Higher Education Announces Plans for ‘Safe Return’ to Campuses

Higher education institutions represented by the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have announced their plans for a safe return to campuses in September with presence on the site ”.

All three groups said the coordinated approach is “centered on the overwhelming desire of students to return to campus” and “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 in September ”.

As part of these plans, higher education institutions (HEIs) will implement sanitation and ventilation measures, as well as occupancy limits in some locations.

The joint approach of higher education institutions builds on the safe return plan published by the Ministry of Higher and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in June and describes the range mitigation measures that will be implemented across the sector to ensure a safe reopening, a statement noted.

As noted in the joint document released today, several measures are applied across the sector, with each HEI tailoring the measures to its local context and physical infrastructure.

These measures include the following:

  • Ensure that all campus operations are conducted in a manner that manages any risk to individual and public health by complying with relevant regulations
  • Adhere to standard hygiene measures, including hand and dispenser hygiene, sanitary and respiratory hygiene, and cleaning procedures
  • Require face masks in indoor shared environments onsite in accordance with applicable public health regulations and guidelines
  • Work on the optimization of ventilation systems to minimize the risk of viral transmission, depending on the local context and assessment
  • Ensure that entry and exit to buildings and facilities is carefully managed via counter-current and other measures
  • Manage conference times flexibly as needed to allow controlled exit and entry for large conferences and to avoid congregation
  • Actively manage large auditoriums in particular, either by enforcing percentage occupancy limits, setting a maximum class size, upper limit on conference duration / continuous occupancy period or otherwise, depending on the local context and risk assessment
  • Adopt the separate protocol agreed upon by higher education institutions for the arrival of international students to Ireland to ensure their safety and that of the communities in which they will live and study

Speaking of the plans, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of IUA and President of NUI Galway, said: “We look forward to welcoming our students to our campuses.

“We are determined to put in place all measures advised by public health to make the return to campus safe and sustainable for our students, staff and for society. A key part of this determination is personal and institutional responsibility and we urge all of our students to accept the offer of vaccination in time for September. “

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