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Update from Provost to staff

22 June 2020

Dear colleagues,

I would like to update you on the work being done to re-open the College in preparation for the resumption of teaching on Monday, 28th September.

First of all, thank you to everyone who has been involved in the work of re-opening. There have been many detailed discussions, and many actions already taken, to make our campus as safe as possible for the College community.

From Monday 10th August staff will begin to return in significant numbers on a phased basis. Up to now, and until August 10th, only staff with essential duties, and management/planning and research/teaching duties that cannot be done from home, have been coming into the College.

To see the phased reopening plans for your area please click here.

For professional, administrative, and support staff I would ask you to look at these charts because they give the clearest indication possible at this stage of what will happen in the University in the next two months.

I would like to stress that the health and wellbeing of students and staff is paramount during the re-opening, and public health advice such as social distancing guidelines will be followed at all times. The plan is for the College to return to on-site work and study in so far as can be done within the guidelines. We will do this on a phased basis so as to avoid a rush in late August and September.

Government regulations require that everybody will need to complete the following before returning to work on campus:

  1. a COVID-19 pre-return to work questionnaire,
  2. completion of the Return to College induction session which details the steps needed to protect the Trinity Community, and
  3. a local induction highlighting what will be required in your building.

Links to access these items will be available shortly on https://www.tcd.ie/about/coronavirus/.

While immuno-compromised staff and students will be catered for through their Line Managers/Heads of School, it is expected that the majority of staff will be able to return to on-site working when needed. New modus operandi such as rotas for those in shared offices, contact logs, hygiene protocols and awareness etc. are being organised at a local level, with overall oversight of the re-opening being provided by the Phased Resumption of Activities Group.

Many College Officers have already returned to work on campus. Heads of School/Unit and Managers in Schools and administrative units are encouraged to come back during the phase beginning on Monday 20th July to ensure the right preparations are in place for colleagues returning after 10th August. Colleagues in Estates and Facilities are currently considering how access to the College can be arranged without opening the College to the general public/tourists as this would likely lead to overcrowding which would inhibit the smooth resumption of teaching and research for students and staff. It is likely this will involve controlled entry/exit via the Lincoln Place Gate, the Nassau Street Entrance and Science Gallery Gate only. For the moment access is via the Front Gate and Lincoln Place Gate only for pedestrians who have the appropriate clearance.

Regarding teaching, it is not yet known if the Government restrictions that apply now will still apply by the end of September so we are planning for all scenarios. The University Council, at its meeting on 3rd June 2020, approved the approach of having as much face-to-face small-group teaching and learning as possible given the available spaces and social-distancing protocols in place at the time, and that online and hybrid teaching be used for larger groups (> 25). In addition we aim to provide spaces for students to study and socialise on campus, all under prevailing health and safety requirements. Plans are being prepared by a sub-group on Resumption of Teaching, chaired by Professor Áine Kelly. Professor Kelly will, in the coming week, email the College community with information regarding the resumption of teaching. In the meantime, an access check list for schools, research institutes and professional services can be viewed here.

Finally, I would also like to reassure you that we are considering the University’s financial situation very carefully. An Emergency Financial Management Group consisting of the Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer (Chair), the Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer, and the Chief Operating Officer, continues to manage the situation, and it has reported to Finance Committee and Board. It will be some months before we fully understand the financial outlook for 2021. We are not alone; no university anywhere in Ireland is unscathed. I will communicate the difficult decisions that will have to be made in the months ahead but I would like you to know that, so long as we can manage a successful resumption of teaching in September, we have no immediate financial issues that cannot be dealt with so there is no need to be concerned about the College’s ability to pay staff, or continue with projects that have already been commenced. We will, however, slow capital expenditure where possible but I assure you that we remain determined to continue with many important projects. Finally, we will make cost savings and identify new revenue streams just as we did in the last financial crisis.

The solution to this crisis for universities will come from many quarters. As chair of the Irish Universities Association, I will work with other universities and the new Government to advocate for further support measures for higher education.

I look forward to sharing more plans with you in the weeks ahead and I very much look forward to seeing most of you back on campus as Trinity re-opens.

Best wishes,

Patrick Prendergast
PROVOST