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Update from Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer to students and staff

11 December 2020

Dear students and colleagues,

Over 6,000 students took part in our survey about semester 2 teaching. I am delighted with this response rate which is almost a third of the entire student body and had strong participation across the undergraduate and postgraduate year groups. Many thanks to all who participated for sharing your views. 

As we plan for the next semester we want to bring you the best possible student experience while adhering to public health guidelines. I am fully aware of the importance of face-to-face teaching and other in-person activities for the mental wellbeing and health of our student body, as are our colleagues in Student Counselling and College Health. The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science also recognises that some students require additional support over and above that which can be provided online.

A high-level overview of the survey results is below, and more detailed data can be found here.  

  • 79% of respondents want more in-person teaching under Level 3 while adhering to public health guidelines
  • 64% want more in-person teaching if we return to Level 5
  • 28% of respondents feel they are keeping up reasonably well with their studying/learning; 53% feel they are a bit behind, but are still making progress; 18% are significantly behind; and 1% said they are not studying at all
  • 8% of respondents feel they are managing very well in the current situation; 29% are managing well; 43% feel a little stressed/worried; and 20% feel very stressed/worried
  • 78% of respondents have no particular concern about semester 2 or returning to campus
  • The respondents spanned both undergraduates (4,759) and postgraduates (1,291) with the majority in their Junior Freshman year (1,824).

These findings are in line with what we hear from other universities.

It is important to note that if you feel very stressed or worried due to the impact of the current COVID-19 situation on your studies or in other ways, please do not feel that you are alone. One fifth of the survey respondents said that they feel this way. I encourage you to avail of the many supports available to you in College. If you are an undergraduate student, you can contact your Tutor or Senior Tutor’s office at ST.Office@tcd.ie. Postgraduate students should contact PG support officer at pgsupp@tcd.ie. Student Counselling is available at student-counselling@tcd.ie while the Chaplains are available at chaplain@tcd.ie. You can also contact course offices, module coordinators, or lecturers in relation to academic issues. Please see here for more information regarding student supports and services.

Many actionable issues were identified in this survey and we are considering them in detail. The Senior Lecturer/Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Dean of Graduate Studies have been asked to review how the student experience of online teaching and learning can be improved or enhanced. We are all learning how to optimise engagement and interaction online and we will continue to listen to student feedback on which approaches work best.

I will be discussing with staff how we can increase the amount of face-to-face teaching in small group seminars and tutorials, especially in those programmes that under Level 5 were entirely online. Any face-to-face activity in semester 2 will of course have to take the development of the pandemic into account and will adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines. You will be informed of the decisions as soon as they are finalised.

It has been a challenging time for many of us and I am proud of the resilience we have shown as a College community – thank you.

Best regards

Prof Jürgen Barkhoff
Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer