Academic and non-academic life expected to resume on campus next year

Muiris O'Cearbhaill

Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, said last week that he expects that both staff and students will be back on campus for the next academic year.

A new plan is being finalised by the department and is expected to be announced next week. It has been suggested by the Minister that this plan will result in a full return to campus activity.

This means that both academic and non-academic events are expected to start again which will allow lecture halls, sports facilities, bars, society life, and all other activities to continue on college campuses again with minimum restrictions.

Lecture halls could see restrictions in capacity, similar to cinemas according to The Irish Times. However, laboratory and class-based workshops will see a larger scale reopening compared to the group systems that many college campuses had put in place for the 2020/21 academic year.

A spokesperson from the Department for Further Education told The College View,  “Minister Harris will bring a proposal to Government next week on this matter and a plan will be published afterwards.”

The College View has been told that the plan for reopening has been prepared with representation from both students and staff from the third-level sector.

Minister Harris spoke on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last week, in regard to lecture hall restrictions he said, “there is a bit of work to do on that with our public health experts.”

However, the Minister stated that the “rotten” Zoom classes are ending and reiterated, “We are getting our students and our staff back to college.”

Minister Harris also expects students to have received a vaccine by the reopening. Harris said “The head of our vaccine programme is talking about 2.5 million adults being fully vaccinated in July, so… I expect that to be the case.” The Minister also expects that staff will be “overwhelmingly vaccinated.”

Nubar, the DCU student bar, opened their doors last week for outdoor dining. They told the College View, “Nubar never closed we reinvented ourselves and opened up take away coffee from the beer garden, but the reopening of outdoor dining has been good. People are happy to be out and about so it’s great.”

Nubar added that the reopening of campuses will be normality “all going well.”

A rise in campus populations is also expected for the 2021/22 academic year as the highest number of CAO applications ever was recorded in March of 2021, as well as a rise in the level of mature student applications. As a result, Minister Harris has begun to secure many additional places on various courses.

Harris told RTÉ that up to 600 places were secured in media courses, 400 in science, and 184 in nursing. However, the Irish Universities Association believes that many first year students will be “behind the line” as the CAO offers will not be published until the third week of September. This claim is refuted by the Minister however as he believes colleges will reserve an appropriate amount of accommodation and other facilities for incoming first years.

Muiris O’Cearbhaill

Image Credit: Gareth Chaney/Collins