particular focus on hand hygiene, sanitary hygiene and respiratory hygiene. 
  • Required use of face masks in ‘indoor on-campus shared settings’ at all times, while instructors may remove their masks if they are atleast 2m away from the nearest person. 
  • Ventilation systems will be optimised. A recent audit carried out on the ventilation systems of university rooms has shown that the vast majority of rooms have adequate ventilation potential to allow for safe indoor use.
  • Entry and exit of university buildings and facilities will be managed via contra flow, with the use of separate doors and routes. 
  • Lecture times will be managed to allow for “controlled exit and entry to large lectures and to avoid congregation”.  
  • The standard lecture time will be reduced to 45 minutes. 
  • All lecturers will be required to provide online teaching material for all lectures with more than 250 students registered. 
  • If a national limit on lecture size is adopted by the government, lecturers above the limit will move to alternative teaching material for the period the limit applies. 

Social activities on-campus must continue to follow prevailing public health guidance relevant to those activities so it is yet to be seen how these guidelines will affect student societies on campus.

The email also states that the UMT has “decided that the provision of lecture recordings or other online support complementing face-to-face teaching should be adopted to the greatest extent possible” due to this approach being “supportive of student learning generally”. 

Deeks stated in the email that UCD has been planning a return to campus in the coming academic year “based on no requirement for social distancing and no capacity limits for teaching activities beyond the physical capacity of the teaching venues”. This is due to the fact that a requirement of 1-metre social distances could “reduce the on-campus experience of our students to less than 50% of the regular amount”.

However, the email also states “UCD is uniquely placed in an Irish context in having the largest number of students, the largest lecture theatres and one of the most spacious campuses”. 

Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor