IFUT call for clear health and safety plan if third level in-person classes are to resume

Shauna Burdis

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has called for a single, clear health and safety plan to be published if face-to-face teaching in third-level colleges is to resume.

General Secretary of the Federation of University Teachers, Joan Donegan said that a key issue regarding the resumption of in-person learning is the clarity on the two-meter versus one-meter rule for the separation of students.

Donegan said: “It is simply not acceptable that some colleges are now proposing a two-meter distance, others advocate one-meter while others define distance on a nose-to-nose basis.

“While everyone would prefer a return to on-campus education, to avoid the risk of chaos in efforts to combat Covid, the priority must be to ensure no staff or student in an individual college is exposed to inferior health and safety protection due to lack of clear minimum requirements at national level.” She continued.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has encouraged colleges and universities across Ireland to increase on-campus learning and activities for the next semester, especially for first year students amid the rise of third-level drop-out rates.

Harris announced this plan to increase on-campus engagement in response to concerns over the level of engagement among first-year and final-year students, due to limited access to college campuses and lack of peer support.

The minister has reportedly been in negotiations with third-level institutions about the increased allowance of on-campus activity and in-person learning in the next semester.

Harris stated that: “We want to create new ways to promote small-scale, in-person contact, especially peer engagement, for new entrants to further and higher education, especially for students and learners that may be living away from home for the first time and those who may be at risk of dropping out.”

He urged colleges to refrain from making decisions for the upcoming semester until further decisions have been made within the department of Higher Education.

However, some universities like Dublin City University (DCU), the University of Limerick (UL) and Maynooth University (NUIG) have all confirmed that no in-person lectures will take place in the next term.

Shauna Burdis 

Image credit: Unsplash M.Monk