University College Dublin (UCD) is still working under the expectation of 1-metre physical distance measures on campus in the upcoming Trimester, despite recent guidance from government suggesting a 2-metre distance.
Sources have told The College Tribune that the University expects an announcement from the government shortly which would allow a reduction in physical distancing from 2-metres to 1-metre, in cases where students wear face masks, which will be mandatory for students on UCD campus.
Last week, the Department of Further and Higher Education published the “Practical Guidance for Further and Higher Education for Returning to On-Site Education in 2020”. The document details various public health guidelines universities should implement in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease, including a 2-metre physical distancing boundary, recommendations of face coverings on campus and shorter class times.
In a recent ‘President’s Bulletin’, UCD President Andrew Deeks insisted that the guidance for reopening is in line with UCD’s own framework for returning to campus, saying – “the Department continues to engage with the relevant health authorities in relation to the potential for flexibility in regard to the current physical distancing recommendation”. Deeks also noted that there is “the potential for approval of ‘context-specific measures’” within the guidance issued, which may allow UCD to maintain their plans structured with a 1-metre distance in mind.
On July 8th, Deputy President and Registrar, Professor Mark Rogers, announced that “most undergraduate students will be in classrooms around 40-60% of the normal schedule, with most graduate students having between 75 and 100% of normal classroom time.”
This plan, devised with the expectation of a 1-metre physical distance implemented in lectures, goes against the 2-metre rule advised by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
Speaking recently to The Sunday Independent, Eilis O’Brien, Communications Director at UCD, said: “We are now trying our best to bring the students back to campus, because we believe the experience is an important part of their education, but we can only do what the public health guidelines allow us to do.”
Nessa Collins – Reporter