Reopening campus

As we move out into the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, RCSI has set out plans for the return to campus. You can read more in our Response Plan below.

The following FAQs act as a guide for how we plan to reopen the RCSI Dublin Campus throughout autumn 2020.

In addition to these FAQs, there is a detailed RCSI COVID-19 Response Plan, as well as further information on how we are supporting the safety of our students during the coming academic year here.

In line with the Irish Government’s time-frame for lifting the lockdown, we have developed our roadmap for a phased return to campus.

All being well, we plan to have the campus prepared to welcome our students for September and October 2020.

At each phase of the Government’s lifting of the lockdown, it will assess the impact on clinical indicators and if there is any indication that cases of COVID-19 are increasing, it will halt or reverse plans. We will then also reverse plans, in line with Government requirements.

Our reopening roadmap


RCSI campus reopening roadmap

The requirement for effective social distancing will mean that we will need to manage our spaces quite differently. We can expect to have fewer staff and students on campus at any one time to make sure these measures are adhered to. This will require flexibility in working arrangements with remote working still very much a part of our ‘new’ working life.

We will also bring students back to campus in stages from late August to October. Returning students can find details of their semester dates on their student engagement Moodle page here. New students will have this information provided to them by our Admissions team.

We recognise that our new students will be unfamiliar with the University and some will also be unfamiliar with the city, so we have established a Year 1 Logistics Working Group to ensure they have detailed information before they travel here. This group is planning the student experience for new students coming to RCSI and Dublin for the first time. This includes details of their course start dates and how they will be supported in their orientation to life at RCSI.

RCSI Adapt is our plan for a safe return to campus next year and it has several working groups, each headed by a member of our Senior Management Team, including:

Student Health Management Working Group

RCSI is fortunate to have world-class expertise in all areas necessary to implement an effective health management plan for our students. Chaired by Kieran Ryan, MD Surgical Affairs, the group includes several health experts including: Prof. Sam McConkey, Deputy Dean for International Curriculum Development and Head of the Department of International and Tropical Health; Dr Kilian McGrogan, GP, Mercer’s Medical Centre; Prof. Steve Kerrigan and Prof. Gianpiero Cavalleri, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences.

The group has several areas of focus including: COVID-19 health guidelines, policies and protocols; enhanced GP/family physician medical service which can arrange COVID-19 testing, advice and treatment where necessary; physical and IT infrastructure to maintain health; student pre- and on-arrival support and advice; student health and well-being (counselling, mental health, physical health).

Business Continuity Planning Working Group

This group was initially established in February to successfully move all our campus operations to a remote working model. It has now shifted its focus to support our estate to reopen. Chaired by Barry Holmes, Director of HR, the group is responsible for issues that include: return to lab work protocols for research staff and PGRs, capacity planning for all RCSI spaces, procurement of necessary equipment, and social distancing signage and campus markings.

RCSI Adapt teams

As a world-class higher educational institution we are committed to nurturing and caring for our students. As part of our measures to protect them, RCSI is in the process of setting up a dedicated COVID-19 Health Service Programme. Our GP/family physician and student health service will have the capacity to ensure that all Undergraduate students have access to testing with a quick turnaround of test results. Our service will be fully integrated with our national health services (HSE).

In our commitment to our students well-being, RCSI will:

  • have a free of charge, 24/7 GP/family physician service
  • use a specifically trained team to guide you to the relevant health professionals should you have any symptoms or concerns in relation to COVID-19
  • have a mandatory online training course for all staff and students on how best to minimise infection spread and protect us all
  • arrange for all Undergraduate students to have access to COVID-19 testing as clinically indicated, through our GP/family physician service

In the event you are symptomatic or sick, our GP service and nursing support service will be there to look after you.

Supporting students if they become ill is a priority for RCSI. As normal, all new Undergraduate students register with the RCSI Mercer’s Medical Centre and have access to free general practice (GP) or primary healthcare. We have put in place additional resources at RCSI Mercer’s Medical Centre to ensure that all students have rapid access to medical care, should they require it during their time at RCSI.

As part of the student registration process all students will be asked to sign a RCSI COVID-19 Health Management Programme Agreement. The agreement is necessary so that we will have the information we need to ensure that we can provide all necessary healthcare and support to students. Students who will be attending clinical placements at RCSI Hospitals will be asked to agree to be screened for COVID-19 before starting their placement.

