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Update from the Provost & Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer to students

8 January 2021

Dear students,

We know that many of you are studying and preparing for exams and are pressed for time but please take a few minutes to read this email with information about teaching in the next semester and campus operations. When we wrote to you just before Christmas, we were hopeful that we would be able to expand in person teaching and other activities on campus and undertook to communicate our plans for semester two this week.

As you will be aware, the public health environment has deteriorated dramatically and unexpectedly. The situation domestically and overseas is currently very serious and is likely to become even more serious in the weeks ahead. Covid-19 infection rates across Ireland are at an all-time high. On Wednesday, the Government clarified that universities should restrict onsite attendance further, only allowing the most essential work to take place. These restrictions are in place until the end of January but will most likely be extended beyond this period. 

In adjusting our plans to this situation, we have a number of key messages for undergraduate and taught postgraduate students:

  • All semester two teaching in lectures, small group classes and tutorials will continue online or move online. If there was no in-person teaching on your course last semester, there will not be in-person teaching in the coming semester. In semester two teaching will be completely online in the following Schools: Computer Science and Statistics; English; History and Humanities; Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies; Mathematics; Law; Religion; Social Sciences and Philosophy; Trinity Business School. Students in the above Schools will not need to physically attend Trinity for semester two except for project work or using the library. 

 

  • Some essential practical or lab-based work in other Schools will continue where feasible. The decision on this will be taken by your school based on local conditions and requirements. Schools and programmes with practical classes or other lab-based activities including capstone research projects are assessing the new situation to determine what can be delivered safely in the current situation and what amendments to teaching formats or scheduling changes might be needed. 

For students who cannot attend scheduled in-person teaching events alternative formats or hybrid teaching will be put in place.

We are working on enhanced protective measures and all face to face teaching in semester two will strictly adhere to the public health guidelines and sectoral provisions in place at the time.

We will give a more detailed breakdown before the start of the semester of what teaching will look like subject-by-subject. 

 

  • Every effort is being made to ensure scheduled placements will go ahead, and arrangements are being put in place so that students required to be in clinical settings receive priority access to vaccination. Students will also be required to attend face-to-face teaching sessions in the Health Sciences where it is deemed essential to meet the requirements of professional regulators. Students in these subjects will need to be in Dublin for semester two. 

 

There is no hiding the fact that for many of you these arrangements will be a disappointment. This is not what we had hoped would happen, but it reflects the best health advice and current government policies for the sector. We will continue to monitor the public health situation and government guidelines continuously and will be flexible in adjusting our plans where necessary. It has to be our top priority to reduce risks to you and your family and reduce the amount of movement nationally in line with the Government’s strategy to contain the virus, while ensuring the best possible educational experience for you under the current, difficult circumstances.

 

There are further important decisions around learning and research in Trinity. These are summarised below:

 

  • Online learning: We will provide additional training and resources to improve the quality of online teaching and the provision of online teaching material, including recording of lectures. 

If you are unable to get Wifi in your accommodation, you should contact your tutor or the postgraduate advisory service for help as there is some financial help available. Student study spaces are still open on campus although these should only be used as a last resort. Students and staff should currently reduce access to campus as much as possible. 

 

  • Exams and assessments: As you will have seen from yesterday’s email from the Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer and Senior Lecturer, we have made important changes and reinstated some additional mitigations. While exams will go ahead as planned next week, students severely affected by illness or other adverse circumstances can decide to defer their exams (as a first attempt) until the summer. Undergraduate students doing written exams that count towards their finals will also have the right to repeat exams if they believe the exams did not reflect their abilities. This does not apply to students doing clinical exams. Please continue to check your Trinity email and Blackboard for updates on exams and assessments. 

