Joint statement: Higher education reopening plans confirmed
- General news
The higher education institutions (HEIs) represented by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) have joined together with RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences to announce their plans for a safe return to campuses this September with maximum on-site presence.
The coordinated approach ('Implementing a Safe Return to Campus'), which has the support of government and endorsement of public health authorities, is centred on 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 the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science 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.
Chair of IUA and President of NUI Galway, Professor 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, Professor 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."
Commenting on the statement, Professor Cathal Kelly, Chief Executive, RCSI said: "Health professional degree programmes such as those delivered by RCSI – Medicine, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy – cannot be delivered online and we have put robust measures in place since the outset of the pandemic to ensure that our students gained the clinical skills they need in a safe and engaging environment. I welcome the coordinated approach by higher education institutions for the upcoming academic year and I look forward to welcoming our students back for an enhanced on-campus experience in the coming weeks."