See how our university community's response to the COVID-19 crisis evolved week-by-week through Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh's email updates to staff and students.

July 2020

Staff/student email update from University President, 27 July

Reopening Campus Facilities

As we prepare for a safe return to on-campus research and to the new academic year, commencing on 28 September, we continue to advance our phased reopening of campus facilities, with renewed focus on teaching spaces across campus.

As indicated last week, this weekly communication pauses for now. However, we will continue to send out regular communications over the coming weeks with regard to health and safety, the continued reopening of campus facilities, the new semester, research, and news on the many other items of interest to our university community.

We won’t be gone away and will be continuing our work so please also keep in touch with me and/or with members of our University Management Team on items and issues requiring our attention.

  • Teaching facilities: Capacity planning has already commenced on teaching and lab spaces in 11 pilot locations across campus. This includes in the Hardiman Building where we hope to provide writing-up space to staff and postgraduate students shortly, in adherence with public health advice and social distancing restrictions. More broadly, the Academic Planning Group and the COVID-19 Returning Operations Group have drawn up a list of teaching capacities for 14 of our largest teaching buildings. These capacity estimates are based on both 2m and 1m social distancing to allow planning for implementation based on public health advice as and when these buildings open. Capacity planning for the largest of these buildings, the Arts/Science building, will commence shortly. These are large buildings with multiple access points and a mix of teaching spaces differentiated by size and seating arrangements, and the return of operations in these buildings will take careful and rigorous planning. We thank our colleagues in Buildings and Estates and the Health and Safety Office for their continued professionalism, and we commend those colleagues in Schools – both academic and administrative – who are aiding with the planning process, in particular those colleagues who have been nominated as COVID Co-ordinators within their buildings. Thank you to all our colleagues who are working hard to plan for the best possible student experience given the circumstances we face together.

It is our intention, as previously indicated, that our students will have a meaningful on-campus experience in 2020/21. This is particularly important given our students’ preferences in that regard, the desirability of socialisation as part of university life and the increased motivation associated with in-person education. Given the continuing uncertainties surrounding the context in which the new academic year will take place, including with regard to social distancing and the priority of infection prevention and control, we are planning that the timetable for the first semester will be available by the end of August.

We understand the need to have this information and are endeavouring to provide it as soon as possible. It is important that we get this right: it is our intention that the information is reliable, the timetable and our work in general safe and doable. This takes times in the current, complex context with its many moving parts and emerging and evolving public health advice. We appreciate and are grateful for your patience as we plan together for the new academic year.

  • Government Guidance: In particular, in our preparation for the next academic year, we welcomed the announcement on Wednesday by the new Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, Simon Harris, of new Guidance for Further and Higher Education for returning to on-site activity in 2020. The guidance offers some welcome clarity on the issues impacting university activity in the next academic year and includes advice on physical distancing, hygiene, student accommodation, face coverings, ventilation, lecture duration, etc.

As noted in its introduction, ‘it is anticipated that this document will be an iterative document, changing and adapting as necessary to reflect the up-to-date public health advice as the country moves through the reopening phases as set out in the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business’. We are currently in Phase 3 of the associated roadmap, and I encourage our university community to continually familiarise ourselves with this guidance as we continue to plan for the year ahead together. We look forward to further clarity in this regard in the coming weeks. Once more, be reassured that first and foremost we will continue to adhere to public health advice.

  • Sports facilities: An agreed protocol has been put in place to facilitate the return to play of the University's Sports Clubs under new government guidance. This protocol will allow our students to once again access our outdoor sports facilities in Dangan. However, for the time being the dressing rooms and Sports Pavilion must remain closed. In addition to pitch access, our water-based sports can now commence training on the Corrib and in Galway Bay. Like the field teams, they will only access the boathouses to source their equipment, and dressing rooms and toilets will remain off limits. In addition to the University Sports Clubs, a number of the city clubs are now back training using the running track. This is a most welcome development. The benefits of physical activity and outdoor recreation at this time can’t be understated. They improve our mood and give us a positive focus in uncertain and anxious times. I would like to thank the Sports Unit for their commitment to our students, to whom we wish every success as they get back to competitions over the remainder of the summer.

National support for Higher Education

On Wednesday, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, Simon Harris, also announced a €168 million package of supports for further and higher education institutions and students across the country. The package will cover costs incurred by these institutions, including our own, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will support the return to activity in September. The funding is provided for nine different targeted programmes, including supporting the frontline response, funding and promotion of research, international student recruitment, return to education, online learning, access, and mental health and wellbeing. In each case, individual agencies (such as the HEA and other funding agencies) are identified as coordinating the distribution of these funds. We look forward to receiving more detail on how the package will be allocated and to engaging with the Minister and the departments in the weeks ahead. It is certainly welcome and positive news, and in tandem with prudent budget planning within our university, will help in alleviating some of the short-term challenges to our financial standing. COVID-19 will undoubtedly impact the higher education sector – and our university community – for many years to come. Addressing these impacts is a marathon and not a sprint, and this funding is very welcome in supporting the collective effort on all our parts to ensure the financial sustainability of our university and our continued service for the public good.

This support is the fruit of much good work – and, over the last few weeks, at pace. We are grateful to our taxpayers, the Minister and his officials and to Jim Miley and our colleagues in the Irish Universities Association for seeing and acting upon the need for support for us and for our students at this time. In the context of the October budget cycle and the preparation of the Book of Estimates, we look forward to continued engagement with them in recognising the value of our universities for the public good and in realising the related investment in education for our society and our economy.

All-Staff Webinar

We have now compiled a list of answers to those questions posed by staff at the recent All-Staff Webinar, and you can find this Staff FAQ and a video of the webinar presentations on the Returning to Campus Safely Sharepoint site (staff log-in required - view in Google Chrome or Internet Explorer). We know that our university community is eager to know what the next academic year will look and feel like. You also understandably seek reassurance that we are addressing the full range of issues in our planning and preparation – including best practice in health and safety, as well as supports for our most vulnerable staff and students. While significant uncertainties remain and we may not therefore have all the details at this stage, we can be sure of one thing: colleagues across our university are working with great determination, consulting with staff and student representatives to plan for the year ahead. We have come a long way in a few short months, and I ask you to continue to engage in this process. This will be vital in shaping a successful start to Semester 1.

Virtual events and services

  • Spotlight on One Health: Later today (Monday), our Centre for One Health will launch its Spotlight Series with a live online event ‘COVID-19: A One Health Challenge’ from 2.30-4pm. The One Health concept recognises that human health is linked to the health of animals and the environment we share, a fact that has, perhaps, never been more obvious in recent history. The event is led by Professor Dearbháile Morris, Director of the Centre for One Health, who will be joined by a panel of experts, from Galway and overseas. The event is sold out but we look forward to sharing videos from the series to our COVID-19 web page: www.nuigalway.ie/covid-19.
  • Academic Writing Centre: I am pleased to share with you that the Academic Writing Centre in the Library is now open for virtual appointments and workshops until 26 August. The AWC provides a range of supports for our students to help them to develop their writing skills and articulate themselves more effectively. To book an email consultation, contact awctutors@gmail.com with your student ID and your year of study and subject. Find out more about their services and weekly workshops at www.library.nuigalway.ie/awc

ENLIGHT European Network

Last week, our Vice-President: International, Professor Becky Whay, shared the welcome news that the ENLIGHT consortium of nine European universities, of which we are a part, has been recognised by the European Commission’s ‘European Universities’ programme. The network has been awarded start-up funding of €5 million to support greater co-operation between the universities. ENLIGHT connects us with universities in Spain, France, Slovakia, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Sweden and Belgium. Our shared goal is to collaborate more in teaching, research, student placement and professional development, and already we have seen the fruits of this co-operation through participation in webinars during the university closure.

Together, as a university community, we have identified ‘openness’ as one of our core values at NUI Galway. Now, more than ever, we can see the urgent need for open co-operation in solving the world’s problems together. We serve our mission best – and respect it – by being open to highest standards of excellence and co-operation, internationally defined. We know that sharing expertise and experience is the key to unlocking solutions to global pandemics, climate change, sustainability and inequality.