All students will be asked to:

  • Agree to comply with Irish Government and RCSI COVID-19 policies.
  • Agree to provide us with your contact details and a contact detail of a family member, parent and/or guardian so that we can keep them informed in the event you become sick and wish us to keep them informed on your behalf.
  • Agree to take self-responsibility to check your symptoms as required and follow RCSI guidelines which best protect you, your fellow students, clinical colleagues, staff and patients.
  • Agree to contact the RCSI Student Welfare team should you become unwell or are worried in any way and we can advise you accordingly.

If a student becomes COVID-19 symptomatic, they should self-isolate immediately and contact GP/family physician service in the following circumstances:

For mild symptoms (e.g. slight fever, cough, sore throat, loss of taste or smell)

  • Complete the Mercer Medical Centre's COVID form here
  • Mercer’s Medical Centre will contact you within 24 hours for a telephone consultation
  • A test will be arranged if required at a community testing hub convenient to your accommodation

For severe symptoms (e.g. very high fever and feeling unwell or shortness of breath)

  • Contact Mercer’s Medical Centre on 01 402 2300 or for out-of-hours contact DubDoc on 01 454 5607
  • A telephone consultation will be completed
  • A test will be arranged if required at a community testing hub convenient to your accommodation

Every effort is being made by RCSI to minimise the likelihood of COVID-19 infection among our students, staff and clinical sites, but there can be no guarantee that an individual student will not become infected. In the event that a student tests positive for COVID-19, RCSI will remain in close contact with the student. This will include contact from RCSI’s Student Welfare team and a daily call from a trained health professional to check in on their medical status. In the rare case that a student is hospitalised due to COVID-19, the Irish Government has confirmed that all acute healthcare needs of international students will be provided free of charge to the student.

A trained professional from the Student Welfare team will act as the liaison between medical staff and the student’s nominated family member, parent/sponsor, to advise them their son/daughter has been hospitalised. They will be able to offer reassurance of the care being provided and the current stage of the illness.

The Student Welfare team will continue to keep in touch with both the student and parent/sponsor for the duration of the hospital stay.

We are committed to providing a really engaging academic programme for all our students, but to ensure we comply with social distancing guidelines, students will be taught in smaller groups than is usually the case by using a combination of academic and personal tutorials, intensive workshops, skills classes and action learning sets.

Classes are ordinarily delivered at our university between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, but to allow for students to be taught in smaller groups, we are changing our timetables. In the coming academic year, classes will take place between 9am and 9pm, seven days per week. Students will rotate through classes and have protected study time on five of those seven days.

As part of our preparations for welcoming all our students back next semester, our staff have been working hard to ensure that any elements of their programmes that need to be delivered online will be interactive, engaging and suitably challenging!

We want their learning experience to switch seamlessly between the physical campus, or clinical setting, and the virtual world so that they will achieve all the usual outcomes expected at each stage of their course. Our experts in digital learning are collaborating with lecturers to help them develop truly interactive lectures that use new techniques such as online polls and quizzes to foster active student participation.

We are also enhancing our online content with more elements from our simulation team, so students can expect to see more situations where our academic staff incorporate simulation into their teaching.

Some of the other creative approaches students can expect from RCSI academics on our digital platforms include: virtual ward rounds, online case studies with simulated patients, flipped laboratory sessions – with the focus on problem-solving and group discussion - and patient history taking exercises, among other things.

Large lectures are only one part of the rich educational experience that we offer, but, by freeing up space in lecture halls, we will be able offer a fuller range of small group teaching, lab work and practicals. We have also hired extra conference centre facilities at Croke Park, Ireland’s largest stadium and a place of huge historic significance for the state to provide additional space.

By adjusting our whole campus, together with our healthcare practices, we are focused on providing a safe, enriching and transformational learning experience for all of our students.

Adopting social distancing and safe practices in training settings, all Undergraduate students will be on campus for scheduled activities (e.g. practicals, anatomy classes, clinical skills training) at least three days a week.

The COVID-19 Response Plan details the policies and practices necessary for RCSI to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our buildings. Some of the key points of note contained within are listed below. Everybody has a role to play in minimising the risks from COVID-19 on campus, for their own safety and that of their fellow colleagues and students.

