Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions

Yesterday I was speculating out loud about where we go from here in order to return to teaching in September. Today I find that there’s actually a guidance document produced by the Irish Universities Association under the auspices of the Health Service Executive. The full document (PDF, 12 pages) can be found here.

The advice focuses on principles rather than practice and a lot of work will have to be done in individual institutions to translate the guidelines into working procedures, but it is welcome nonetheless. I encourage everyone involved in higher education to read it all.

A key issue on everyone’s mind concerns on-campus teaching, so I have selected this paragraph:

This suggests that the social distancing between staff and students and between staff and other staff should be kept to 2m but the spacing between students in lecture theatres, laboratories, etc can be 1m with the proviso that students wear face masks.

Note however that there is a more general restriction that indoor gatherings should involve no more than 50 people. Unless some sort of exemption is granted for HEIs then this, rather than social distancing, may determine the maximum class size.

Allowing us to populate rooms with one metre spacing between students rather than two makes a huge difference to our ability to accommodate students in lecture halls and other teaching spaces, but even so the capacity of most teaching rooms will be much lower than normal. For example, the room I taught my first-year class of ~85 in last year has a nominal capacity of 90. With 1m social distancing that is reduced to 27; with 2m distancing it is down to 18. I don’t know how many students I’ll have next semester, but hopefully it will be more than 27! Assuming that it is, I won’t be able to teach them as a single group.

4 Responses to “Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions”

  1. It is impossible to look at a student’s computer screen in a useful way being 2 meters away from it: physical computing labs make little sense then.

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