July Stimulus Package includes €168 million of supports for further and higher education institutions

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A ONE-hundred and sixty-eight million Euro package of supports for further and higher education institutions announced by Government on Thursday, July 23, as part of a stimulus package has been welcomed by Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and University of Limerick (UL).

University of Limerick said 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.

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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.”

President of LIT Professor Vincent Cunnane said the funding will support LIT as measures are put in place to “ensure our students have the safest and most fulfilling college experience possible”.

The LIT President said the funding can help assist ongoing work to the physical infrastructure of their campuses which includes physical distancing and hygiene measures.

“At LIT we are planning for our students to be on campus for tutorials, practicals and other activities, and for lectures to be delivered primarily online.  We look forward to welcoming our returning students back to campus on September 14, and our new first-year students on September 28,” added Professor Cunnane.

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.

The university maintains there is still the potential of significant loss of income at UL arising from falls in international and graduate income and their “summer income has been wiped out”.

“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.

The university aims to see students return to campus and the new academic year commence 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.