Dear Students of the Class of 2020
UL’s autumn (August) conferring ceremonies were scheduled to take place on campus between Monday, 24 August and Friday, 28 August, 2020. However, due to the Covid19 pandemic and the public health directives issued by government, regretfully the Academic Planning Group (APG) of the university has had to make the decision that these conferring ceremonies cannot be held as originally planned.
All eligible students will be conferred in absentia following ratification of their results by Academic Council. We will then host online events to celebrate and to honour the graduation of the Class of 2020. The dates for these online events will be advised in due course but are likely to take place in the month of August. The University will provide graduates with an electronic version of their official parchment until such time as a hard copy parchment can be made available when the University campus reopens.
We understand this is very disappointing news for the Class of 2020. The decision to cancel the conferring ceremonies was not one that UL made of its own volition, but was dictated by the Government public health directives on the hosting of large events. We at the university are equally disappointed that we cannot celebrate this milestone in your lives with you and acknowledge your academic achievement and success.
Once it is safe to do so, we plan to invite all graduates back on campus for a celebratory event. We are eager to celebrate your achievements and we want to allow you to celebrate your own success together and in person with your classmates, your lecturers, your teachers, families and partners. We also want to recognise and acknowledge the sacrifices that so many of you have made in ensuring the wellbeing of others. Once finalised, all details of the schedule for the online events this summer will be available on the UL Ceremonies Office website and social media platforms.
On behalf of Academic Planning Group
Professor Kerstin Mey
Memo Update: CAMPUS ACCESS NOTICE May 15
Dear colleagues and students
At 11am on March 12th, as the Coronavirus epidemic evolved to become a Global Pandemic, the Taoiseach announced from Washington DC that all Universities were to close from 6pm that evening.
By the following Monday, although the UL campus was closed, the University continued its activities online. We had been emergency planning for just such an eventuality since January and so we were well prepared, though the magnitude and implications of the changes were at times difficult to predict.
We are no longer in crisis mode and for that reason COTEC has stepped down. Our virtual campus – working online and remotely – is the new normal. On Monday 18th May, under the Government’s five-stage Roadmap for reopening society, there will be a limited easing of restrictions. This easing does not automatically apply to workplaces such as the University of Limerick. The campus remains closed to the public but controlled access to college buildings and facilities for staff remains in place. Full details of how to apply for access are available on the FAQs section of UL’s Covid Information webpages.
As we work towards opening the campus for our staff, we must adhere to the Government’s Return to Work Safety Protocol published on 8th May. Key to its guidelines is that a shared collaborative approach between employers and workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. We are working on assessing and implementing this stringent Protocol in line with our own requirements to provide a safe and healthy working environment for all. The key thing to remember is that if you can work from home – regardless of essential worker status – you do work from home.
Bearing all of this in mind, we do not expect to be in a position to have the detailed arrangements for returning to work safely completed until late June at the earliest. Even then, and with protocols in place, there will be restrictions. I know that uncertainty is difficult, however this epidemic is dangerous and unpredictable and safety of our staff is paramount.
It is a tremendous testament to all UL staff that we have shown great resilience and flexibility in adapting to the rapid pace of change forced upon us over the past four months. We are now working largely in an online campus, from home. This brings its own challenges. I’d like to highlight this article on Remote Working among the many resources available on the HR Learning and Development pages. In addition, Healthy UL have plenty of health and well-being tips.
Remember, the way to beat this virus is to avoid it. The message remains the same – stay apart, stay safe.
Dr Des Fitzgerald MD
President, University of Limerick
Memo Update: Final Update – May 15
Dear colleagues and students,
This will be the final update you will receive from UL’s Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) as we move from a crisis operations mode back to our regular senior leadership structures – albeit in a new environment for the foreseeable future.
The Crisis Operations Team was brought together in January of this year as the Coronavirus crisis emerged in China and was chaired by the Deputy President and Chief Operating Officer (DPCOOR), Gerry O’Brien to develop a response to the situation. UL COTEC was formed when the Executive Committee (EC) joined the Crisis Operations Team on the last day of January as it became apparent that the crisis was escalating and the campus would be closed. UL COTEC, chaired by the President, has successfully managed the campus closure and the initial response to the pandemic.
