The Further and Higher Education Road-map provides an overview of the phased return of further and higher education*. The phases in the road-map are derived from the Road-map for Reopening Society and Business. While learning and assessment has continued through emergency remote learning for many, and research trainees began their onsite return on Phase 1, the academic year for most students and learners will commence in Phase 4. All of further and higher education is planning to safely maximise maximise the provision of learning onsite and the resumption of normal schedules when possible.
The Further and Higher Education Road-map provides information about what can be expected from the learning experience based on the information available to date for programmes that will continue throughout summer 2020 and for the 2020/21 academic year.
The diversity of provision in further and higher education means that situation specific responses within the overall road-map are necessary. Detailed information is available to students and learners directly from their institutions and providers and will be frequently updated. More detailed practical information in relation to health guidelines for further and higher education is set out in the Guidance for Further and Higher Education for Returning to On-site Activity in 2020 which will be updated on a regular basis.
Skills provision supports have been provided to help those displaced or impacted by the crisis. These supports include a range of schemes including: the expansion of Springboard+; the roll-out of the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) in higher education; and a set of targeted interventions from Skillnet Ireland.
A return to the way of things before the global pandemic will not be possible in September 2020 and many features of the usual learning experience that are familiar and well understood across further and higher education will remain disrupted. At the same time institutions and providers are learning from their experiences, including safeguarding the community and social aspects of the student and learner experience.
It is likely that some measure of ongoing physical distancing in accordance with public health advice will be required and a full return to on-site learning, such as existed prior to the crisis, is unlikely in the short to medium term. This is particularly challenging for highly practical programmes such as apprenticeship or research trainees who will be unable to complete their learning in the absence of infrastructure and materials that are only available on-site or in restricted areas, for example hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and so on, or for those who need to participate in work placements as part of their programme.
The balance between face to face and online learning will vary across programmes and will depend on factors such as the teaching and learning needs of various disciplines, the size of student and learner groups and the practical/theoretical balance of learning outcomes of various programmes. The provision of programmes with highly practical elements will remain challenging.
*Further and higher education is made up of higher education (HE) and further education and training (FET), including universities, technological universities, institutes of technology, education and training boards, and other private and independent HE and FET providers.
For more information on this topic please refer to Gov.ie – Guidance for Further and Higher Education for returning to on-site activity in 2020: Roadmap and COVID-19 Adaptation Framework