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LATEST: Advice for UL community on COVID-19 Coronavirus

Read the latest FAQ on Covid-19 for the UL Community

FAQs for all UL community on COVID-19

UL Covid Action Group 

COTEC Action Group

Previous updates

Dear colleagues,

We are receiving many enquiries from staff about coming back to work on campus. I must point out that come 20 July, our campus is not reopening in the pre-March 2020 sense. Covid-19 is still a contagious virus within the community. The recommendation continues to be that, if you can work from home and do not have to be physically on site, you should not be applying to work on campus. With this in mind, don’t forget to fill out our remote working survey before the deadline next Friday 3 July.

If your work requires you to be on campus, you should apply for approval to return via your line-manager. This will then be included in their COVID-19 Business Response Plan, a template for which is available on the Covid-19 Sharepoint site.

Once the Health & Safety Unit recommends to the Space Management Committee (SMC) that your area’s Covid-19 Business Response Plan is approved, the Pre-Return to Work form will then be issued to the Unit/Department Head for distribution to selected staff approved to return to campus.  Where no issues are identified in the Pre-Return form, the Unit/Department Head will email the staff names to enable the completion of the COVID-19 Staff Awareness training programme. 

The number of area requests to return to campus are increasing significantly so the SMC have agreed to prioritise these as follows:

  1. Research
  2. Essential Support Services
  3. Academic Activity Requiring on Campus Presence
  4. Academic Activity / Administrative Support / non-Academic Support

This prioritisation will be reassessed weekly by the SMC.

Other documents recently added to the Covid-19 Sharepoint Site and accessible to all are the Unit Department Manager Return to Work Process and Management of a Suspected COVID-19 Case.

Learning and Development

It’s a truism but University of Limerick can only be as good as the people who work here. We are fortunate to have such dedicated academic and administrative staff and this was never more evident than during the past four months as we moved from a physical campus to a fully open virtual one. To illustrate the extent of this change, take one day: on Thursday 30 April, there were just under two hundred and nineteen thousand (218,925) engagements with SULIS - UL's learning management system.  

HR Learning & Development also moved staff training completely online. While over 2,300 attended training and seminars in the last year, close to 800 of these were since we left campus last March. So far we have run 143 training programmes and seminars including Working from Home, Resilience and Wellbeing, Micro Modules for Managers and Workshops to Support Research.

We want to continue to support your training needs. If you have requirement for training that applies to a minimum of 10 people in a division/department, please contact us at HR Dept, we’d be delighted to work with you.

HR Equality and Diversity

Many of you may have seen the President’s statement  in response to the national campus climate survey of university students’ sexual violence and harassment experiences in higher education institutions. As to be expected, the focus is largely on our student population but I do want to point out that the Dignity & Respect Training which all staff are required to attend is available now virtually. Existing policies are currently being revised and new policies are being developed to address the key recommendations of the recently published Sector Consent Framework. More about this later. If you have any questions or concerns please contact members of the HR Team or contact one of the members of the Designated Contact Persons on the Designated Contact Person’s Panel.

And Finally

The East Room Restaurant in Plassey House is reopening next Friday 3 July and will have Covid-19 protocols in place in line with our own University guidelines and those of the Restaurants Association of Ireland. UL Sport’s Adventure Centre and outdoor facilities will also reopen from next Monday in line with Phase 3 of the Government’s Roadmap for the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

So, while the weather is not due to be great this weekend, this is a welcome sign that - taking all sensible precautions - we can begin to plan our social lives again.

Andrew Flaherty HR Director

Dear colleagues,

Our University campus has felt quite forlorn without the usual hustle and bustle of staff and students. It is good to note then that preparation has begun for approved return to work. Physical distancing and Covid-19 awareness signage is being created, hand sanitiser is ordered and H&S inspections have begun to assess physical distancing capacities and other requirements in line with Government guidelines.

The issue to bear in mind is that these guidelines may change. For example there is currently a debate about whether to reduce 2m physical distancing to 1m. If this reduction occurs, capacity modelling for a lecture theatre here in UL shows an increase from 15% of normal capacity to 48%.

For the time being, as recommended, many of us will continue to work from home. Meanwhile, we will continue to take practical steps to help those who do need to get back on-site, while also ensuring that our processes can adapt as the situation and public health advice may change. Following these steps will keep us on track to meet the 20 July deadline in the national plan for reopening society.

Business Plan

From a Research Area or Department/Unit point of view, this means preparing a Covid-19 Business Development Plan. There is a template to follow in creating this on the Covid-19 Sharepoint site. This template details the steps required to return to active on-campus work, identifies what actions individual departments need to take, what University-wide measures have taken place, and who to contact for assistance.

