As we move out into the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, RCSI has set out plans for the return to campus.
The following FAQs act as a guide for how we plan to reopen the RCSI Dublin Campus throughout autumn 2020.
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
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; establishing dedicated COVID-19 screening, testing and contact tracing services for students; 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.
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 testing service. Our COVID-19 testing and contact tracing service will have the capacity to ensure that all undergraduate students have access to testing with a quick turnaround of test results.
In our commitment to our students well-being, RCSI will:
- Use a specifically trained team to conduct the swabbing for test samples.
- Use the most effective technology to assist and support an effective contact tracing programme.
- Arrange for all undergraduate students to be tested upon commencement of their programme.
- In the event you are symptomatic or sick, our GP service and nursing support service will be there to look after you.
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.
We anticipate that for undergraduate students, it is only large-group teaching, such as lectures in core course modules, which will be delivered online. Our Digitally Engaged Learning working group, chaired by Dara Cassidy, Head of Online Education is working with Heads of School, Year Leads and Module Leads to ensure any online content is delivered in an engaging and interactive manner.
We anticipate that for undergraduate students, it is only large-group teaching, such as lectures in core course modules, which will be delivered online. Our Digitally Engaged Learning working group…
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.
Large lectures are only one part of the rich educational experience that we offer, but, by freeing 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 for 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.
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.
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. This year, in addition to GP services, all Undergraduate students have access to a dedicated RCSI COVID-19 testing service.
As part of the registration process all students will be asked to sign a COVID-19 related declaration form. This information will ensure that we can provide all necessary support to students. Students will be asked to:
- Agree to take a RCSI provided swab test on arrival for COVID-19
- Self-declare any relevant pre-existing medical conditions
- Consent to provide a contact named parent/guardian in case of a medical emergency
- Consent to share any positive COVID-19 test result with RCSI Student Welfare team to enable them to support students if they become unwell.
If a student becomes COVID-19 symptomatic, they should:
- Self-isolate immediately and contact the confidential RCSI COVID-19 helpline.
- The RCSI COVID-19 team will assess the symptoms and carry out a swab test and arrange for laboratory testing.
- Results will be provided to the student, RCSI Mercer Medical centre (student GP), and the RCSI Student Welfare team (as per COVID-19 declaration)
Every effort is being made by RCSI to minimise the likelihood of COVID-19 infection among our students, but there can obviously 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 throughout the day and a daily call from a qualified 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 qualified professional from the Student Welfare team will act as the liaison between medical staff and the student’s 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.
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. The second phase of lifting came into effect on Monday, 8 June, while phase three comes into effect on Monday, 29 June.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that plans to ease lockdown restrictions are being accelerated and from Monday, 29 June people can: 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.
It is recommended that face coverings be worn in public places, such as in shops and on public transport.
As a result of COVID-19, the current Irish Government guidelines require all people travelling from outside of the Republic of Ireland to:
- complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form; and
- self-isolate for 14 days.
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. These requirements are due to be reviewed on 9 July.
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.