RCSI joins higher education institutes to agree protocol for return of international students

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RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has joined with other higher education institutes (HEIs) to work closely with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to develop a protocol that will facilitate the safe arrival of international students, many of whom will be returning to Ireland to continue their studies.

RCSI has contributed to the protocol as part of our commitment to furthering adherence to safety measures across the higher education sector.

RCSI’s own policies go further than some steps in the agreed protocol including a 14-day restricted movement for all international students. Read full details of our arrangements for Undergraduate students here.

The agreed HEI protocol is focused on supporting the protection of public health, including of all students, staff and the wider community. The protocol involves the following steps for all international students coming to study in Ireland.


  • Students must track their health and any potential symptoms 14 days prior to travel to Ireland. Any students who have tested positive for COVID-19 should not travel to Ireland until they have been symptom-free for at least 14 days prior to departure.
  • Students will receive an appropriate briefing from their institution on how they can comply with prevailing public health measures in Ireland.
  • All international students have or will be instructed to arrive in Ireland 14 days prior to commencing their studies on campus.
  • Students will also be made aware by HEIs of the need to restrict their movements in the 14 days after arrival from a country not on the Green List and the need to have accommodation for their first 14 days which enables them to restrict their movements. This includes returning international students who may have existing accommodation arrangements.
  • Students will be briefed by the individual institutions on the specific protocols for return to education at each campus.

On arriving in Ireland

  • The HEIs are working towards having a symptom tracking procedure in place for the 14-day period following arrival in Ireland. In the event that students develop symptoms, they will be supported, including in accessing on-campus medical support and national-level supports in a safe manner.
  • The HEIs are working with the relevant sectoral bodies including DAA and other Irish airports to facilitate a greet and transfer service for incoming international students.
  • Over a six-week period beginning 24 August international students will be met at the airport and transferred directly to their accommodation in designated transport.
  • Students will be required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form, as is the case for all incoming passengers.
  • Students will be encouraged to download the HSE track and trace app.

The Higher Education sector has invested significantly in recent years in building its reputation as a destination to study, delivering a significant return for the Irish economy and society. In a typical year the international third level students that choose to study in Ireland bring close to half a billion euro in export earnings to Ireland. This comes from the fees paid to HEIs, along with the accommodation and living costs incurred by students.

In signing up to this protocol, the Higher Education sector, working in partnership with DFHERIS, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and relevant airports, aims to ensure the safe arrival of its international students for the new academic year.

"This protocol is focused first and foremost on protecting the health of all students, staff and the wider community. International students bring many advantages to Ireland, from an economic and societal perspective. It’s crucial that we maintain our reputation as a destination for international students. This reputation has been built over years, involving significant investment. These protocols will ensure that international students are welcomed and transported safely to their accommodation where they will restrict their movements for 14 days." commented Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

"Ireland’s international reputation as a premium provider of quality education should be protected and maintained throughout the pandemic period and our higher education institutions are obligated to honour commitments made to all students. Our institutions are putting measures in place, which exceed those required for all incoming travellers, in an effort to further safeguard the health and wellbeing of both the international students themselves and the communities into which they are entering. The protocols that have been agreed by the system have been devised over many weeks in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, including Government Departments spanning health, transportation and education, along with airport authorities throughout the country, in order to ensure the highest possible protection of public health and safety," stated Dr Joseph Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA).

"Since COVID-19 emerged, members of HECA, the Higher Education Colleges Association, have continuously acted to protect the health and well-being of all its students and staff as well as abide by government issued directives, guidelines, and advice. HECA has collaborated with the relevant higher education representative bodies and Government Departments to develop these protocols which surpass current public health measures for incoming travellers. The paramount objective of the protocols is to provide the uppermost protection of public health, including all students, staff, and the wider community whilst ensuring that international students are met and transferred safely to their accommodation, where they will restrict their movements for 14 days. Additionally, the development and application of the protocols will also support the international reputation for quality higher education that many of the HECA members have worked hard to establish whilst also fulfilling their commitments to international students for their continued education," stated Patricia O Sullivan, Executive Director, Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA).

"The Conference of Heads of Irish Colleges of Education (CHOICE) and its member institutions very much appreciate and welcome this protocol. It provides tangible guidelines for HEIs to reinforce our efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of every member of our college communities, including our international students, and the wider community. It will give added reassurance to incoming international students and their families that they will be welcomed and supported through these unprecedented circumstances," commented Holly Cowman, CHoICE Representative.