COTEC will now revert to being the Crisis Operations Team charged with monitoring the pandemic and its impact on the University and ensuring the appropriate University response to any re-escalation of the crisis, should it occur. Communications on the University response will now revert to coming through the Executive and President.
As we move out of crisis mode the Executive Committee (with some additional input) will oversee the structure of the next semester in September. The working groups to report into it are:
- Chaired by Kerstin Mey, the Academic Planning Group is overseeing two working groups. One is planning the undergraduate offering and the other the postgraduate programmes including student recruitment, student support, mobility, operational implications and technological underpinning
- Chaired by Norelee Kennedy, the Research Planning Group has been tasked with getting our researchers back to work and dealing with issues with research agencies and stakeholders
- Chaired by Gerry O’Brien, the Space Management Committee has been tasked with preparing a UL specific plan for how we make the campus safe for the return of our staff and students, creating a plan that meets all the requirements outlined in the government roadmap documents and incorporating our own specific needs
As we enter into the first of the phase of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business next week, there will be further updates from senior leadership to indicate what implications the phases will have for the UL community.
Stay home and stay well.
UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee
Memo Update: Academic Year 20/21 – April 30
Dear colleagues and students,
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.
The Autumn Semester will begin on September 28th 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).
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.
At this stage it is hoped that Semester 2 will begin as planned on 25th January 2021 for all students.
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.
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.
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.
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.
UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee
Memo Update: “Hopeful Times” – April 14
Dear colleagues and students,
As you will likely be aware, the national lockdown restrictions have been extended until May 5th and we are now very unlikely to come back together physically as a community until some stage in the late summer.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also announced that the Leaving Certificate examinations will be delayed until the end of July or the beginning of August. Depending on the impact of the current lockdown on the pandemic of Covid-19, restrictions may be partly lifted to allow schools to open for some time ahead of the examinations.
Although at this stage we are still uncertain of the timelines, these announcements do provide some indication on the timing for entry of new students into University of Limerick in the autumn of 2020, probably in late October. For our current and postgraduate students returning to UL we are aiming and hoping for a September start but ultimately, the timelines will depend on progress in controlling the pandemic.
These projections are all predicated on the pandemic being controlled by the restrictions and that there is no, or a manageable, resurgence of Covid-19 as these are lifted. There may be some indication of how effective this approach will be from other countries that are currently beginning to lift restrictions in a very limited way. This easing of restrictions will also be critically dependent on public health measures to tackle further outbreaks of Covid-19 in Ireland, including widespread testing for the virus, contact tracing and quarantining.
In order to prepare for the Autumn, Deputy President Gerry O’Brien has been leading a Future Planning Group, which includes the Deans and the Vice Presidents Kerstin Mey and Norelee Kennedy. The planning will involve the faculties and support units, as the UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) has done ahead of and during the initial closure of our campus.
While the most recent announcements by government do provide a basis for a physical opening of UL in September or sooner, I want to stress that great uncertainty remains. Countries that are exiting the first wave of the pandemic are experiencing a level of resurgence of Covid-19. Indeed, it is possible that there could be multiple cycles of infection here and elsewhere in the years to come. In other words, restrictions designed to limit transmission of the virus will be insufficient to stop the pandemic until a vaccine or a treatment is found.
In those circumstances, we can expect continuous or cyclical restrictions and lockdowns. The Future Planning Group at UL will prepare a number of options for us to consider in order for the University to continue operating in the face of great uncertainty and to provide for our students. I want to stress that we are being cautious and preparing for the worst, but remain hopeful that the timetable outlined by the Taoiseach will come to pass. I also want to stress that the planning will involve all of you.
For our graduating class of undergraduate and postgraduate students this health crisis has, without doubt, brought about a disappointing close to your UL experience, which no one could have foreseen. Yet I have seen you come together virtually to support each other, adapt to online learning and assessment and in many cases volunteer to help in the national effort to combat this virus. For our staff, it has been extraordinary to witness your resilience, ingenuity and innovation both to keep the academic programmes running online and to have produced practical solutions in this fight against Covid-19, including providing our healthcare colleagues with essential personal protective equipment.
I know how hard this situation has been on you and your family, how unreal it feels, how we miss loved ones, how we fear for them and how we long for things to be normal. I also know that we have the resolve and know-how to beat Covid-19 and that this awful period will pass. That is what we must prepare for and believe that when this catastrophe ends, this University will be prepared for a bright future and will thrive.