The symbol of a lighthouse in the ENLIGHT network logo is one that resonates with us here in Galway. Lighthouses are built by communities to communicate outwards, to guide and to welcome, and to keep safe. I would like to congratulate our colleagues in the International Office and in the Research Office for their success in establishing this network, and I would like to encourage colleagues to engage with them to ensure this new method of international co-operation is a deep and fruitful one. Find out more at: https://enlight-eu.org

Faoiseamh a gheobhadsa

In normal times, one of the blessings of being in a university is the time to reflect. There are times of great intensity, times of activity, of busy-ness, times when things are abuzz. But there is also time to reflect.

I always remember that, as a student, I cherished the summer as a time to step away from the cycle of the academic year, reflect on what went right and what went wrong during that year that passed, friends gained and friends lost, those happenings that worked and those that didn’t. These are therefore important, times of learning and renewal. And we all know of coming back to places having been away, being different, perhaps wiser, and seeing those places differently, perhaps with a wider perspective. We are human beings not human doings. As human beings, we therefore be. As a learning organisation, we learn. These times hopefully provide those opportunities.

I am reminded in these days in Summer of the words of Máirtín Ó Direáin as he turned and returned West, ‘siar ag baile’:

Faoiseamh a gheobhadsa
Seal beag gairid

I hope you find peace for a while from the maelstrom that is now, reflecting on the year behind and replenishing for the year ahead.

As we do so, we can also consider with pride on what we achieved together. More, much more, than we imagined possible when we closed our campuses in March. Thank you.

As we face into another challenging academic year, our reopening being in many ways more complex than our closing, we can also reflect on those qualities that got us here: a sense of kindness; to borrow from Marilynne Robinson, an ‘agility of soul’; and a determination to allow each other the space to contemplate how best to respond to the exigencies of the moment, in our own best place and at our own best pace. These are the qualities that reassure us and, if we abide, will bring things home in a new, more challenging semester.

Drawing once more on Ó Direáin, I am also reminded these days of those words of his we used in launching our strategy:

Currach lán éisc
Ag teacht chun cladaigh

There is a full harvest here, coming to shore. It’ll be a different shore, for sure, but with a harvest full of talent nonetheless. And we will therefore once more come safely to shore.

Go dtí sin, go dté sibh slán sábháilte. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Staff/student email update from University President, 20 July

Reopening our campus facilities

Work is ongoing on the phased reopening of our campus facilities, and on extending access within previously reopened buildings, in terms of additional facilities and opening hours, continually informed by and adhering to public health advice.

As ever, we welcome evidence-based decisions on how and when to reopen our campuses, and we thank those colleagues who are participating on national public health advisory groups and who continue to share the best advice with us. As a Public Sector organisation, as a place of people and, during the normal semester, the institution with the largest population in our region, we are particularly mindful of our responsibility to together follow this advice to the full.

  • Temporary access:We would like to remind colleagues of the ongoing process for requesting temporary access to campus for specific purposes, of a short-term nature, during the closure. In most cases, this temporary access is requested to collect items from campus workspaces. You can find more details in the Staff FAQs on our Alerts page, with links to the Specific Purpose Access Request Form stored on Sharepoint.
  • Archives and Special Collections: Following a successful commencement of the Click and Collect service last week, the Library is opening the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room from Monday 20 July on a limited basis to facilitate access by appointment to material from these collections. Further details here. You may also be interested in the Scan and Deliver service available under Click and Collect. This facilitates ordering of digital copies of certain printed materials as described here.
  • Returning to Campus Safely – Sharepoint sites: To support the early focus on the reopening of research facilities, our colleagues in the Research Office created a Returning to Research Facilities Sharepoint site to share documents, forms and resources with our research community. As we now seek to broaden the scope of reopening to include non-research facilities, we have created a new Returning to Campus Safely Sharepoint site, which includes the documents, forms and resources most relevant to colleagues outside our research community. In addition, our Health and Safety Office also host important information and training on Sharepoint.

I encourage colleagues to bookmark one or both of the following Sharepoint sites and to refer to them for up-to-date documents and resources, including our COVID-19 induction training, Return to Campus Declaration form and the Specific Purpose Access Request form.

These pages are best viewed in the Google Chrome browser.

Reopening society and business

The Government’s phased Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business hit a delay this week, when the further easing of restrictions planned for today was postponed. This follows the acceleration of two earlier phases of reopening and some concerning trends in cases of COVID-19 in the country in recent days. As a university community, we reaffirm our commitment to our people’s health, safety and wellbeing as our top priority, and we will continue to follow Government and Public Health advice in our own phased return to activities.

  • Travel, quarantine and leave: In new guidance issued on Wednesday, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform reiterated the official advice against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes travel to Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. The Department also advised that any public sector staff coming into Ireland are required to restrict their movements for 14 days. Under the advice as issued, responsibility to provide for the period of restricted movement arising from non-essential travel overseas is a matter for each individual employee, and any personnel concerned would have either to use up any remaining holidays they are due or apply for unpaid leave to cover the period of restricted movement. I encourage you all to bear this in mind as you plan for the remainder of the summer, particularly as we come closer to the beginning of the academic year.

However, we also encourage everybody to take time off: it has been a challenging, long year with challenges still ahead and we hope that colleagues find the time and space to switch off at some stage during the summer.

Exam Results and Consultation

Results for all Semester 2 exams have now been released to students, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Our first online Consultation Day (for undergraduate students) has taken place with a follow-up Consultation Day for postgraduate students scheduled for Wednesday. I would like to thank our Examinations Office team most sincerely for their hard work in releasing all results. While working remotely, they managed to so in the same timeline as if they had been in the office. Their achievement points to the efficiency and speed with which the team adapted to the new systems required to deliver the service to our students. I extend that gratitude to colleagues across our Colleges and Schools – both academic and administrative – who worked on grading, uploading results and facilitating Consultation Days, as well as our colleagues in ISS and in other parts of the Registry team who supported their work. It was a team effort and we can all take pride in the achievement.

Youth Academy

On Friday, the first week of our virtual Youth Academy drew to a close and today another week of online classes for 10-12 year olds commences. I would like to congratulate the Student Recruitment and Outreach team, and in particular our Youth Academy Coordinator, Geraldine Marley, for overcoming the challenges of adapting the teaching to online. By all accounts, our young students took to the virtual classes with gusto. I would like to thank those colleagues who have contributed to the teaching of the courses, which range from designing apps to exploring microbes, from herbology to history and art. Youth Academy has always been a summer highlight for many curious young minds and we thank you for continuing this service and legacy during the university closure.

All-Staff Webinar

I was delighted to see so many of our colleagues joining in our virtual All-Staff Meeting on Thursday, where we marked some of our collective achievements in challenging times and shared an update on our preparations for the academic year to come. We had over 750 attendees and, although we couldn’t see, meet and greet each other, I hope that through the presentations, questions and comments you experienced a shared a sense of collegiality. I did, and I would like to thank you for your participation.

It was particularly pleasing to announce the President’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. Congratulations to the award winners:

  • Individual Awards: Mary Dempsey (School of Engineering), Dr Aisling McCluskey (School of Mathematics, Statistics & Applied Mathematics) and Dr Frances McCormack (School of English & Creative Arts)
  • Students’ Award: Dr Ella Murphy (School of Medicine)
  • Team Award: Dr Therese Conway, Dr Mike Hynes, and Professor Frances Fahy (College of Arts, Social Science & Celtic Studies).

We look forward to presenting the awards for research excellence and for service excellence in the next semester.

While we endeavoured to cover the biggest themes emerging from the over 160 questions at the webinar, we know that we only answered some of them on the day. We have grouped those questions by theme or topic and will provide as many answers as possible in the Staff FAQs as soon as possible. For those of you who couldn’t attend the webinar, we will also share a recording of the event so you can watch back and get up-to-date.

We also shared the initial findings of our survey of staff experience during the COVID-19 crisis, including the significant challenges and opportunities it has presented. We will address these over the coming weeks as we prepare for the new semester. In the meantime, we thank our many colleagues – over 50% of our university staff – who participated in the survey and who shared with us their feedback. Thank you.

