An Irish University has announced delayed dates and online lectures for the new college year in September, in efforts to cope with the Covid-19 impact.
The changes will affect all years including new First Years waiting to sit the delayed Leaving Cert exams.
Limerick University say they are working "amid great uncertainty", in an email to students issued this Thursday, April 30.
"We have been working to bring our community back together for the academic year 20/21 amid great uncertainty as to the government restrictions that will remain at the end of this summer. The health of staff, students and the wider community is paramount in our considerations and for that reason our plans may have to be revised depending on government advice," they say.
Their first years will start in November, if the Leaving Cert takes place as planned in late July.
"The Autumn Semester will begin on September 28 for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year undergraduate students and all current and new postgraduate students, (some programmes, such as education and health will have different programme dates)," the university said.
"Our plans for first year students depend on the scheduling of the Leaving Certificate but if as planned it takes place from the end of July we anticipate welcoming our incoming first year students at the beginning of November. However, the date for entry of first years depends on many factors, including when the Leaving Certificate takes place as well as the completion of CAO offers and acceptance of places.
The second term will begin at the usual time for the University.
"At this stage it is hoped that Semester 2 will begin as planned on 25th January 2021 for all students," they said.
Online lectures are likely instead of in the lecture halls.
"There is little doubt but that some restrictions on the size of groups which will be permitted to gather will remain in place in Ireland in September, which will affect our ability to deliver lectures on campus. Therefore it is likely that there will be a requirement for lectures to be delivered online. However, we anticipate a blended delivery of programmes to allow students to spend some time on campus in the autumn to facilitate face to face laboratory classes, studio time, and some seminars/tutorials. This will be limited in order to insure the health and safety of our community and to work within the government restrictions. Any planned approach will need to take account of the possibility that future full or partial closures may well be called for at short notice," they said.
The university has major news also for Erasmus and Non EU Exchange Mobility Programmes.
"As a result of the current travel restrictions and with no indication of when these will lift, we have also had to examine the viability of the Erasmus and Non EU Exchange mobility programmes in the Autumn Semester. After much consideration and with regret, we have decided at this stage - so as to allow for alternative planning for our students - that the Erasmus and Non EU Exchange mobility programmes will be suspended for the Autumn Semester and alternative programmes will be put in place for those UL students who had been scheduled to study abroad for their autumn semester. We realise that this is very disappointing for students, but at present it is the only safe option," they said.
Limerick University says planning is continuing for both students and staff.
"Many of you understandably will be seeking more details on the Autumn Semester and in some cases we simply won’t have all the answers at this stage. Significant planning activity work is underway to enable an enhanced online experience and to support our staff with online delivery in what is going to remain a challenging environment for all of us. We are also developing protocols to safely restart some of our research programmes on campus," they say.
"We will continue to work with our partner universities here in Ireland and to draw upon best practice and innovative approaches internationally to provide our students with the best university experience and learning environment while we live with this virus".
"As time goes on, more detail will follow from Deans, Heads of Schools/Departments and Course Directors and we will be in touch again with more decisions as they are made by COTEC and the UL Future Planning Group. Stay home and stay well".
The statement was issued by UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee.