Representatives from THEA met today, Thursday 8 July, with members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, & Science, to discuss items relating to the reopening of further and higher education in a safe and sustainable way. The full opening statement from THEA can be accesssed here: DOWNLOAD FULL SUBMISSION
On behalf of its members, THEA confirmed a commitment to work in full partnership with all stakeholders, and especially students and staff, to build the confidence that will deliver a safe and enhanced experience for all communities of learners and researchers. Under the agreed discretionary framework, institutions are engaging in their own risk assessment exercises, and these will inform the balance between on-site and remote approaches but with the overriding commitment to achieve the maximum in-person activity. THEA member institutions will retain the learnings from the experience to date, including the power of online provision and some element of a blended approach is predictable as we carefully phase this safe return to campus.
While preparing for this safe return to campus-based learning and research, THEA called for additional commitment to resources and funding in order to ensure that campus-based activities can be sustained:
- THEA member institutions view focused rapid testing as a powerful addition to our ability to protect our communities and call for government advance on this policy, which was a recommendation from the Report of the COVID-19 Rapid Testing Group.
- The success of the vaccine rollout and recent changes offering single-dose option for the younger cohort are significant advances.
- Vaccination infrastructure in or near our institutes should be retained throughout August and September to facilitate staff and students who have not yet had an invitation to accept the vaccine.
- Additional supports for the care of students should be extended by at least two years in order to meet the expected demand as the true mental health impacts of this pandemic may not be evident until coming years.
- Agreeing protocols for safe inward travel will be critical to our international student market, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Ireland risks being outpaced by competitor countries who have moved more swiftly to agree such protocols.
Dr Joseph Ryan, CEO THEA stated “While we are looking forward to welcoming our campus communities back to on-site activity in a few short months, we are committed to ensuring that this happens in a safe and sustainable way. To that end, we appeal to all students in further and higher education institutions to avail of the accelerated vaccination programme and register with pharmacies and later with the HSE portal for early vaccination. We acknowledge the support of Government which enabled a successful completion of the 2020/2021 academic year and we call for the continuance of such supports in order to allow for a successful return to in-person learning and research for 2021/2022.”
For further information, please contact:
Róisín O’Connell, Head of Communications, THEA: (087) 9193333; firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to editors: The full opening statement can be downloaded here: DOWNLOAD