For me it helps that the difficult and often painful restrictions and physical distancing that we are enduring are clearly producing a tangible benefit, limiting the spread of this awful disease and saving lives, and they are hopefully all the more bearable as we glimpse some light at the end of this tunnel.
Stay apart and stay well, stay strong and continue to support our community.
Dr Des Fitzgerald, President University of Limerick
Memo Update: “Student Update” – April 9
We hope you are keeping safe and well and have settled as far as possible into remote learning. We recognise the high levels of stress that many of you are under and the challenges many of you will face in completing your assessments to the best of your abilities. Following on from the previous communication to you on the University’s response to the COVID-19 situation, the Academic Planning Group would like to raise your awareness of the wide range of changes made to assessments covering all of the UL modules.
By now you will have received information from your Module Leaders on the format of all alternative assessments required for your modules for the semester. In most cases you will have been given the full alternative assessment brief. Where that has not been possible, for instance in case of time-bound assessments, you will have received information on the type, duration, weighting of your assessments, the date when the assessment will be made available and when it has to be submitted.
The conversion of final examinations to an alternative assignment or a take-home exam that can be completed offline, was undertaken to enable robust assessment under the current circumstances and to offer as much flexibility as possible. In a very limited number of cases where it was imperative to the academic integrity of the module or required by professional bodies, academic staff have opted for assessment with a real-time online exam. For each of these exams, measures have been put in place to mitigate against a range of issues that can impede their completion and these have been communicated to you.
The assessment period and final deadline for submission has been extended by 2 weeks to 15 May 2020 in order to reduce the stress associated with alternative assessments. Interim deadlines for submission of your assessments have been put in place by your Module Leaders to help structure your learning.
The Academic Planning Group has implemented a series of additional measures to mitigate against any learner disadvantages arising out of our current circumstances.
These measures include the following:
- An expanded I-Grade process that now includes a COVID-19 circumstantial category, where you can apply for an I-Grade for your module if you encounter issues that impede on the completion of your assessments including but not limited to: changes in any home care arrangement; an inability to engage in remote assessment due to a change in personal circumstances; inability to access LENS related learning supports remotely; or students who lack access to a digital infrastructure required for the completion of alternative assessments – this list is indicative only.
- Applications under the COVID-19 circumstantial category are based on self-certification.
- I-Grades applications are for individual modules not for individual assessments within modules.
- An I-Grade will allow the option for you to clear the I-Grade over the summer, and in time for the annual repeats period so as to enable progression to next year.
- An I-Grade can be cleared using one of the methods outlined within the regulations. There is no financial cost to clear an I-Grade.
- Where you feel that the impact of COVID-19 still remains in the summer and you cannot clear the I-Grade then, you can apply for ‘double I-Grades’ using the COVID-19 I-Grade category at the end of summer.
- The impact of ‘double I-Grades’ will require you to repeat those elements of the programme you received an I-Grade for; in some cases the full semester, in other cases individual modules.
- It should be noted that you will automatically qualify for remission of fees in the event you are applying for double I-Grades.
Deferral of modules
A very small number of modules have been deferred on an exceptional basis to the summer term or to the new academic year, where components of the module or the whole module cannot be delivered under the current circumstances or where a whole cohort of students is not able to undertake the module for instance where they are providing front-line support to the HSE or civil protection. Module Leaders have communicated these to the respective student cohorts.
On non-detriment policy
Many of you will be aware of a “no-detriment” policy that is being put in place in three out of over 130 UK universities, to ensure that students taking assessments now do not drop below a previously accumulated grade point average. This precise mechanism could not be implemented in a fair and equitable way within the UL system. Using formative marks attained during the course of this semester as a benchmark below which the assessments marks cannot drop is not appropriate due to the number and degree of variance in type of modules offered across UL, with varying forms and levels of formative assessments provided before the campus closure. Furthermore, using grades just from third year as a basis for degree awards would not be academically appropriate given our QCA approach and would not provide a fair comparison across student cohorts and disciplines. In fourth year, there is a significant degree of variance in the number and type of modules completed already, which makes it impossible to implement a one-size-fits-all rule fairly and consistently in our system. However, you can expect reasonable accommodations, and lecturers will reward your merit according to the usual marks and standards. We are confident that the substantial measures we have put in place with respect to the development of alternative assessment structures and significant extensions to final submission deadlines will support the successful mitigation of the unique challenges facing you during this unprecedented crisis.
