All Institutes of Technology within the THEA network have committed from the outset of this difficult year to afford maximum certainty and continuity of educational provision consistent with public health advice. As we move toward the close of the first academic semester, it is appropriate to look to provide as much certainty to our students and staff for the second semester of the current academic year as we can.
The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, & Science, Simon Harris TD, in his statement of 20 October 2020, designated higher and further education as essential and insofar as onsite presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely. Minister Harris also formally recognized the discretion invested in institutional management to determine locally the level of provision consistent with current public health advice as, in his own words, Institutions and providers are best placed to determine where onsite presence is required. This flexibility has been essential and has allowed our Institutes of Technology and future Technological Universities the certainty necessary to ensure continuity of provision to the close of the current term and now also to the end of the academic year.
In announcing this approach, the CEO of THEA, Dr Joseph Ryan, stated: “in practical terms, we are seeking to enhance face to face onsite learning, on a phased and incremental basis, as public health conditions permit so as to satisfy the essential learning requirements of learners, insofar as is possible in the circumstances. This will entail a continuance of the blended approach with capacity for increased managed attendance of designated individuals and groups on campus through to the summer of 2021. This will be overseen in full accord with advice from public health and will be kept under continuous review with the discretion to flex the amount of on campus activity as circumstances allow. Staff and students will be informed at all stages of the approach and can be assured that our determination to ensure continuity of provision to the close of the academic year remains firm based on strong and effective guidelines and adherence to now well established protocols.”
Our primary concern remains the safety and welfare of our learning and research communities. Our institutions will continue to work closely with the D/FHERIS and its agencies and with the public health authorities to give effect to this commitment.
We are especially mindful of the needs of our learners. This includes maximizing the student experience including providing learners with all the supports, academic and wider services, that they require. Most important, in a sector that is characterized by a personal focus and the applied and relevant nature of its teaching and research, it is essential that students are provided with the opportunity to meet all the programme outcomes which includes essential face to face components. Their achievements and awards must unequivocally be recognized alongside those of their peers from other less challenged years.
To this end, we have welcomed the commitment of the Minister and his Department to support our determination to assure students and staff of our intention to ensure safe continuity of provision to the close of the current academic year. This allows us to afford maximum certainty to our communities and to finalize planning for Semester 2.
For more information please contact :
Róisín O’Connell, Head of Communications, THEA: (087) 9193333; firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to editors:
The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) is the representative advocacy body for the Institutes of Technology in Ireland.
PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES FOR THE DELIVERY OF 2020/21 ACADEMIC PROGRAMMES IN INSTITUTES OF TECHNOLOGY, published June 2020: contentFiles/THEA-COVID-principles.pdf
NATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR LIVING WITH COVID: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/