University College Dublin (UCD) is now planning for a one metre social distancing measure to be implemented on-campus by September, according to documents seen by The College Tribune.
Following adapted guidelines in the hospitality and transport sectors, it is understood that UCD expects a 1m social distancing measure as the “most likely scenario” on campus. It is not yet clear whether universities have received any indication that suggests an in-classroom reduction in social distancing measures.
The University Management Team (UMT), under the guidance of several working groups within the university, made the decision a number of weeks ago to inform Colleges and Schools and asked academics to update their teaching plans for Autumn 2020.
The recently announced 40-60% figure for expected in-person learning for undergraduates next Trimester is said to be based on the expected move to 1m social distancing at UCD.
The reduction in social distancing will have a “significant impact” on many programmes and allow for an increase in numbers of students permitted on-campus for in-person learning, according to UMT reports.
Information disseminated throughout Colleges and Schools also indicates that UCD will exercise a phased return to face-to-face teaching, based on prevailing national health guidelines throughout Trimester 1 2020.
The university also expects a relaxing of the limits on indoor gatherings, as to allow for a further increase in numbers permitted in lectures.
The College Tribune understands that all lectures will be streamed online and/or recorded next Trimester, allowing for students unable to attend in person to complete their studies. It is not yet clear whether physical attendance grades will exist at UCD next Trimester.
Documents seen by The College Tribune also indicate that plans are underway for protecting vulnerable staff and students on-campus next Trimester. The university is also working on arranging facilities for students outside of class time while on-campus. UCD will introduce hygiene stations in every building, implement cleaning regimes and systems for movement within buildings.
Before the announcement, Schools were asked to develop timetables and plans on room selection under the previously anticipated 2m social distancing rule. Following the UMT’s communication, academics were given an extension to their timetabling deadline and asked to reconsider under the new 1m expectation. Academic sources have expressed discontent to The College Tribune on this late change of planning by the university.
In a recent letter to The Irish Independent, UCD Irish Federation of University Teacher’s (IFUT) chair Emma Sokell, expressed frustration towards several unanswered questions at the university. “[…] How will classrooms/lecture halls be cleaned? How will public health guidelines (for example, the wearing of face coverings) be enforced? How will PPE for staff be organised? How will students on campus but not in class be managed? How will contact-tracing data be collected and maintained? How will vulnerable staff and students be accommodated?”
IFUT has been engaging with UCD in “high-level discussions” since early June, but the organisation has yet to receive solid plans from the university and be assured that staff and student health and welfare will be protected under proposed measures.
UCD has not responded to a request for comment by the time of publishing.
Conor Capplis – News Editor