The additional measures we have implemented aim at ensuring the integrity of the academic qualifications that you will obtain. Our assessment systems and degree awards are all subject to rigorous quality control, internally and by our external examiners and also by professional accreditation bodies for many courses. This quality control ensures the value and reputation of your degree when you leave UL. The additional measures outlined above are consistent with our regulations and processes. They ensure that the value of your degree is not diminished by the current crisis while also offering you maximum protection possible from any disadvantage the COVID-19 pandemic may cause.
All good wishes for your personal health and well-being and for successful assessments.
The UL Academic Planning Group
Memo Update: “Update on UL” – April 6
Dear colleagues and students,
I hope you and your families are keeping safe and well and I want to thank you for working together to keep our University thriving.
We had two objectives when this crisis began – to keep our staff and students safe and to move the University online.
There are encouraging signs that physical distancing, which we adopted early in UL, is working but we have a long way to go and so I encourage you to keep your distance and keep washing your hands. The pandemic is entering a dangerous phase where you are more likely to meet someone who is infected, often with no symptoms and yet the temptation to go out to parks or to meet family and friends, particularly over Easter, will be very strong at times.
But remember, the virus is endemic – you only have to make one lapse and you could be infected. Avoid this at all costs. Not only will you save yourself, but you could well save someone else.
Viral transmission is such a high risk now that the US Centre for Disease Control and other health agencies are recommending that everyone should wear a mask when outdoors. Arguably, this does not afford any more protection than gloves and good hygiene, but it does prevent carriers who have no symptoms spreading the virus. You don’t need a surgical mask – just a scarf will do. And when you get home, discard outdoor clothing and wear different clothes in the house. Remember, every step you take reduces your risk.
This week we will have our toughest test as a University working online, as we manage the assessments for 16,500 students. However, we are well prepared and we have an experienced staff who will tackle any problems should they arise. This is unprecedented for us, so we will all need to be patient.
We will need also to increase the protection of our students that remain on campus. This has been a major concern for us as many students chose not to leave the campus when the government restrictions started.
UL is providing a full service to these students (and our non-resident students as required), including healthcare and food deliveries when needed. We have a number of isolation facilities ready for them should they be required. We were fortunate that personal protection equipment was provided this week by Dr Walter Stanley, Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs, Faculty of Science and Engineering, and by Huawei, who donated 1,000 face masks to UL, so that we can provide the frontline staff in the residences additional protection. I want to thank them for their consistent service throughout this crisis.
While my primary responsibility is to the staff and students, I am conscious of the challenges faced by our community in the Mid-West and thinking how UL can help.
UL’s Covid-19 Action Group is working to coordinate the work of many in the university towards this goal. The work is aimed at tracing and testing for Covid-19, manufacturing PPE, contributions to modelling the spread of the virus in Ireland and to new technology for tracing, training management staff in the HSE and even the planning for a field hospital on campus in the UL Sport Arena.
You will hear more about these projects in the coming weeks. My thanks also to the many staff in UL who have contributed and to the many who have volunteered to help the community of Limerick and the Mid-West region get through this crisis.
All of us are trapped in one of the greatest challenges set before humanity. We have watched as this virus has slowly but inexorably spread across the world aided by a wave of human mobility and frankly by the fumbling response of many. Here in Ireland we moved quickly and measurably to contain this pandemic, but this virus can only be contained by each and every one of us. We are the ones who will stop it or spread it. Each of us can be a hero. Remember this as we break for Easter.
I want to thank all of you. You have shown tremendous energy, innovation and camaraderie and because of that University of Limerick will prevail.
Bí slán, bí go maith.
Dr Des Fitzgerald, President University of Limerick
Memo Update: UL campus public access – March 29
Dear colleagues and students
In the interest of public health, as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic together, University of Limerick must unfortunately close public access to the campus. Barriers will be put in place across all entrance paths and roads and entry will be via the main gate only, which will be controlled.
Access to the campus will only be granted for listed UL personnel carrying out essential business and for village residents.
We are implementing this measure in line with Government directives and to keep the Limerick community safe during this time of crisis.
Stay safe and stay home everyone.
UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC)
Memo Update: Two weeks on from the campus closure – March 26
Dear colleagues and students,
Today marks two weeks since University of Limerick closed its campus on foot of government advice due to the COVID-19 crisis.
While UL is physically closed, we migrated online where Trojan work by staff has meant the University has remained operational during this difficult time.
Just two weeks ago we were sitting in our offices, our labs, our lecture theatres or simply enjoying Ireland’s Best Student Campus when An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a historic address from Washington instructing the education system to close its doors.
So much has happened in that 14 day period that it feels like months – yet we have done an incredible amount.
We didn’t close, we went online – you opened up digital pathways, set up remote working, and generally moved mountains so that the 16,500 students in UL have had continued access to their academic programmes. It has been two weeks of extraordinary effort.
University of Limerick is fully operational and this week the Academic Planning Group confirmed plans for assessment to also take place remotely. We ask for your assistance in meeting these obligations and ensuring the integrity of our systems. Keep visiting the UL.ie/COVID19 webpage for daily updates and announcements as well as an extensive list of FAQs and support advice.
Unfortunately, we have had to cancel the June conferring at UL due to the current crisis. However, our final year medical students will graduate in-absentia and be ready to fight this virus as soon as possible. We salute them and the many thousands more of their colleagues doing their best to protect us.
We thank all the UL student volunteers who have made themselves available to contribute to the national good at this trying time. We are apart but we are very much connected in our efforts to serve our students, to protect our community and our University.
As Taoiseach Varadkar said in the Dail today: “Unfortunately we cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back. Our national objective must be to flatten the curve. We can succeed if everyone takes sustained action. Nothing less will do.”
The advice is simple: wash your hands regularly, keep your distance and stay at home where at all possible. By doing so, you are helping those who are on the frontline facing this disease every day.
UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee
Memo Update: Communications to students and staff on assessments and exams – March 24
The University of Limerick Academic Planning Group has been meeting regularly and, amongst other items, discussed the issue of how the University cope with the impact of the immediate campus closure, the uncertainty at national and local level over the possibility and timing of reopening, and our assessment procedures. It is fair to say we are in uncharted territory and the Academic Planning Group has explored multiple options as to how we maintain academic integrity, provide assessment for our students to enable timely completion of final awards, and provide the flexibility that will be required during the COVID-19 pandemic to enable all of our students to either progress to their next academic year, or graduate.
UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee
Memo Update: UL COVID-19 update – March 24
Dear colleagues and students,
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has this Tuesday afternoon announced further measures in the bid to fight the COVID-19 crisis. He has confirmed that universities, schools and childcare facilities will remain closed until April 19.
As you know, this is a very fluid situation and our belief is still that we won’t be physically back on the UL campus this semester. We are entering a new phase of the pandemic with an increasing number of restrictions to try and stop the virus from spreading. These may be further enhanced in the coming weeks.
The Taoiseach has also announced a raft of new measures on physical distancing in an attempt to do more to flatten the curve of this virus. The best course of action you can take is to stay at home if possible. The measures come into effect at midnight tonight and a full breakdown can be seen here.
As the Taoiseach said, these are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency and we must follow the direction being given by government.
The UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) is acting to ensure that the normal operation of the University continues during this COVID-19 crisis and met this Tuesday – remotely – to continue to deal with this situation.
The effort being made by staff and students to assist in keeping the University operational is massive and deeply appreciated by us all. Students are understandably concerned about assessments and we will have information on that to share with you shortly.
Our community has done a fantastic job of keeping apart, but we must not lose momentum at this vital time. I have been overwhelmed by the efforts of our staff community, not only to continue our programmes online, but also to constantly reassure and support our students at a time when there is understandable anxiety.
The COVID Action Group, which has been brought together at UL, is harnessing the great strengths that we have as a University to make a real impact on limiting the spread of this disease. Hundreds of people have come forward to offer their expertise for the national good and with a desire to do something for our community and that of the Mid-West.
As An Taoiseach said in his address this afternoon, “working together our country will come through this emergency. We will be tested, but we will succeed”
Dr Des Fitzgerald, President
Memo Update: COTEC “A vital week” – March 23
Dear staff and students,
The UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) met on Friday and will do so again tomorrow.
Regular updates about what is discussed at the committee will be provided to you – more information on that is below. This is a long one but hopefully the emails will be shorter as they become more regular.