When a Covid-19 Business Development Plan has been prepared, it will go through a number of review steps involving Health & Safety (H&S) and Buildings & Estates (B&E) before finally being approved by the Space Management Committee. This is to ensure that all appropriate measures have taken place to provide a safe working environment in the context of Covid-19.

Worker Representatives

Worker Representatives (WRs) are being nominated by line mangers so that each area has a designated Covid-19 contact person. WRs will be sent a link by H&S to their online training module and they will continue to meet on a regular basis in relation to measures being put in place to ensure the suppression of COVID-19 at the University.

Pre-Return to Work Form

Individual staff members who have been identified by their line managers as needing to return to campus working must complete a Pre-Return to Work Form with reference to the HSE Covid-19 risk categories at least three days before they plan to return. This will be supplied to staff by their line manager as part of the approval process.

Covid-19 Staff Awareness Training

Once your area’s Covid-19 Business Development Plan has been approved and implemented, and the Pre-Return to Work form has been completed with no issues relating to a return to work on campus, staff will need to complete the online Covid-19 Staff Awareness Training course before coming back on site. If you have been approved to return to work on the UL campus, your Manager will email HR to enable you to complete the training programme on Sulis. You will be alerted via email to complete the training course.

PPE

If you have been identified as requiring PPE in line with current UL recommendations soon to be available on the Covid-19 Sharepoint site, this will be provided to staff and researchers by B&E and charged back to your department. A budget will be provided to departments for this purpose.

Back on Site

Some areas have already returned to campus with limited staff including Bernal and Nexus. UL Sport have identified a return of our high performance athletes to pool, rowing, athletics and the North Campus Gym over the next two weeks. The Arena Building will not reopen until the HSE Intermediate Care Facility leaves on 30 November.

Remote Working Procedure

Many of us will continue to work remotely. Human Resources are drawing up a Remote Working Procedure, which will be informed by the staff survey of remote working habits, challenges and requirements issued.

Please do find the time to complete this survey before the deadline on Friday 3 July, as your responses will help to shape this document.

Andrew Flaherty

Director HR

Colleagues,

The establishment of a dedicated institute for the study of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, was announced by University of Limerick yesterday.   The Midwest Institute for Infectious Diseases at UL has already secured seed funding of €3.5million in a philanthropic contribution from the JP McManus Pro-Am 2021.

The Institute is being developed to harness core expertise, including medicine, health sciences, mathematics & statistics and life sciences, that exists at University of Limerick.  Research at the institute will inform future planning for the response to COVID-19 and potential future outbreaks of other notifiable diseases. The new research institute will leverage various academic expert areas together with the support of the UL Hospitals Group and community health partners in the region.

The plan for the Institute arose from internal discussions through the COVID-19 Action group and demonstrated the expertise already existing in UL that could inform the current management of the pandemic as well as providing the basis for a longer term investment in the field of infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges societally, individually, economically and politically. A sound scientific approach to better understand the extent of the virus is central to an informed, sustainable response to the management of the pandemic.

The first phase of the Institute will be enabled through the temporary use of laboratory facilities in the Nexus centre. A unit in Park Point will become the location for the Institute through the development of state of the art BSL II and III laboratory facilities. Drawing on existing expertise across a range of disciplines in the University, and working with colleagues in UHL and the community services, the Institute will provide a focal point for the future development of an extended research programme at UL centered around infectious diseases.

The announcement represents a broadening of the University’s research capabilities and a positioning of the University to compete for research funding across a broader range of calls. The generous philanthropic contribution from the JP McManus Foundation Pro-Am 21 towards the Institute is much appreciated.

I look forward to working with you all as the Institute develops.

Norelee

Professor Noreeen (Norelee) Kennedy

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

 

Colleagues,

The establishment of a dedicated institute for the study of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, was announced by University of Limerick yesterday.   The Midwest Institute for Infectious Diseases at UL has already secured seed funding of €3.5million in a philanthropic contribution from the JP McManus Pro-Am 2021.

The Institute is being developed to harness core expertise, including medicine, health sciences, mathematics & statistics and life sciences, that exists at University of Limerick.  Research at the institute will inform future planning for the response to COVID-19 and potential future outbreaks of other notifiable diseases. The new research institute will leverage various academic expert areas together with the support of the UL Hospitals Group and community health partners in the region.

