Deputy President and Registrar of University College Dublin (UCD), Professor Mark Rogers, has this week outlined plans regarding on-campus student accommodation for the coming academic year. Despite ongoing concerns over the pandemic, UCD’s eight student residences, which remained open to some students throughout the lockdown period, will “be filled as normal”, with “additional special arrangements” to ensure the safety of its occupants from September.

UCD is one of a number of Irish universities to issue updates on the future of their student residences. In the last month, Dublin City University (DCU) highlighted the reality of accommodation being “very different from normal” in the coming year. DCU is planning to use a new flexible booking model for on-campus accommodation, with all places being subject to changes in student’s timetables before the beginning of the academic year.

Trinity College Dublin, however, is telling students that it is “waiting for clarification from the College authorities and the Health Service Executive (HSE) on physical distancing procedures to be implemented in student accommodation” before they detail their plans for the upcoming terms. This follows calls from the director general of the Irish Universities Association, Jim Miley, in The Irish Times for more clarity from the government, as third-level institutions peer “into the unknown” of a new academic year.

A representative of UCD Student Residences has told The College Tribune that they are continually monitoring “updates in policies” from the government and will “alter advice accordingly” should the government’s guidelines be updated. It is hoped that an update will “come in the next week or so”, as the last student-specific legislation regarding accommodation was made by the government on 27th March and is due to expire on 20th July. It is currently unknown when the government will choose to issue new guidance to third-level institutions or extend the existing emergency legislation until a further date.

In the interim, UCD has put a number of protocols in place to ensure the safety of prospective residents. Hand sanitizers will be available at the entrance to each building and in social spaces, laundries, and offices. Common areas will be cleaned daily. Ongoing social distancing protocols will be in place at the front of house reception and social areas and the arrivals process will be designed to ensure a safe check-in process. Prospective residents will be advised to follow the social distancing protocols set by the HSE and Irish Government and will be advised to alert Front of House staff or their Residential Assistant in case of breaches.

In accordance with current government guidelines on overseas travel, the UCD Residences team have set aside a number of self-isolation rooms for the new semester. Should students travelling into Ireland be required to self-isolate, they may arrive 14 days in advance of the beginning of the trimester. UCD is providing this two-week period rent-free to students in campus residence. These self-isolation rooms will be available to any student who may require self-isolation on medical advice during their stay in UCD Residences throughout the year.

According to UCD Residences, socializing among residences “will be informed by current HSE directions”. Currently, no overnight guests are permitted and social spaces, games rooms and gyms within the residences remain closed.

Gemma Farrell – Reporter