Time and again our staff have shown great commitment and creativity in adapting research, teaching, assessment, conferring, services, student recruitment and outreach events for online delivery. In many instances, NUI Galway has been leading out in presenting these events virtually ever since our first online graduation on medical students in April. While we celebrate that success, we can’t help but think of what we miss by not seeing, greeting, speaking, gesturing, embracing and interacting with each other. As we know, communication – even in lectures and in large groups – is a two-way process and judging the room is often difficult when there is no room!

Let’s hope that as we come through this crisis, we will continue to be mindful of the importance and value of simply giving each other space, sharing space, interactions and experiences with each other. And we all look forward to coming together as a staff ‘in real life’ in the Bailey Allen Hall for another all-staff meeting in the future.

Implacable courtesy

The broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan tells the story that she once asked John McGahern for advice on how he dealt with his critics. He replied that he had once asked the same question of Seamus Heaney and that Heaney had replied, ‘implacable courtesy’. This was emblematic of Heaney’s character but also reflected his sense, the story goes, that such courtesy is very effective in its disarming. It is easier to build a bridge and more difficult to build a barricade in the face of such courtesy in its steadfastness.

The current context can often be very frustrating to our working life and, more importantly, in life itself. As part of society, these are characteristics of a university as well. Universities are also places where we can and should express ourselves, be our best selves, find for ourselves the life of the mind to which we aspire. We are places of debate, discussion and dissent, places which are rightly vibrant and where healthy discourse is a hallmark of imagining and finding a better society. If not here, where?

In all of this, tone is nonetheless important. It very often defines the culture in which discourse is sent and received, a culture of respect for each other and openness to the efforts of the other side. In sustaining civic society, we should be civil too. I am therefore often reminded these days of Heaney’s advice, in the feelings of frustration which we often share and which sometimes need to be expressed. Implacable courtesy.

Next week will be the last of these communications for the moment: we will have a public holiday the first Monday in August and, hopefully, a pause when there will be less coming at us as a university community for a while as we continue our research and prepare for the next semester, including welcoming our first year students safely at the end of September as planned, continually adhering to public health advice. Go dtí sin, go dté sibh slán.

Go raibh maith agaibh uile.

Staff/student email updated from University President, 13 July

Continued reopening of our campuses

Progress continues on the gradual return to activities on our campuses, with further expansion of our return to research and the planned reopening of some other vital services at this time. As a Public Sector Body, we must adhere to the reopening protocols as set out by Government. COVID-19 has not yet gone away: therefore, valuing one another as we reopen our campuses, health and safety will continue to be front of mind.

  • Research facilities update:

As of today, research activity has resumed in facilities in 13 buildings across our campuses. I’m pleased to say that research will resume in facilities in four additional locations later this week: in Earth and Ocean Sciences in the Quadrangle building, in numbers 12 and 18 Distillery Road, and in the Electron Microscope building. Planning is underway to reopen our research facility in Carna next week. For more information, visit the Returning to Research Sharepoint site.

  • Library Click-and-Collect service:

Today, our Library team commence their click-and-collect service, enabling registered staff and students to place online requests for print books located in the James Hardiman Library. Following notification, the books will be ready at a collection point to the left of the main entrance to the Hardiman Research Building. The click-and-collect service is available Mondays and Fridays between 11:30-13:30, and you must bring your student or staff ID with you. It is very heartening to see the return of access to our precious Library collection and I would like to thank the Library staff and the Buildings and Estates team for their hard work in making this innovative service available. Find out more information about the service here.

Planning is in progress to enable access to archives and special collections as the next stage in an anticipated phased reopening process. In the meantime, the majority of Library services continue to be available digitally, as throughout the period of campus closure, with full details at https://library.nuigalway.ie.

  • Admissions Office:

Planning is underway for the return to campus for some activities in Áras Uí Chathail, specifically to enable the partial reopening of our Admissions Office. With planning well underway for the next academic year and the release of calculated grades for the Leaving Certificate anticipated shortly, the Admissions team will need access to campus facilities to administer the task of assigning places to students. We wish our colleagues well in the planning and preparation for the return to campus – it certainly gives the rest of us heart to see it happening.