The plan for the Institute arose from internal discussions through the COVID-19 Action group and demonstrated the expertise already existing in UL that could inform the current management of the pandemic as well as providing the basis for a longer term investment in the field of infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges societally, individually, economically and politically. A sound scientific approach to better understand the extent of the virus is central to an informed, sustainable response to the management of the pandemic.

The first phase of the Institute will be enabled through the temporary use of laboratory facilities in the Nexus centre. A unit in Park Point will become the location for the Institute through the development of state of the art BSL II and III laboratory facilities. Drawing on existing expertise across a range of disciplines in the University, and working with colleagues in UHL and the community services, the Institute will provide a focal point for the future development of an extended research programme at UL centered around infectious diseases.

The announcement represents a broadening of the University’s research capabilities and a positioning of the University to compete for research funding across a broader range of calls. The generous philanthropic contribution from the JP McManus Foundation Pro-Am 21 towards the Institute is much appreciated.

I look forward to working with you all as the Institute develops.

Norelee

Professor Noreeen (Norelee) Kennedy

Dear colleagues,

Today, ten weeks since we left our campus and moved our university online, I want to address two things in our fight against this virus, which I have discussed at the Academic Council and Management Committee. The first is in relation to our approach to getting back to “the new normal” and the second is to give you an update on our financial situation.

The new normal

Since the campus closed down on March 12th we have performed remarkably well in delivering our courses online, in completing assessments, in providing the supporting services to enable the University to remain fully open and operational remotely, and in providing residential supports for the 720 students who initially chose to remain on campus. Many compliments have been made to our outstanding staff who continue to deliver in the most challenging circumstances and I wish to thank you for your great efforts and positive spirit throughout.

We are now moving into a new phase, preparing to reopen the campus, to welcome our staff back gradually and to prepare for the return of students in September.  

However, first and foremost, we must insure the health and safety of all our full community.

In the past week, three guidance documents have emerged which describe the lifting of restrictions in ‘five phases’ and which provide the government position on how the country and UL should reopen:

  1. Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business
  2. Covid-19 Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide (NSAI);
  3. Work Safety Protocol – COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers

The steps in these documents are complex and demanding and primarily are designed to reduce the risk of disease transmission. These guidelines and protocols require us to have a number of processes, safety measures and training in place before we can safely allow members of our staff back onto the campus. It is worth noting the government’s direction that remains in place  -  where you can work from home you should continue to do so.

We have also begun to explore how we restart our research in the coming weeks and months and how we will deliver our education programmes from September.  While the epidemic is abating somewhat in Ireland and in the rest of Europe, the risk of resurgence is very real. Both WHO and the European CDC have indicated that is ‘when’ and not ‘if’. Therefore, we are exploring the feasibility of blended delivery of our education programmes keeping in mind that we may have to shut the campus at any time. Social distancing requirements greatly reduce the capacity of the campus for teaching and learning, so the approach is likely to be one where groups of students and staff (say 20%) rotate periods of on campus experiential learning with periods of off campus online delivery and various permutations of this are being examined.  

To coordinate the planning, the following has been put in place overseen by the Executive Committee:

  1. Chaired by Kerstin Mey, the Academic Programme Board is overseeing the undergraduate student offering and the postgraduate programmes;
  2. Chaired by Norelee Kennedy, the Research Committee is preparing protocols and plans to restart research;
  3. Chaired by Gerry O’Brien, the Space Management Committee is preparing a UL specific plan for how we make the campus safe on the return of our staff and students.

We will share these plans with you in the weeks ahead to get your views. Above all we want you to feel safe and in particular to insure the safety of vulnerable staff and students.

Financial Update

It will come as no surprise that we face financial challenges in the short and medium term. Prior to the pandemic the University had done much work to strengthen its income and to invest in its infrastructure. Our income showed a significant improvement this year on foot of diversifying our income sources and of very good work by the faculties and recruitment teams in graduate studies, the international office and marketing & communications.  Our first draft budget for 20/21 was showing a breakeven position and indeed we were looking forward to a surplus after years of deficits.

However, with knowledge of the true extent of COVID-19, we have had to revise the budget for 2019 and we are now predicting a substantial loss of income and a large deficit for the year. While it is still very difficult to forecast future revenues and the added costs arising next year, all our forecasts show substantial losses for 20/21 and also for 21/22 should the pandemic continue as expected. This arises from significant falls in our international and graduate income as both the travel restrictions and a global recession materialise. Our summer income has been wiped out and we cannot be sure of the income in our student residences next year as it will depend on the academic operating model with substantial reliance still on online delivery.

