As classes resume at UCD next week with guidelines in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, The College Tribune takes a look at how UCD’s plans for this trimester have changed over the summer.

May: Initial Plans to Re-Open Drafted

On May 28th, an email was sent to students from Professor Mark Rogers, UCD’s registrar and deputy president. This email outlined UCD’s initial plans for the reopening of the campus with measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In this email Rogers said: “In September, the University intends to reopen the campus within the national public health guidelines and to give you the best possible campus and blended learning experience so that you can continue with your academic progression and engage with university life with your friends and UCD staff.”

The beginning of the September teaching term was delayed to September 21st. An emphasis was placed on ensuring students would still be able to attend classes in person, with core modules at least partially delivered on campus. Elective modules would be offered online where possible. For students unable to attend classes on campus, “at-distance alternatives” would be offered. Students whose placements were affected by public health restrictions would carry them out at a later date where possible or be offered alternatives that would allow them to graduate with the same professional accreditation as before. 

The residences would also be open, with international students allowed to arrive fourteen days in advance of the trimester’s beginning to allow them to quarantine.

Early July: Students Expected To Be On Campus 40-60% of Normal Schedule

In July, another email was sent out from the registrar explaining UCD’s plans for reopening in more detail. According to this email, it was expected that most undergraduate students would be in classrooms “around 40-60% of the normal schedule”, with this figure raised to 75-100% for graduate students.

Students would be offered a blend of online and face-to-face classes, with lectures expected to be carried out online and tutorials in person. Practical classes, such as labs for science students, would also take place in person.

Residences would be open with a two-week quarantine period available rent-free if necessary, with the annual rent reduced to 36 weeks for all students in residence.

Late July: Department of Higher and Further Education Issues a Re-Opening Roadmap

On July 22nd, the Department of Higher and Further Education released a roadmap that offered guidance for the reopening of college campuses. Two metre social distancing was advised, with face coverings recommended where this would not be possible. It was also advised that graduation ceremonies be postponed, or held on areas of campus inaccessible to other students.

The roadmap also advised that class times be staggered, with opening hours extended, and that the number of students on campus should be reduced as much as possible. The College Tribune previously reported that “timetables may be revised to schedule hours outside of 9am-6pm, and Saturday classes may be introduced.”

August: Students to Spend 30-70% of Normal Scheduled Time On Campus

In August, students were informed that some classes would be delivered with one metre social distancing, with face coverings required. At that time, UCD reported that undergraduate students would spend 30-70% of their normal scheduled time in classrooms, with this figure raised to 20-86% for graduate students.

September: Orientation Week to Run Remotely as Dublin is Placed on Higher Alert by Government

It was announced in September that UCD’s orientation week would be carried out remotely this year, with the only planned on-campus element being campus tours in small groups. Students are to begin the academic year on the 21st of September with a “blended learning” approach of online and face-to-face lectures.

On September 15th, the government released their medium-term strategy for living with Covid-19 over the next six months, with Dublin placed on a higher alert level than the rest of Ireland. All third-level institutions in Dublin have been told to consider “enhanced protective measures” as students return to campus this month. It is not yet known what exactly this will mean for UCD.

Isobel Dunne – Reporter