  • Face coverings are mandated for all students and staff while on campus. They should be worn at all times, including during classes and while working in an open plan office.
  • Before coming to campus, staff and students will be required to complete training to familiarise themselves with the on-campus safety measures and responsibility we all hold to protect each other.
  • Under no circumstances should you come to campus if you are feeling unwell. If you develop symptoms while on campus, you must isolate yourself and contact campus health and safety on (01) 402 2107. If a student has any concerns about their COVID-19 status, please inform your SARA Coordinator, who will arrange any class materials that you need to continue your studies remotely.
  • In line with governmental guidelines, social distancing protocols will be implemented, thus the phasing back to campus will mean in practice that overall capacity will be significantly reduced. Therefore, for many staff this will mean that the practice of working from home, for at least a proportion of the working week, will continue for the foreseeable future. Similarly, for students, in practice this will mean that there will be a significantly increased level of delivery of content via digitally engaged learning, blended with in-person learning.
  • Our campus now looks different to what it looked like back in March. You will notice signage, numerous hand-sanitising stations, one-way systems and a number of other safety measures. You are asked to pay attention to these measures. Please view the below video to see an overview of the changes made to campus to protect your safety.

Read our detailed RCSI Response Plan here.

RCSI COVID-19 Response Plan cover

In an effort to reduce touch points, self-service coffee and tea-making facilities will be removed. However, microwaves, toasters and hot water dispensers will remain in place and hygiene products (sanitising sprays and wipes) will be provided. Staff and students will be expected to wipe down anything that they have come in contact with prior to and after use.

RCSI has invested in increasing the level of general cleaning completed on campus and you will notice an increased presence on campus from our cleaning contractor staff. Extra measures we have put in place are as follows:

  • We have arranged for frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, light switches, handrails etc., to be cleaned at increased frequency
  • Welfare facilities and communal areas will also be cleaned more frequently
  • Each room, office, laboratory, tutorial room and communal area will be provided with cleaning materials to keep the environment hygienically clean and we are advised to regularly clean any personal items brought in from home
  • In addition, everyone will be expected to clean their own stations daily and more importantly to 'clean as you go' when moving around on campus to maintain the hygiene standards needed to kill any virus particles

In addition to downloading the HSE COVID Tracker app, staff and students are requested to keep a personal log of all persons that could be classified as a close contact.

RCSI COVID-19 Response Plan entrance/exit

As a University wholly-focused on medicine and health sciences, we will lead by example in protecting human health and well-being to the highest standards. We are confident that with this guiding principle and the medical expertise that surrounds us, we are making the right decision to reopen.

We also consider that we have a duty to support our healthcare systems around the world by training the next generation of expert healthcare professionals who can join the workforce at this crucial time for global health.

Health professional degree programmes such as those delivered by RCSI – Medicine, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy – cannot be delivered online. They require students to learn laboratory and other techniques and students must also develop patient engagement and assessment skills from early in their programmes. This prepares students for success in the more intense clinical training later in their programmes. From the outset our students are trainee health professionals – and we see it as our duty to prepare students well, whatever the challenges, for these exciting but challenging careers. Therefore, we are working harder than ever, to maintain the pipeline of well-prepared graduates for our health systems in the coming years by planning an engaged and safe education environment for new and continuing RCSI students this autumn.

The Irish Government set out five phases in which they have begun easing the various restrictions on people, work, education and leisure places through to September.

On 29 June, the Government announced that its plans to ease lockdown restrictions are being accelerated and people can now: travel anywhere in the country; indoor gatherings can have up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings up to 200 people when these are conducted in line with social distancing measures; retail businesses, hairdressers, cafés and restaurants can also open; and sporting activities can resume. Full details are available here.

RCSI advise that you download the HSE COVID Tracker app, an important initiative aimed at suppressing the virus as our country reopens.

It is mandatory that face coverings be worn on public transport. Face covering should also be worn in public places, such as in shops and on public transport. Find further information on wearing and making face coverings correctly here.

RCSI COVID-19 Response Plan coverings

Travel advice
As a result of COVID-19, the current Irish Government guidelines require all people travelling from outside of the Republic of Ireland to:

You can find more information about travel advice here. The guidance on the requirements of self-isolation are governed by Irish public health regulations and details can be found here

The national response to lockdown in early March has helped flatten the curve and led to a situation less severe than within many other European countries. Whilst the situation has stabilised, we continue to take advice from our public health experts.