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Some colleges to carry out in-person exams despite Covid concerns raised by students

Thousands of students have signed a petition raising about sitting exams in person at this time.

Image: Shutterstock/LBeddoe

MANY OF THE Irish third level institutions have said they will continue to implement in-person exams this Christmas despite pushback from students. 

Students’ groups have cited concerns over attending large examinations in halls due to Covid infection fears. 

The Journal has asked some of the nation’s major universities and third level institutions how they plan on mitigating any potential spread for the forthcoming exams. 

Two Trinity College students on 1 December sent Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly an open letter in which they urged the ministers to make all third level exams be conducted online. 

The letter has received over 5,000 signatures since it was placed online late last month. 

In it, the students argue that “the students who have signed have been calling us from around the country in a state of heightened anxiety at the prospect of having to attend in-person exams”.

Responding to queries, a spokesperson for Trinity College said: “Trinity is working on contingency plans in case the public health guidelines change and we are not permitted to deliver in-person exams. However, in line with most other universities, we still expect to carry out exams using a mix of in-person and online assessments.

“The assessment period for most students runs from 8 to 17 December (including three contingency days). Procedures are in place for students to defer exams if they contract Covid display symptoms or are named as a close contact.”

It’s a similar story for all those students attending Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin. Their spokesperson told us that there will be a mix of in-person and online testing, with many students involved in continuous assessments over the course of the whole academic year.

Some universities, such as University College Cork, have decided to dispense with in-person exams and to carry out the vast majority of the tests online. Griffith College in Dublin has also made the decision to move all exams online due to what it described as “ the deteriorating situation with Covid”.

Other institutions, such as NUI Galway, say they have strict measures in place to adhere to the Covid guidelines during exams. It is also allowing students to apply to sit their exams in alternative venues, including in single rooms. 

University College Dublin did not respond to a request for a statement. However, communication sent by UCD to students in the last week stated that in-person exams are still to go ahead in three locations, including the large RDS test centre in Ballsbridge. 

Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has urged all third level colleges and universities to ensure that exams are held online.

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“There is no real reason why most assessments/exams cannot be done online to enable students to comply with public health guidance and ensure they can have a family Christmas.

“We have seen a consistent failure to put contingency plans in place for very unwelcome but foreseeable deteriorations in the Covid situation. The department and the wider government have been reactive rather than proactive. But now the Minister and his department need to react quickly to this demand from many students and staff members.”

Last year, summer exams in higher and further education did not take place in exam centres due to Covid-19 concerns. Students returned to campus in several colleges in the last term but the latest wave of the coronavirus has prompted NPHET to again warn of the danger of increased infections and the government to consider the need for further restrictions such as working from home, masks for young children and reduced household socialisation.

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