University College Dublin (UCD) cancelled their outgoing exchanges for the first semester of the 2020/2021 academic year on May 15th due to uncertainty as to when international travel restrictions would be lifted. The university stated that it as a result it would not be feasible for students to adequately plan their exchange activities. UCD Global stated that “cancelling the outgoing exchanges was the best option for students in terms of ensuring their health and safety and avoiding disruption to their academic programmes.”

Just over a month later on June 16th, TD Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills in the Dáil if he will request and urge UCD to revoke the cancellation of all outgoing Erasmus exchanges for the Autumn Trimester 2020. He made this request in light of UCD’s preparations to accept international students onto campus-based courses from September 2020.

Other colleges across Ireland, however, have chosen to go ahead with Autumn trimester Erasmus exchanges. Trinity College Dublin has opted not to cancel outgoing exchanges for the first semester. All exchanges are voluntary which means that any students that are required to complete an Erasmus exchange as part of their degree will not be penalized if they make the decision not to go.

Professor Juliette Hussey the vice president for Global Relations in TCD stated in an email to students that “students who wish to undertake an Erasmus exchange may do so as long as the host university is accepting inbound students, ideally providing in-person teaching, and it is safe to do so. We would however discourage students from proceeding on an exchange in a University that is planning wholly online learning.” A decision on non-Erasmus exchanges for the first semester is yet to be made.

Based on Trinity’s decision not to cancel all outgoing exchanges, TD Paul Murphy has requested that Minister Joe McHugh urge that UCD make a similar decision. In response to this request, the Minister stated, “our Higher Education Institutions are independent bodies and they are responsible for delivery of their own activities and programmes and for decision-making on particular aspects of delivery. In the context of COVID-19, all HEIs must, and are, adapting to the situation in light of public health guidance and advice.”

The Minister continued: “I am advised by the HEA that UCD has decided that reciprocal exchanges under Erasmus are not viable for the Autumn Trimester 2020 taking into consideration public health advice in a number of countries and current travel restrictions.  This does not affect mobilities for the Spring Trimester 2021, which UCD hopes will proceed as planned. I hope that the flexibilities and options available will ensure that all students who wish to have a mobility experience in the next academic year can be facilitated to the greatest extent possible.”

Earlier this week, students who are expected to take part in the programme were emailed with an update on the situation. The information in the email reiterated that all Erasmus and non-EU exchange students will not be able to attend the partner universities during the Autumn Trimester due to the uncertainty around “the current travel restrictions nationally and internationally”.

However, the email further stated that the Spring exchanges are “proceeding as planned”. UCD is closely monitoring the applications with the partner universities and will notify the students if the situation changes. UCD recommends that students “do not book travel or accommodation at this time”, they also said that “the decision on the Spring trimester will be reviewed in September.”

UCD Global confirmed this information to The College Tribune and referred students to information under FAQ’s on their Covid-19 special arrangement sections.

The email went on to address full year exchange students. However, the university did not give any clear-cut information regarding full year exchange students. They stated that it may be possible to shorten this to one semester but it “will depend on your programme”.

Likewise, students who would like to defer their Autumn exchange to the Spring are still on hold with decisions. The university stated that “this will depend on our partner universities and how flexible they can be”, however, the university went on to say that  “in many cases, they will not have the capacity for additional students in the second trimester”.

Ahmed Jouda – Reporter.

Aine Burke – Reporter

Luke Murphy – Co-Editor.