First, it is important that we, as a committee, relay to you: this is a vital week that will determine how we meet the challenge of this virus. There is no time left – our advice now is to act as if you have the virus and you don’t want to spread it.
Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, health minister Simon Harris delivered a “blunt and honest” communication that highlights what we must do now to stop the march of COVID-19.
He said: “We, all of us, not anyone else, will decide through our actions what happens next.”
The message is clear: to save lives, to support the healthcare professionals on the front line fighting this virus, to keep our families safe – we must keep our distance. Stay at home. Everyone needs to abide by physical distancing and that means there should be two metres between you and other people.
There are 906 confirmed cases in Ireland and four people have died. There are 40,000 people waiting to be tested. The HSE will be under stress as it has never been before in this vital week ahead.
The median age of people affected by this is 44 and the 30-55 age category is most affected – but there is clear evidence that young people are at risk too. One of those to die on Sunday in the UK was an 18-year-old.
The National Public Health Emergency team will meet on Tuesday and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan’s team will likely make further recommendations to government on the movement of people. We expect some clarity on an extension to the closure of higher education institutions beyond the initial March 29 date this week also.
The COTEC committee is acting to ensure that normal operation of the University continues. Huge efforts by academic and support staff have meant all programmes are continuing online. There has been very significant online activity last week by all of our students and staff, who are rising to the challenge of this situation.
The Academic Planning Group is progressing its work and assessment arrangements will be confirmed to students by the end of March. We will email more detail on assessments this week.
In the meantime, a major effort of UL staff and students, under the supervision of UL Vice President Research Professor Norelee Kennedy and the UL COVID Action Group, has already swung into place.
Actions include participation in contact tracing, for which there are already 200 UL student volunteers, mathematical modelling, economic advice, laboratory assistance and more. A team from health sciences is working with colleagues from UHL to plan a field hospital in the UL Arena, where patients who do not have COVID-19 will be treated in a step-down facility and can receive rehab and physio out of the regular hospital system.
We are continuing to support students who remain in our on-campus accommodation – almost 800 in total, the majority of which are international students. Our staff are working seven days a week to provide security and support to these students and the Student Health Centre also remains operational for medical and counselling support. These are vital services and we will continue to provide them.
UL Source for Information
The www.ul.ie/covid19 webpage is the most up to date source of information for all staff and students in relation to measures being put in place and institutional advice during a rapidly changing situation.
You can rely on this page and the FAQs, which are updated on a daily basis, as a source of the most up to date UL information across a wide range of areas.
Please get your information from trusted sources – ideally via the HSE’s dedicated COVID-19 page here:www2.hse.ie/coronavirus.
Dr Liam Glynn, a professor of general practice in our Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS), is providing up to date information on Twitter via #COVIDWATCH – a project endorsed by UL and the Irish College of General Practitioners.
We continue to support Limerick and the Mid-West region; we will do it now and we will do it when this crisis is over and be part of the recovery of this great city and county.
We are providing healthcare professionals that are at the front line of this fight and 140 final year medical students from UL GEMS will finish their exams as scheduled in April and be ready to start early in May in the battle against this virus.
We owe it to them and the many thousands like them around the country putting themselves at risk to remain apart and stand together.
UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee
Memo Update: New COTEC email advisory – March 20
Dear Staff and Students
The UL Critical Operations Team & Executive Committee (COTEC) has been meeting since January to coordinate the university response to the COVID-19 global crisis. This team is continuing to meet twice a week and will do so until this crisis is over.
A full list of the team members can be found at the bottom of this email.
We want to keep our entire community of staff and students fully informed of the work that this committee is doing on your behalf. This email address will represent a communication from the committee and regular updates will be sent to you with details of the issues facing the committee and of decisions taken. Our wish is that you can come to rely on regular information being sent directly to you from the committee.
The www.ul.ie/covid19 webpage is the most up to date source of information for all staff and students in relation to measures being put in place and institutional advice during a rapidly changing situation. You can rely on this page and the FAQs, which are updated on a daily basis, as a source of the most up to date UL information across a wide range of areas.
