University College Dublin (UCD) begins easing restrictions from today, in line with the government’s commencement of Phase 1 of the COVID-19 exit roadmap. Staff will now be permitted on campus to fulfil essential tasks.
Under the new guidelines issues by the government: “School and college buildings may reopen for teachers and staff for the organisation and distribution of learning materials, related activities and essential administration. The purpose of school and college opening is solely to facilitate remote learning.”
UCD has been formally closed for students since March 12th, with increased restrictions introduced on March 30th that permitted only essential research and COVID-19 related activities to continue, such as UCD’s contact tracing centre in the O’Brien Centre for Science.
UCD students have moved to virtual learning for the remainder of the academic year, with Irish Universities Association Director General Jim Miley predicting the autumn trimester will consist of “blended learning” between online and on-campus learning.
From today, UCD staff will be permitted access to their buildings under the written permission of their Head of School. Successfully filled out forms are submitted to Estate Services for approval before the staff member is permitted to enter a building.
All buildings on campus continue to remain closed for students.
A number of essential activities were ongoing before Phase 1, such as the running of the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL), which has led the national effort for COVID-19 testing in Ireland. Research key to the fight against the virus has also been allowed to continue, with university staff partaking in lifesaving research in recent months.
In line with national guidelines, construction workers can also return from today, although it is limited to cases where social distancing can occur. UCD has not responded to a request for comment on the progress of the new residences under construction on the south end of the Belfield campus.
The return of all universities in autumn could see no large lectures, “blended learning” between virtual and on-campus, large cutbacks in numbers of on-campus accommodation, and a rota for students on when they can be on campus with first years prioritised, according to IUA Director General Jim Miley. The IUA is predicting a potential drop in international student revenue of €181 million between this year and next year on its member universities, including University College Dublin (UCD). UCD has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, projecting a negative impact of up to €100 million by the end of the year.
Conor Capplis – Editor