  • Cleaning protocols:

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of good hygiene habits. Regular washing of hands and disinfection of surfaces helps prevent the spread of the virus and restores confidence in our use of shared spaces. Our Buildings and Estates team has drawn together a detailed list of Cleaning Protocols for the University following the reopening of facilities. It describes the steps taken to increase the regularity of cleaning public spaces, circulation areas, touchpoints and toilets. It also provides clarity on our roles and responsibilities in keeping our learning and working environment as safe and clean as possible, as well as offering advice on good personal hygiene in the context of COVID-19. I encourage you to find out more in the Health, Hygiene and Travel section of the University’s Alerts page. 

Exam boards and results for our students

Exam boards continued to meet last week and we continue to release results to our students. When we closed our campuses in March, we did not know for certain we would get to this place. We have, and we can be proud and grateful as a university community that we have climbed this hill – this mountain – and come over the other side.

We are here for our students and our work for them has a substantive impact on them and on society. In the great project of education, the progress of one student is significant in itself, the progress of many is profound. Thank you to all of our colleagues who made it so in this most challenging of years.

All-staff webinar

On Thursday, I look forward to joining with colleagues from across our university in our All-Staff Webinar, which begins at 10am and will be hosted as a Live Event in MS Teams (link here). We will hear presentations from a number of different speakers who will offer updates on the reopening of campus, the return to research activity, our planning for the academic year ahead, university budget planning and HR issues. You will be able to ask questions of the panel via our Q&A session, and we will follow up with FAQs and/or follow-up clinics based on any questions that we cannot answer on the day. There is no limit to the number of attendees, so I hope you will join us on the day and take part in the discussion.

Student mental health

Without doubt this has been a challenging time for our students, as they have to adjust to remote learning and assessment, disruption in their lives, and the cancelling of planned travel and employment during the summer. A new research project on youth mental health is being led by our School of Psychology in collaboration with Spunout.ie. The YOULEAD project is asking young people to share their opinions on Irish mental health services and supports, and these submissions will form part of Ireland’s first Youth Mental Health Conference in the autumn. We encourage students aged 18-25 to contribute to the survey here.

Alumni announcement

On 2 July, our graduate Dr Ronan Glynn (PhD in Surgical Oncology, 2013) assumed the role of Acting Chief Medical Officer following the announcement that Dr Tony Holohan would be stepping down from the post. Dr Holohan provided extraordinary leadership from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, sharing expertise, advice and evidence with the country when we needed it most. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude and we wish him and his family well at this difficult time. We also wish Ronan every success in his new role. We will watch with pride as one of our alumni leads the country through the next phase, as we seek to reopen and recover from the pandemic together.

Research and innovation

  • Airborne transmission of COVID-19: Professor Colin O’Dowd reviewed and co-signed an open letter from over 200 of the world’s leading scientists that urges the medical community and public-health authorities to acknowledge the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19. They also call for preventive measures to reduce this type of risk. The letter was published Oxford University Press in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and led much public discourse on the issue, including on the BBC, New York Times and The Guardian.

Collaborating during the closure

As you might expect, there has been a large increase in the use of Microsoft Teams to collaborate and stay connected since the beginning of lockdown, with activity on the University’s Teams platform increasing over 20-fold between February and April. At its peak, there were:

  • over 500 scheduled meetings
  • over 400 one-to-one calls
  • and almost 5,000 direct chat messages sent and received

on the Teams platform per day. That’s a lot of collaboration!

On behalf of our university community, I would like to sincerely thank our colleagues in Information Solutions and Services for all of their support, advice and dedication throughout the University closure. Never before has so much work in the University relied on so few – we simply couldn’t have continued to deliver teaching, assessment and day-to-day communication and collaboration without their hard work and commitment. I would like to remind you all that the ISS Service Desk has continued to answer calls to its 091 495777 number throughout the shutdown period and that IT support queries can also be raised via the web at https://servicedesk.nuigalway.ie or by email to servicedesk@nuigalway.ie. And if you would like to learn more about Teams and other Office365 applications, please visit the ISS Office365 Learning Pages.

