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Update from the Provost, Vice-Provost and College Secretary to students and staff

27 November 2020

Dear Students and Staff,

We are writing to you about the likely outlook for teaching and research for semester two following the Government’s decision to ease the level 5 restrictions.

This move out of level 5, and further recognition by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science that some students require additional support over and above that which can be provided online makes it possible to plan for an increase in the amount of in-person teaching next semester especially in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences where current restrictions have made in-person teaching particularly difficult. On foot of the Minister’s clarifications we also see potential for more extra-curricular activities. The College Sports Centre including the pool will re-open next week and be accessible by appointment. The expansion of these teaching and social activities will play an important role in improving the learning experience of students and promoting physical and mental well-being.

Therefore, in the next semester we will be able to increase the amount of face-to-face teaching in small group seminars and tutorials, especially in those programmes that under level 5 have been entirely online. This will of course be done while fully adhering to social distancing and public health guidelines. Large lectures will remain online for all of semester two. As we continue to monitor the public health situation carefully, details of the precise balance between face-to-face and online teaching will be made available at least two weeks in advance of any changes.

To facilitate students who cannot attend face-to-face teaching for health reasons or due to other circumstances we will increase the amount of hybrid teaching offered in semester two. This move towards more hybrid teaching will be incremental and will take different formats, such as more recorded lectures or more teaching events that combine face-to-face with online presence.

Of course, in this pandemic nothing can be predicted with certainty until a successful and comprehensive vaccination programme and we may well be back at level 5 for a period in 2021. However we now have a greater understanding of the risks involved and how to mitigate those risks and, as a result, and recognising the value of on campus activities for student well-being, we are aiming for some more on-campus activities, in-person engagement and small group teaching even if we do return to level 5 at some point. In this regard, we are encouraged by the Government’s recent guidelines which allow universities to plan in a manner that “is best suited to their own context and the requirements of their staff and students” and the Government’s call for an incremental increase in face-to-face activities on campus where possible and safe.

As far as research is concerned, researchers should continue to follow the guidelines that have governed research until now across the various levels but as restrictions ease, conditions for researchers will be closer to normal.

Overall semester two will still be challenging, but an increase in on-campus teaching and hybrid teaching brings us closer to where we want to be. This has been a truly extraordinary year. If we have learned one thing, it is that the future is difficult to predict but charting a course is essential.

Christmas/New Year Period

We know this is a difficult time for every single person reading this email. Collectively, the Trinity Community has shown enormous resilience and continues to do so as we head into the final month of 2020. To help prepare for exams, the College has drawn up detailed plans to help students who want to study or remain in the residences on campus over the Christmas/New Year period. Study space will be available on campus over the period, except on 25 December. We will share that information next week by email and on the website at www.tcd.ie/about/coronavirus.

To provide support for our students over the Christmas/New Year holiday break (23 December – 3 January), Student Counselling Service, College Health Service, Assistant Junior Deans and Assistant Wardens cover, Chaplaincy pastoral services and College Security will be available throughout the period.

A number of activities are also being considered to ensure that students living on campus, in Trinity Hall, Kavanagh Court and in Binary Hub have the best possible experience in College accommodation over the holiday period and we thank all staff and students who have gone the extra mile to serve the community at this time.

In addition, all students can participate in the ‘12 walks of Christmas’, daily 5km guided walks around the city, and a mobile catering van will be on campus on some days during that period with take away refreshments, tea and coffee to purchase. We will bring you more details of all of the activities when available. 

International students who will return home during the break between semesters might have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. In order to maximise their time at home Schools and programmes will facilitate them to take their classes fully remotely for the first two weeks of semester two while they have to self-isolate, including for any mandatory onsite classes such as labs and practicals.

Keeping safe

Any increase in onsite activities and in-person teaching is only possible because the public health situation is improving. Here in Trinity the College Health Service have been testing students in significant numbers and have a good sense of what is happening on the ground. Thank you for your efforts in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, both on and off campus. It will be vital to maintain those efforts over the Christmas period despite the temptation to relax safety measures. It is essential that anybody who travels abroad over the Christmas period obeys the rules around self-isolating on their return.

Please remember to maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, wear face coverings inside and outside when less than 2m apart (see video here), cover your coughs and sneezes, stick to your pods and avoid congregating after tutorials or lab sessions and large social gatherings. But please also find a way to enjoy the break and rest before we enter into 2021 with the hope that College life can begin to return to normal for students, teaching staff, researchers and administrative staff who have all been forced to study and work very differently in 2020.

Stay safe. Stay well. Bígí slán agus sábháilte.

Patrick Prendergast, Provost
Jürgen Barkhoff, Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer
John Coman, Secretary to the College