Accommodation concerns over new university dates

There have been concerns raised over student accommodation in Galway after NUI Galway announced new changes to the upcoming academic year, due to the restrictions imposed by Government over Covid-19.

The letter which was received by students on Monday revealed that returning students would recommence their studies on September 28 - three weeks later than the usual start date.

Incoming first years are to begin their studies in November in order to accommodate the late start of the Leaving Cert exams, due to be July 29. NUI Galway Students’ Union president, Clare Austick, said the new schedule raises concerns for students over when they need to secure accommodation for the new academic year.

Ms Austick said; “The new proposed dates for the start of the new term has seen students raise concerns to us over accommodation. Students are worried over when they will have to put down a deposit for a place. We do not know if large companies will be asking for a deposit in September or October for students who begin their courses in November.”

Another change which the email informed students to expect was the combined teaching of classes via face-to-face meetings and online.

Large classes of more than 200 will see lectures being taught online with smaller attended courses taking place in a classroom setting, provided social distancing restrictions can be adhered to.

However, while acknowledging that the university was being guided by Governmental advice, Ms Austick highlighted that international students and those who live in broadband black spots, could be at a disadvantage when it comes to online learning.

“We accept the university is responding to the Government’s advice in terms of social distancing and the need for online classes. However, we have to highlight that there are students who do live in areas where WiFi connections and broadband are issues.”

A number of international students may be unable or unwilling to travel over [due to restrictions]. A lot of the students will live in different time zones [to Ireland] so we have to look at what times these lectures are taking place.

“There is also the issue of access to personal laptops and computers for some students as well as students who may have to care for relatives at home. These issues could see students not getting the full benefit of their education if classes are 100 per cent online.”

Semester one exams which traditionally have been taken before Christmas, have also seen a date change and are now expected to take place in January.

Signing off the letter, president of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, told students university staff were doing their utmost to minimise the impact on students’ academic work and careers.

He said; “As we hope for a return to normality as soon as possible, there is no doubt that the coming academic year will bring disruption to our work patterns and will add to teaching workloads and the needs of academic staff, school administrative staff, and the professional staff who support teaching through their services. We see the lengths you are already going to in teaching, assessing, and supporting our students, and we are sincerely grateful for it.

“We hear and respect your concerns about the need to ensure teaching and learning supports are properly resourced at this time and we acknowledge that the extra teaching workloads will have an impact on your abilities to progress research for now. As we continue to evolve to meet the challenges of this moment, I want to assure you that we are ready to take appropriate steps to minimise the impact of these concerns on your work and careers,” he concluded.


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