The higher education institutions represented by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, have announced their plans for a safe return to campuses this September with maximum on-site presence.
The coordinated approach, which has the support of government and endorsement of public health authorities, is centred on what they say is “the overwhelming desire of students to get back on campus” and is facilitated by the classification of higher education as an essential service and the fact that the vast majority of adults, including students, will have been vaccinated by September.
The joint approach from the HEIs builds on the Safe Return Plan published by DFHERIS in June and outlines the range of mitigation measures that will be implemented across the sector to provide for safe reopening. It provides a sector-wide commitment on reopening while recognising that each individual HEI will adapt mitigation measures to their own local context in consultation with staff and students.
Personal and institutional responsibility
Chair of IUA and President of NUI Galway Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said:“We are looking forward to welcoming our students back to our campuses. We are determined to put in place all the measures advised by public health to make the return to campus safe and sustainable for our students, our staff and for society.
“A key element of this determination is personal as well as institutional responsibility and we urge all our students to take up the offer of a vaccination in good time for September.”
Echoing this sentiment Prof Vincent Cunnane, Chair of THEA said: “On behalf of the THEA institutions, we are delighted to be bringing back significantly greater numbers of students for the coming Academic Year. Building on the ‘Safe Return Plan’ provides confidence to students and staff. I would urge all students to avail of the opportunity to get vaccinated to add to that level of confidence and to allow for a full student experience for the upcoming term.”
Three primary pillars
The re-opening of higher education in September 2021 is underpinned by three primary pillars:
• Higher education has been nominated as an ‘essential service’ by government.
• There is an overwhelming desire from students for a return to on-campus learning and research activity.
• The vast majority, if not all adults, including college students will have been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated by September.