Please continue to lead the way, as you have done already, with a strong message on social distancing and personal hygiene to our wider community.
|Sean Arkins||Dean, SE|
|Paul Burke||CAO UL Hospitals|
|Christine Cross||Dean, KBS|
|Sheena Doyle||Communications Manager|
|Harvey Duthie||VP Development, CEO ULF|
|Desmond Fitzgerald||President, UL|
|Andrew Flaherty||Director, HR|
|Michael Foley||COO, PCC|
|Marta Guzniczak||Director, OOP|
|Claire Kearns||Practice Nurse Manager,Student Health Centre|
|Helen Kelly Holmes||Dean, AHSS|
|Norelee Kennedy||VP Research|
|Ann Ledwith||Dean, GPS|
|Eamonn Moran||Director, Student Affairs|
|Rachel Msetfi||Dean, EHS|
|Liam O’Reilly||Director, ITD|
|Josephine Page||Director, IED|
|Robert Reidy||Director, Buildings and Estates|
|Sean Ryan||Acting Director, Strategic Projects and Transformation|
|Ronan Ryder||Medical Director, Student Health Centre|
|Philip Thornton||Health & Safety Officer|
|Patrice Twomey||Director, CECD|
Memo Update: Travel and Campus Advisory – March 17
Dear colleagues and students
At a briefing on March 12 attendees were told by the Department of Health that the schools/universities closures could extend beyond March 29 depending on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team. Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has projected that there will be exponential growth in positive cases over the next two weeks and An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has just confirmed that the closure of education institutions could last much longer: months not weeks.
This means we need to be prepared for the very real possibility that there will not be a resumption of normality for the remainder of the final term and that the campus will remain closed until some time during the summer.
The University is preparing for this eventuality and looking at continuing online learning and offering alternative means of assessment than the traditional paper based onsite exam hall experience. This also includes assessments and final projects for Masters students.
Students should assess what this means for them particularly in the light of the rapidly evolving travel advice and country specific action which will see travel embargos to and from some regions.
For international students: please inform IED: email@example.com of your decision and indicate whether you are staying in accommodation on campus or off campus. This is important as it will enable us to direct support over the coming weeks.
Professor Kerstin Mey, Vice President Academic Affairs & Student Engagement, University of Limerick
Memo Update: “We must take action” – March 16
Colleagues and Students
These are extraordinary times. We are facing the single biggest health crisis in living memory.
I am deeply concerned that people are not fully realising the severity of the situation and so are not changing their behaviour quickly enough.
The government and health authorities are doing everything they can and those at the front line facing Covid-19 Coronavirus are performing incredible work.
Those that are dealing directly with this crisis don’t have the luxury to self-isolate and reduce their personal contact – we owe it to them to do everything we can to buy them enough time to deal with this crisis.
We have a small window of time right now where we can really have an influence to limit how bad this gets. We still have a chance to flatten out the curve of this virus, to attenuate the sudden surge in infected people and help to interrupt its march but we need to act NOW. TODAY. THIS EVENING.
In 80% of cases this virus will be a mild illness but it is the 20% of cases which will be severe or critical that require us to act now. If we can slow transmission now, we can give much needed time to the health service to care for the critically ill who will require ventilators. You can lead this change in your families and your communities.
None of us have ever faced anything like this in our lifetimes but we do have it within our power to influence how dire this does or does not become. Social gatherings are still taking place, and at a level where there is disregard for everyone’s public safety.
We must take action – by remaining apart, we stand together. We are currently working with the HSE to develop more sophisticated systems of contact tracing with the inclusion of testing – this is further to the change in testing criteria in recent days. Our staff have much needed clinical skills as well as expertise in technology that could make a difference in limiting the transmission of the virus, such as the analysis of geolocation data to map individuals who may have come into contact with infected persons.
Perhaps people could consider a daily diary of their contact with other people – this is a good way to make people more conscious of their personal contact with others. Stay active, go for walks – connect with people remotely via phone, or social media.
It may well be a long road and I expect UL to remain closed beyond the Government indication of March 29. However, our community of staff and students have moved mountains in the past week towards full online programme delivery and establishing remote working. I have no doubt we will weather this storm and return as a campus community even stronger than before.
Dr Des Fitzgerald, President, University of Limerick
Memo Update: March 13
As you know, there has been much talk about how to manage COVID-19 Coronavirus and its impact on your life and your studies.
People are worried, even frightened and that is normal. However, this is a time for action rather than panic. This virus thrives on contact so we must isolate ourselves, limit our contact and observe the advice on hygiene.