 

  • Library service and study space: The physical libraries remain open. The opening hours until further notice are as follows:

Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher, Hamilton libraries 

Open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday (bookable). Counters staffed 10am to 4pm 

John Stearne Medical Library 

             Open 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday (bookable). Counter staffed 9am-4pm                                      

             Kinsella Hall (study space; no counter services) Monday to Friday 6pm to 10pm (bookable) and

             Saturday and Sunday 8am to 10pm (bookable)            

             1937 Reading Room (study space for postgraduate students only; no counter services)

             Monday to Sunday (8am to 10pm) bookable.

The Joint Research Collections Reading Room will remain closed until further notice. The Library booking system has been updated today to reflect the current COVID-19 situation.

For full details see our Library website, Library opening hours and the range of Library Services.

 

  • Research: Essential on-site research activities can continue on campus. Given the situation, we ask the research community to work from home unless you are carrying out time-sensitive essential work that cannot be done at home. All on-campus safety protocols remain in place and will be amended immediately if government guidelines change.

 

  • Accommodation: All students with essential accommodation needs in Dublin for semester two can continue to reside in College accommodation. This includes students who are already currently in residence for exams. We ask all students travelling from within Ireland who do not have essential teaching to refrain from returning to their college accommodation until the semester begins. Anyone returning to Trinity from overseas is reminded that the rules around quarantine have become much stricter over the Christmas period. Anyone who has arrived into Ireland from Great Britain or South Africa since 8 December is advised to self isolate (stay in your room) for a period of 14 days. Anyone returning to Ireland for semester two (regardless of nationality) should consult the following governmental information about travel to Ireland: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/b4020-travelling-to-ireland-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/. Please note that all residential safety protocols remain in place and will be amended in line with Government guidelines. All regular student residential supports also remain in place for semester two.  

 

  • Access to Campus: Please note that until 31 January access to campus and College buildings is limited to 
  1. Residents
  2. Essential researchers (as submitted by Head of School/Unit)
  3. Students with pre-booked time slot in the Libraries/Study Spaces
  4. Students with an exam location agreed in College
  5. Essential staff (as submitted by Head of School/Unit)
  6. Pre-approved visitors

 

The Science Gallery gate will not be open from Monday and access to Campus will be via Lincoln Place and Nassau Street gates. These arrangements will apply initially until the end of January. 

 

  • The Buttery: The Buttery will continue to be open.

 

  • The Student Health Service is providing services to students again by prior appointment only. Appointments for telephone consultations are being provided via online booking. The Student Health Service operates from 9.15am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday only. GP Clinics are open by phone on 01-896 1591. For COVID-19 queries phone 01 896 1556. 

 

We would like to thank all staff in Catering, the libraries, Estates & Facilities, College Health and others who are ensuring the continuity of all vital activities on campus. 

 

This is an immensely difficult time for many people. Some of you are probably isolating right now and some of you will have to isolate later in the Semester. Others will have good reason to fear for friends or family. In light of this, we have increased student supports. Those that need support should not hesitate to contact Student Counselling. We have a range of self-guided courses in areas such as managing anxiety and our counsellors also offer one-to-one support where needed. https://www.tcd.ie/Student_Counselling/ is the first port of call for those who need help.

 

While there is a lot going on, it is worth reflecting that neither Trinity nor the other Irish universities have been overrun by Covid-19. In September, some feared that third level institutions would be a major danger to public health. The fact that this has not happened is a reflection of the responsible behaviour of the vast majority of students and staff over recent months. Your sacrifices have ensured that universities in these difficult times were able to continue teaching, learning and research and have remained safe places while doing so. While the next few weeks and months will be again be tough, we are confident that as a community we will continue to support each other and rise to these challenges together. The start of vaccinations in Ireland and across the globe gives us reason for optimism that an end is in sight. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. We will stay in touch. In the meantime please stay safe,

Best regards,

Patrick Prendergast
Provost
Propast

Jürgen Barkhoff
Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer
An Leas-Phropast/Príomhoifigeach Acadúil/Agus An Leas-Uachtharán