Delivery of On-Campus Teaching

Why are we using one metre as a basis for planning when the guidance indicates two metres should be maintained under all circumstances possible?

The ‘Implementation Guidelines for Public Health measures in Higher Education Institutions’ published on 6 August 2020, and approved by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE, articulate the importance of the on-campus student experience as well as the appropriate measures that should be taken to provide a safe, enjoyable and positive campus experience for both students and staff.  Furthermore, data from the UCD Student Experience Survey highlights the importance of face-to-face contact for students, particularly in relation to mental well-being and health.

The guidelines permit 1m social distancing between students in lectures, tutorials, practical classes and other teaching activities, in conjunction with the use of face coverings. As a result, the University is planning the delivery of on-campus teaching by adopting a minimum 1m social distancing among students in class or lecture settings.

In teaching environments, staff will be positioned at least 2m from students. Where there is a risk that the 2m physical distance could be compromised, a face covering, or other appropriate protection, should be used by members of staff. 

The maximum number of people allowed in a class will be in accordance with the prevailing public health guidance on indoor gatherings and it is recognised that this may change in accordance with the evolving COVID-19 situation nationally.

There is no maximum duration of a teaching session (for example a laboratory practical) from an Infection Protection Control perspective (Note, however, that if people spend 2 hours or more in a shared space together, they may be regarded as COVID-19 contacts in the event that someone present is subsequently identified as a case).

In the majority of non-teaching scenarios, excepting certain circumstances, staff to staff and staff to student interactions should be at a 2m social distance. While working in offices staff to staff distancing must be 2m unless screens are in place. Where there is a risk that the 2m physical distance could be compromised, a face covering, or other appropriate protection, should be used by members of staff, in conjunction with adherence to other social distancing measures, for example, work pods, staggered start/finish times etc.

After each group leaves a teaching space, high-contact surfaces (desktops/computer keyboard) should be cleaned. Disinfectant should not generally be used and there is no requirement for the room / theatre to be left vacant for a specific period once cleaned.

The safety and well-being of staff and students will be paramount in all cases. In line with the Guidelines, UCD will ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place whereby staff or students who are vulnerable can declare this via the appropriate route (UCDHR, UCD Access and Lifelong Learning or relevant College and School Offices) and the University will put specific support measures in place as may be appropriate. In line with the Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions and Guidance and FAQs for Public Service Employers during COVID-19, issued by Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, UCD advises teaching staff who are very high risk (as per HSE guidance) that they are not required to teach face to face and facilitate such staff to work remotely, including offering teaching and learning online, where this is necessary. This is crucial in ensuring the safety of such staff. UCD will ensure that staff living with very high-risk individuals or staff in the high-risk category will be risk assessed on a case-by-case basis with appropriate measures implemented accordingly.

The sectoral guidelines, which have been approved by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE can be accessed here. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Guidance and FAQs for Public Service Employers during COVID-19 may be found here. For additional UCD COVID-19 information please go to https://www.ucd.ie/covid-19/.

How has the distance between people been measured and why?

Informed by the ‘Implementation Guidelines for Public Health measures in Higher Education Institutions’ published on 6 August 2020, and approved by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE, as well as other relevant Public Health advice, all measurements carried out to date between people at 1m and 2m have used “nose-to-nose” or “centre-to-centre” methodology. This is because the disease is primarily transmitted from symptomatic people to others who are in close contact through respiratory droplets from the respiratory tract, along with direct contact with infected persons, or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.

As set out in the Guidelines, it is recommended that if a 2m distance cannot be adhered to that face coverings must be used. If a lecturer is at a lectern or on a podium at a safe distance from the student body, there is no need for them to wear a mask or visor. The Guidelines also indicate that the risk to lecturers who maintain distance and are careful with respect to hand hygiene is considered low. 

The sectoral guidelines can be accessed here.  For additional UCD COVID-19 information please go to https://www.ucd.ie/covid-19/.