This is also the case for the entire University sector and the Irish Universities Association (IUA) has forecast losses of c€370million between this year and next.  The IUA has sought an injection of €240million from Government into the universities including €16.5m for the loss of student rental fees but this is highly uncertain if not unlikely given the demands from sectors such as social welfare, health and business and so it is falls to the university to stem the losses.

There will be some opportunities to improve income both in the immediate term and longer term and we are seeing high demand for some of our programme offerings. There is demand for online courses nationally and internationally particularly for people looking to reskill as they face a changing economy.

However, there will be increased costs due to the physical spacing (e.g., running multiple labs with fewer students per session), for deep cleaning and for modifications to spaces to protect staff and students.  We must also invest in more technology including lecture capture, online resilience, online communications capability and the virtual learning environment to help our academics deliver online. A review of costs will look at all aspects of the University and as you are aware we have already implemented a recruitment freeze. Work is ongoing to look at other ways of mitigating losses and much discussion on the options will take place over the coming months, including with the Governing Authority next week. 

There are challenges ahead, however the commitment of the UL staff and students over the past difficult 10 weeks has prepared us well and UL will prevail.

Stay safe and stay well.

Dr Des Fitzgerald M.D President, University of Limerick 

 

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.

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald MD 

President, University of Limerick

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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

 

Dear colleagues,

On Friday last, the Government published a ‘Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business’ - its plan for the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in five phases between now and September.

The plan recognises the progress that has been made in ‘flattening the curve’ of the epidemic in Ireland and in limiting the number of patients requiring hospitalisation and intensive care. It nevertheless acknowledges that we have some way to go before normal life can return without triggering a resurgence of the virus. The phases therefore are necessarily tentative and rely heavily on continued restrictions – in particular, social distancing, limiting the number and duration of contacts and strict hygiene measures. 

For the University, the campus will remain essentially closed until we commence Semester 1 AY 20/21 as announced last week on September 28. The campus will be available for essential work, in particular for maintenance and for COVID-19 related projects. The campus will also open gradually for research over the summer, as this is deemed to be an essential service by government. As the current phase of the epidemic abates, hopefully during the summer, we will open the campus further in line with the Government’s Roadmap. For example, the hope is to be in a position to provide on campus technical support and recording facilities to staff preparing online lecture material for Semester 1. This will only be possible where strict social distancing and hygiene measures are observed.

I want to outline also our plans for next term, which are limited by the need to navigate COVID-19. As communicated to you last week, we will begin Semester 1 AY 20/21 on September 28th.  At this point, we hope to offer on campus face-to-face teaching with online programmes. The format has yet to be decided but could involve cycles of on campus laboratory and other experiential learning, alternating with cycles of online lectures and seminars. 

The approach would limit the number of staff and students on campus at any one time, perhaps to 20% of our full community, and so would allow for appropriate social distancing, while maintaining also strict hygiene measures. Limiting the contact between students and staff is essential as COVID-19 will remain a highly infective and dangerous virus for some time to come. We must also be prepared for the re-imposition of government restrictions, including the complete closure of the campus, were there to be a resurgence of the virus. More detail will issue from the Future Planning Group of COTEC in the coming weeks.

If you have any suggestions, we would like to hear from you. Please send them to COTEC@UL.ie

We are in for a difficult time and we must work around this epidemic for UL to succeed. Most of all, we must protect our students and staff - and not just from the disease. Staff have worked incredibly hard in the last few months to move our programmes online, to design and manage assessments and at the same time continue their research and their work on several COVID-19 related projects. They have done this in the most difficult circumstances, working while home-schooling children, protecting and supporting their families, caring for ageing parents and grandparents, mentoring and supporting colleagues and all while being fearful of this awful virus. I am conscious that this is taking a toll and yet here we are asking you to do more.

I also know though that our staff are dedicated, hard-working and incredibly innovative. While we face what must seem like insurmountable problems in delivering on our core mission of education and research, we have a great resource in our University and in our staff and I am confident that we will prevail and emerge stronger than ever.

Stay well and stay strong. 

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald, President, University of Limerick 

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.

Start Dates

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.

Blended Delivery

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.

Ongoing Planning 

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

Dear Colleagues,

On Friday 24th April the University of Limerick Governing Authority held its April meeting at which a number of items, including the financial outlook for this year, were discussed. As you can imagine the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 on the national economy and on University of Limerick is not yet fully known but it is expected to be significant.

The UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC) would like to update you on two items that were discussed at Governing Authority that could be impacted by the financial outlook. There has been a number of queries on these topics in recent days.

Firstly we wish to confirm that academic promotion applications should be submitted before the advised deadline as normal. The decision on whether the applications can progress in light of the expected financial environment will be taken at a future Governing Authority meeting when the budget for next year is presented. At that point the Governing Authority will make a decision about the progression of academic promotions.

