UNIVERSITY of Limerick has today welcomed the announcement by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD of a €168 million funding package for the Higher and Further Education Sector and a roadmap for the return to colleges in September.
The package of supports will cover costs incurred by third-level institutions during the Covid-19 pandemic and offer guidance on students returning to campus through its Further and Higher Education Roadmap.
Welcoming the announcement, incoming Interim UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said: “Over the past five months our University has faced extraordinary challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every aspect of our campus life was affected but as a community, we rose to the challenges.
“Like all Irish universities, we are facing a funding deficit so it is very welcome news today that Minister Harris and his colleague Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD have intensively engaged with the universities and established these measures of support.”
UL has been at the forefront of the national response to the Coronavirus global pandemic with staff from UL’s School of Medicine, School of Allied Health, Department of Nursing and Department of Psychology joining the frontline to support the HSE.
The University is currently hosting the Intermediate Care Facility at the UL Sport Arena and has secured close to €500,000 in funding for COVID-19 research projects.
UL, in partnership with the HSE and Revenue, very quickly set up the UL Virtual Hub with over 50 senior health sciences students trained to engage in contact tracing which during the peak of the outbreak in Ireland were averaging around 100 calls a day.
UL’s Bernal Institute, Department of Chemical Sciences and Department of Biological Sciences scientists prepared a validated lysis buffer for the HSE. The Bernal Institute is also providing technical expertise to University Hospital Limerick (UHL), while collaborating closely with HSE staff and colleagues in the pharma sector on the testing reagents critical supply chain.
UL staff served on national COVID-19 advisory committees; developed and produced PPE solutions; provided daily graphic updates on national and international case numbers; compiled advice and support for autistic adults and children during the crisis; developed patient communications protocols for HSE; researched the sociological impacts for parents of the pandemic and a huge amount of research continues to support the national response to the global pandemic.
At the same time, there remains the potential for significant loss of income for the University of Limerick arising from falls in international and graduate income.
“Our summer income has been wiped out and the income from on-campus student residences next year has yet to be determined with substantial reliance still on online delivery. We must also invest further in technology including lecture capture, online resilience, online communications capability and the virtual learning and student support environments to enhance online delivery and this package will help us to do so,” said Professor Mey.
UL looks forward to welcoming its students back to campus and the new academic year commences for all students on September 28. Teaching will be delivered via blended learning both online and face-to-face on campus. Each year cohort will have scheduled on campus face-to-face teaching as well as online and interactive facilitation of learning.
UL has also committed to its international students that they are welcome to travel to the campus to commence their programmes of study in September and they will be facilitated and supported when self-isolating for 14 days. UL’s international cohort of students broaden the learning experience of all student, enrich campus life and bring an economic injection estimated in excess of €21 million to the region each year.