Students are urged to practice social distancing and to minimise physical contact with each other to help avoid the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.
We must protect the elderly and the vulnerable in society as best we can. We have a duty to those around us to limit our personal contact and to practice good social distancing.
The best advice is to minimise social contact, avoid meeting up and keep physical space between each other. A low number of social interactions will translate to a lower transmission rate. The higher it gets, the higher the risk of transmission.
If you do not interact with an infected person, you are unlikely to contract the virus. However, you will not know who is infected, so avoid all contact if possible.
We want both students and their families to make it through this crisis safely. That is why we are encouraging these social distancing practices. Comfort and care for older people but from a distance – stay in touch with them in whatever way you can.
As a group, we have the potential to make a very significant impact on this illness by leading the way in following the advice available to us. We can help the most vulnerable in society by understanding that our personal actions will influence the overall wellbeing of our own communities.
Our own family members will need us to consider their welfare – by applying advice that has come from research and practice. We can live out our commitment to education by actively engaging in what it teaches us. This will help those most vulnerable in our own communities, those in our families, those in our peer groups and those that we call friends.
Do what you can, when you can and you will see the difference.
Memo Update: Campus Closure – March 12
Dear UL Community,
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has this Thursday morning announced a closure of all schools and higher education institutions as Ireland has entered into a new phase in dealing with the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
University of Limerick campus will close from end of business today to all staff and students. In the first instance, the University will close until March 29.
There will be access on campus for a core skeleton staff to maintain essential services and a team from Buildings and Estates will continue to service the campus and provide security and support to students in University residences who cannot return to their homes.
We will require staff, where at all possible, to remain working from home and for students to engage with their course content online. More information will be communicated to students in relation to alternative assessment. All course related travel will be cancelled until March 29.
We have also established teams in various support units to maintain services to staff and students off campus, including HR, Finance and ITD. Details and further advice on issues such as travel, support for parents on school closure and staff sick leave are available on ul.ie/covid19 webpage.
You should continue to visit the source of official information on the UL website, which has a long list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), which are being updated on a daily basis.
We are developing an inventory of essential supplies and services for faculties and research facilities and will do all we can to secure them. Any further developments will be announced promptly by email and through the dedicated website and I would ask that you pay attention to them.
A serious focus must now be on the prevention of community spread by limiting person-to-person contact, for example by banning public events and closing institutions. I am also conscious that the airlines are gradually limiting services to affected areas and that the US has banned flights from 22 EU countries bordering the Schengen region but not the UK and Ireland. There is therefore a limited window in which students can return to their home countries if they wish.
The University Critical Incident Committee will continue to meet and to advise you and to monitor developments, while our staff move to delivering our educational programmes online. A separate communication will go out to our on-campus residents to outline the plans in place to support students in UL residences who are unable to return home.
The staff have pulled together remarkably in preparing for this pandemic and I want to thank them for the extraordinary work they have done and will continue to do in delivering our programmes to the students and in maintaining campus and community life.
I am conscious that they have done this under extraordinary pressure as they too, and their families, face into this storm. I know many of you are worried, even frightened. Let me assure you that the majority will contract no, or only a mild or moderate, illness. Older people will suffer most, as will the men and women who are at the coalface of our medical services, many of whom are on our faculty. What we must all do is isolate ourselves, limit our contacts and observe the advice on hygiene.
If you don’t interact with an infected person, you won’t get the disease and as you won’t know who is infected, avoid all contact if possible. In particular, comfort and care for older people but from a distance – stay in touch with them in whatever way you can.
I am reminded of a letter I received from the president of our partner institution Shandong University in China as they faced Covid-19. He said that the students and staff had pulled together to fight this virus and he felt they were winning. UL is a strong community and working as a community we will get through this and return to thrive.
We are responding to a disaster that goes well beyond the campus and will disrupt public and private services for weeks, maybe months to come. But universities are resilient – history shows that they survive catastrophe to return and help rebuild themselves and their communities.
We will be back and we will return to normal, supporting each other and the community of Limerick and the Mid-West as we have always done.
Dr. Des Fitzgerald,
University of Limerick
Important Links can be retrieved at https://www.ul.ie/latest-advice-all-ul-community-%C2%A0coronavirus-covid-19