The second item is to update you on a recruitment freeze that has been put in place last week. Like most other universities we have applied a recruitment freeze in order to prevent costs from rising where possible. Currently we have 81 open positions and all of these will be reviewed by the recruitment sub committee next week to decide if the competition will still go ahead. We expect a large number will not go ahead with only very limited exceptions being approved. Externally funded positions where funding is committed will be unaffected by the freeze. The recruitment freeze is expected to remain in place for the immediate future.

Further updates will be issued as the situation evolves.

Stay home and stay well.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee

Dear colleagues,

We hope you are all staying well. In these challenging times we have to deal with the additional stress of working from home while at the same time managing our personal and family related responsibilities.

Further to the email on April 9 with Tips For Staying Healthy during the COVID-19 crises, we would like to bring to your attention a health and wellbeing initiative supported by the HSE that may be utilised by UL staff, families and friends. This is a free online stress control programme for HSE staff which they have made available to the public.

Details may be found at https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthwellbeing/about-us/free-online-stress-control-classes.html

As we all worked through the challenge of establishing our remote working systems and schedules it was necessary for some to use email auto replies to indicate new contact details and/or contact hours etc. However now that we are into our fifth week of online and remote working, ‘out of office’ or auto replies should only be used if you are on annual leave or sick leave and not working from home. This is crucial as we continue to drive the message to our external audiences of the amount of work ongoing at UL, albeit remotely. It may well be appropriate to consider amending your email signatures and to use these to indicate alternative contact details etc.

We would also like to draw your attention to the website supporting the activity of the UL COVID Action Group developed by Professor Norelee Kennedy to coordinate the many activities in progress and emerging across campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic including the production of 100,000 face visors for UHL, watch a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1pfgjbwbu0&feature=youtu.be.

We continue to encourage staff to avail of the Employee Support Service. Please note the directions contained there for accessing the Support Hub website at: https://www.inspiresupporthub.org. Here you will find a suite of information, guidance, screening, and intervention tools, tailored to help care for your individual wellbeing needs including a rich Resource Library on many specific mental and physical health topics.

Stay home and stay well.

UL Critical Operations Executive Committee

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.

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald (MD), President, University of Limerick 

Dear students,

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.

Assessments

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.

Assessment period

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:

I-Grade process

  • 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.

Academic integrity

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

Dear Colleagues,

When our HR Director Andrew Flaherty wrote to you on 31st March, he acknowledged your commitment in rising to the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 Coronavirus crises. The UL Critical Operations Team & Executive Committee (COTEC) has seen and recognises your resolve in ensuring our students’ education continues to be your raison d'etre. We see and hear examples on a daily basis of how you are working tirelessly to that end. We hope that you and your families remain well during this difficult time.

Many of you have caring responsibilities and we acknowledge the challenge in juggling your caregiving and work responsibilities. It is important that line managers are cognisant of the challenges facing our staff in caring for children and older relatives so that they can develop flexible and adaptable plans for managing gaps in business coverage as the situation continues to unfold. We encourage regular open communication between managers and staff to mitigate any challenges and difficulties.

In the last few years, behavioural scientists have provided us with a new understanding about how we can develop our emotional skills to adapt to situations like the current challenging times that we are facing. We can use these emotional skills to build resilience and strengthen our mental health.

TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY

Here are three emotional intelligence skills to ensure you are in the best possible position to survive and thrive in the coming weeks:

1       We are told that we must socially distance ourselves from others at this time. However, we should always be mindful of our use of language and it is important for us to understand the distinction between physical distancing and social connection. Social connections and our relationships with other people are the best antidote to the stresses of life and the single most reliable source of our own personal wellbeing. Loneliness is such a disabling condition that we have to guard against that tendency to withdraw emotionally and socially. We understand that your relationships matter and they matter more than anything else in terms of maintaining your emotional health and wellbeing. So please take the time to focus on maintaining and cultivating your relationships whether they are personal relationships or professional work relationships, even if we must use the virtual channels. Schedule some Skype calls with family, friends and co-workers and be brave enough to use the video function – it allows a real connection. This is singularly the most effective way to inoculate yourself against mood disorder and increase your well-being and the well-being of others.

2.      The second skill is optimism. Not the rose tinted, glass half full view of the world. Rather optimism as a life strategy in which we see past problems and sense opportunities in tandem with developing our own courage and resilience to fight setbacks. Melinda Gates recently said “Optimism for me isn’t a passive expectation that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better”. The human condition enables us to always do better, limit the damage caused by events, find creative and alternative solutions and rebuild and regenerate our capacity to survive and develop. Rather than allow negative thoughts influence their behaviour, a key skill used by optimists is to focus instead on the tasks to be carried out.

3.     The third skill is self-reliance. Self-reliance is about having the confidence in our own judgement to control our behaviour and the events in our lives. Self-reliance means taking charge of and controlling where you chose to devote your most productive emotions and intellectual energy. We all have within us the resources to achieve great things and collectively, without exception, we as a campus community have overcome our fears and anxieties and demonstrated outstanding self-reliance in rising to the challenge of remote working to achieve great things. Your self-efficacy is increased by celebrating small wins, recognising small achievements and commemorating milestones all the time. We celebrate and support all of your small wins at this difficult time.

Stay home. Stay well.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee

 

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 so that we can provide the frontline staff in the residences additional protection. I want to thank those involved 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.

Kind regards

Dr Des Fitzgerald, President University of Limerick

Dear Student

The concept of ‘non-detriment’ and how it may be applied to the upcoming assessment process to mitigate against the impact of COVID19 on the normal examining processes has gained recent attention. Non-detriment, as explained below, is already inherently built into our assessment systems at UL and we will continue to ensure that it is used in any new assessment formats. 

On 6th April all students will be advised by your module leader as to how your modules will be assessed given our changed circumstances.  At the heart of UL’s assessment approach is to ensure that whatever format is chosen by your module leader, it will aim to get the best from you and the work that you submit for assessment.  Supporting your potential is our ultimate goal without detriment to values, standards or outcomes.

What does non-detriment mean for you?

  • Recognising the work that you have done to date, the grades you have secured and the credit that you have accrued.  Non-detriment means ensuring that different assessment formats access your knowledge, understanding and skills and reward these through the application of approved grading processes as normal. 
  • Offering as wide a range of assessment formats as is practical, in order to mitigate against a myriad of potential obstacles that you may face over the examining period (eg. Access to internet; use of laptops; caring responsibilities, recognised disabilities, and more).  Non-detriment means that for each student, in each module, there is equivalence of opportunity to show your potential. 
  • Academic structures of the university are made flexible so that staff can apply their professional expertise to assessment in a manner that reflects your dedication to your course. 
  • The results that you will receive are of equivalent value as any year ahead of, or behind you, despite these extraordinary circumstances.
  • Staff have worked over and above the norm to match the upheaval you have encountered, to reflect the extra commitment that you are making to your studies, and to ensure the unquestionable quality of each and every result that you will earn.

Commit to your work, distil out the noise of distraction, sustain your energy over the next two months and let your tutors, lecturers and academic leaders take responsibility for the integrity of your assessment and results, and be assured you will not have to question or defend their validity or value.

Stay home. Stay well.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee

Dear colleagues and students,

We hope you are all well.

As you may know from the UL Critical Operations Team & Executive Committee (COTEC) updates, a UL COVID Action group has been created in the last week to coordinate the many activities in progress and emerging across campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This email is to update you all on those activities and a call out to anyone else supporting the COVID-19 efforts in any way to get in contact with the group, which is under the supervision of UL Vice President Research Professor Norelee Kennedy. It is also to acknowledge and applaud the extraordinary efforts of UL staff in reaching out to help in a very challenging and truly unprecedented situation.

At a national level, UL staff are advising and informing government through the National Epidemiological Group, DPER, the National Advisory Group and the Department of An Taoiseach Research Group, on how best to manage the emerging impacts from COVID-19.

Some of the initiatives already underway include key contributions to building and testing models for case numbers and hospital demand; assessment of contact tracing software for national roll out; the adaptation and implementation of software within the hospital for tracking hospital acquired infection; the development of an online platform for the support of teachers and schools in the provision of interactive teaching tools for Leaving Cert students; provision of reliable and trustworthy information to the public through #COVIDWATCH; development of an evidence based clinical guidance platform for healthcare staff and the provision of PPE to the Gardaí and staff who remain on campus.

Throughout this crisis, we have built even stronger relationships with our colleagues in University Hospital Limerick to support frontline healthcare workers, scale up testing and provide services and infrastructure. Across the University, staff/departments have been generous with their expertise, supply of materials and infrastructure, where individuals collaborate closely with HSE staff to respond to their urgent need for critical supplies.

UL is helping the HSE with contact tracing and a number of our staff have already expressed interest in volunteering to support. We are also working closely with the HSE on the provision (if needed) of a field hospital.

UL has an extensive group of volunteers contributing to all aspects of the COVID-19 crisis. We want to acknowledge your generosity and thank you for this effort.

This list is not exhaustive and serves merely to illustrate some of the work underway. Other initiatives are under development, where collaborative programmes with colleagues from other HEIs and industry will be pivotal to making a difference in this challenging time.

A meeting held last week with the people known at that point to be involved in some way with the COVID response offered an opportunity to explore UL’s response to the national research funding calls to ensure a coordinated, internationally aligned and strategic approach. Such an approach is championed by all the HEIs through their Presidents and Vice Presidents Research. The meeting also provided a very useful forum for idea exchange, identification of new synergies across disciplines as well as an opportunity to make new, albeit, virtual acquaintances.

To close for now – if there is any other activity happening to support the COVID-19 response please feel free to contact Norelee Kennedy or Sinead O’Doherty to let them know.

We hope you are all keeping well, minding yourselves and your loved ones.

Stay well.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee

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)

 

Dear colleagues and students

With the announcement of further shutdowns and restrictions (read details here) by An Taoiseach Leo Varakdar yesterday evening (read speech here) we are undoubtedly facing into a more difficult phase of this battle against COVID -19. But as an institution we are prepared. We vacated our lovely campus on the day we were asked. However we remain fully operational and with all our programmes online, we continue to serve and support our students.

We are preparing on multiple fronts to assist the HSE in the battle against this virus and will offer the might of our innovative technology and research expertise along with our physical laboratory and accommodation facilities to serve the national good. 

UL will prevail because of the commitment, dedication and passion of our community.

Kind Regards
Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald MD, President, University of Limerick 

 

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

 

 

 

It is with sadness that University of Limerick has taken the decision to cancel the Conferring Ceremony due to take place on June 9, 2020. 

This is not a decision that was taken lightly, however these are exceptional times and the safety of our community must remain our priority.  

Eligible students from Medical School, Bachelor of Medicine, will now graduate In Absentia (not in person). They will receive their parchments by mail as proof of their qualification. Please check with UL Academic Registry (saa@ul.ie) to ensure your  postal details are correct.

UL Ceremonies Office

 

The University of Limerick Academic Planning Group has been meeting regularly and has, amongst other items, been discussing the issue of how the University would cope with the impact of the 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.

For STUDENTS, please read the full breakdown of our plans here and see the FAQs for more detail.

For STAFF please read the full breakdown of our plans  here and see the FAQs for more detail.

UL Critical Operations Team and Executive Committee (COTEC)

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”.

Regards,

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald, President 

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.

National Advice

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.

UL Operations

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 (COTEC)

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.

Stay well.

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 
Kerstin Mey  VPAASE 
Eamonn Moran  Director, Student Affairs 
Rachel Msetfi  Dean, EHS 
Gerry O'Brien  DPCOOReg 
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 

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: international@ul.ie 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 and Student Engagement, University of Limerick 

Dear 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.

Kind regards

Des

Dr Des Fitzgerald, President, University of Limerick

 

President's signature

Dear Student,

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.

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, President, University of Limerick

Dear Colleagues,

With the dynamically developing Coronavirus COVID-19 situation we are preparing to facilitate student learning by alternative means. We have already said that students’ attendance in class is currently not mandated and we need to support students who are not able to attend scheduled classes due to underlying health issues or related concerns. 

Furthermore, we need to be ready to switch to an online mode of learning and assessment in the event that the campus has to be partially or fully closed following consultation with the HSE, the HEA and other relevant authorities. Please note as of yesterday, the direction from DES/HEA is that schools and universities remain open.

As part of our academic planning for all eventualities, learning material and instructions for the remainder of this semester will have to be made available online through our Learning Management System SULIS (and Moodle for some of you). ITD has developed detailed guidance to support this process, which has already been disseminated in the Faculties and is published on the Remote Work and Study webpage Topdesk https://ul.topdesk.net

We also need to give consideration to the assessment of student learning and in particular the approaching end of semester exams. We will be adhering to the exam schedule as far as this is possible. However, the traditional closed book written exam will need to be replaced with an alternative end of term assessment via the Learning Management System, Sulis (or Moodle, for some of you). There are many alternatives to the final exam, which can be provided to students, using tools available in the LMS.

A series of Webinars and Face 2 Face sessions are scheduled over the next number of days to support academic staff in engaging with the various systems and tools available to facilitate online learning and teaching. These mainly online sessions will be delivered by the Faculty Learning Technologists, Education Technologists, lecturers and colleagues in CTL and ITD.  For a list of sessions and to make a booking, click here.

Sessions will be recorded and made available afterwards on the Remote Work and Study webpage on Topdesk https://ul.topdesk.net.

In choosing an alternative to the final exam, it is important to consider what will best allow students to demonstrate that they have achieved the intended learning outcomes. Attention must be given to inclusivity and accessibility, transparency and fairness. Some useful tips from JISC on ensuring continuity of learning in enforced absence is available here and some useful resources on assessment from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning here

I would like to use this opportunity to thank colleagues in ITD and all our Learning & Education Technologists for the development of the online tutorials, workshops and guidelines and to thank all teaching colleagues for preparing for an online learning and assessment mode.

Professor Kerstin Mey, VPAAS, University of Limerick

Dear Students

With the dynamically developing Coronavirus COVID-19 situation we are preparing to facilitate your learning by alternative means. We have already said that your attendance in class is currently not mandated and we are committed to support those of you who are not able to attend scheduled classes due to underlying health issues or related concerns. 

Furthermore, we are getting ready to switch to an online mode of learning and assessment in the event that the campus has to be partially or fully closed following consultation with the HSE, the HEA and other relevant authorities. Please note as of yesterday, the direction from DES/HEA is that schools and universities remain fully open.

Consideration is also being given to the assessment of your learning and in particular the approaching end of semester exams. We will be adhering to the exam schedule as far as is possible. However, the traditional closed book written exam may need to be replaced with an alternative end of term assessment via the Learning Management System, Sulis (or Moodle, for some of you). We will advise you on your specific end of semester exams closer to the time.

Professor Kerstin Mey, VPAASE, University of Limerick

  • There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the UL community or on the UL campus and the University is fully open and operating as normal.
  • Any need for partial or full closure of the UL campus will be officially communicated to our community across multiple platforms and contingency plans will be made clear at that stage.  
  • The dedicated webpage www.ul.ie/covid19 should be your reference for official institutional updates in relation to UL specific news and advice on COVID-19. 
  • A list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) has been added to this page to keep our community as informed as possible as to the plans in place.
  • There will be a daily status update on UL’s institutional social media sites and on the www.ul.ie/covid19 webpage to ensure our community can access accurate up to date information. 
  • The University is fully operational at present and we continue to rely on every individual to take personal responsibility for their own health and that of our entire campus community. We strongly endorse preventative measures, which have been extensively published by the HSE: www.hse.ie
  • Any individual who feels ill should avoid contact with others and should not come to university. This is in line with our normal practices when people develop a cold or flu.
  • In all advice to date there is an emphasis on personal responsibility to arrest the spread of the virus. The advice, which is HSE & Department of Foreign Affairs advice, has been well publicised over the last few weeks and should be closely heeded. (https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html)

The Critical Incident/Crisis Operations Team at University of Limerick continues to meet regularly to monitor the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus and prepare our institution and our community.

There will be a daily status update on UL’s institutional social media sites and on the UL homepage to ensure our community can access accurate up to date information. This is necessary as a result of a number of false reports which have circulated over the weekend.

The University is fully operational at present and we continue to rely on every individual to take personal responsibility for their own health and that of our entire campus community. We strongly endorse preventative measures, which have been published and extensively circulated by the HSE and are available here.

While we have no reports of a positive test of COVID -19 among any of our community, this may well change in the coming weeks. Any need for partial or full closure of the UL campus will be communicated to our community across multiple platforms and contingency plans will be made clear at that stage. 

We understand that many members of our community are anxious about the spread of the virus, and as such, we are not mandating students to attend lectures. However, our advice is that the University is open and fully operational with no changes to class schedules at present.

At this point, there are only a limited number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection nationally, so the risk of acquiring the infection is small. It is worth keeping in mind that in young people the virus is most likely to be mild akin to the flu without any long-term consequences.

Any individual who feels ill should avoid contact with others and not come to university. This is in line with normal practices when people develop a cold or flu.

The objective of UL is to safeguard its staff, students and the general public. Therefore, we will take the appropriate steps to prevent the spreading of the virus.

It is impossible to plan for every eventuality in this fluid situation. Safety is our priority but we intend to address the practical implications of a closure or partial closure of the Campus. The situation is being monitored daily by Executive Management and we will communicate as soon as possible the relevant aspects of our response.

In all advice to date, there is an emphasis on personal responsibility to arrest the spread of the virus. The advice, issued by the HSE & Department of Foreign Affairs, has been well publicised over the last few weeks and should continue to be be closely heeded.

For more, visit the HSE website here.

Professor Kerstin Mey, VPAASE, University of Limerick