Those of you who use Microsoft Teams regularly will know that you can change the backdrop that appears behind you. Our colleagues in ISS have put together some tips to changing your background image, which includes options of some beautiful photos of the campus and city as captured by our colleague Dr Chaosheng Zhang – for which we say thank you, 谢谢, Xiè Xiè! See how to change your background image here.

We can be heartened and proud of our level of engagement during this time. It has undoubtedly been challenging – very challenging – but we have kept in touch from a distance, maintained our mission and, in many ways, enhanced our sense of togetherness. Thank you.

The Givenness of Things

I am currently reading Marilynne Robinson’s The Givenness of Things (2015). Towards the end of the book (p. 314), in conversation with Barack Obama (I skipped ahead!), she reflects on meeting people ‘deeply committed’ to ‘sustaining people they feel close to or responsible for … there they are, the people that you think of as the sustainers of a good society’.

Earlier (p. 29), in the context of cultural pessimism, she writes:

When panic on one side is creating alarm on the other, it is easy to forget that there are always as good grounds for optimism as for pessimism – exactly the same grounds, in fact – that is, because we are human. We still have every potential for good we have ever had, and the same presumptive claim to respect, our own respect and one another’s. We are still creatures of singular interest and value, agile of soul as we have always been and as we will continue to be even despite our errors and depredations, for as long as we abide on this earth. To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our gravest error.

Wise words which I thought I’d share in challenging times.

Best regards,

Ciarán.

Staff/student email updated from University President, 6 July

Returning to campus activities

  • Reopening of research facilities: The phased reopening of facilities on campus continues. Today, activities will resume in facilities in three additional buildings: Áras de Brún, the Martin Ryan Annexe and the Business Innovation Centre. These will be followed later in the week by the reopening of facilities in the Psychology building and the Arts/Science building. Planning commences today on the reopening of facilities in five other locations in the Quadrangle building, Distillery Road, the Human Biology Building, and in Carna. All of this progress is very heartening and I would like to thank all of those who are working to facilitate the return to work, including colleagues in Buildings and Estates, Health and Safety and the Research Office, and the Unit leaders, Buildings Liaison Managers and local COVID-19 Coordinators across campus.
  • Postgraduate Researcher Forum: Our Graduate Studies team hosted a forum for Postgraduate Research students last week to hear their concerns and update them on our progress towards returning to campus activity. I would like to thank our Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor Dónal Leech, for updating the University Management Team on the forum. Our colleagues in graduate studies are passionate advocates for our Postgraduate Research community and I want to assure you that your concerns are being heard and considered as we continue to plan for the return of facilities and services.
  • Heads of Schools and Executive Deans Forum: A forum for Heads of Schools and Deans met last week to discuss the many matters that we are seeking to resolve as we continue to plan for the next academic year – a year that we all accept will be a challenging one. While the Academic Planning Group has made great progress in that regard, in planning under uncertainty, there are several outstanding issues to resolve. Some issues around PPE, infection control and social distancing requirements will require further advice from public health experts and clarity from Government. For other issues regarding the level and methods of delivering on-campus teaching and services, we will need to work together to resolve them ourselves. This will require us all to help find solutions and to work together for what will, undoubtedly, be an exceptionally challenging semester.

In particular, given that we will need all hands on deck for our students in an extraordinary year ahead, by necessity, supporting teaching and the student experience will be our priority in this exceptional context: as a result, we will need to seek ways to reflect this and contributions during this period of COVID-19 in workload allocation, the prioritisation of processes to those necessary in and for the moment and in our future consideration of the criteria for promotions. We will say more on this and on the profound importance and impact of our teaching mission in the weeks ahead. I look forward to engaging further with our academic community in this regard and I thank our Heads of Schools for engaging with the follow-up forum, which will be scheduled in two weeks’ time.

Semester 2 Exam Results

  • Release of Results: Our students are undoubtedly eager to find out how they did in the Semester 2 exams earlier this year. The first undergraduate results were released on Friday and this will continue on a rolling basis in the days ahead. Results for students on Postgraduate Taught programmes will be released on Friday 17 July. For more information, visit the Exams Office website. Good luck in that regard – and, more importantly, in life itself!
  • Consultation Day: Ordinarily, if students have queries about their exam results, they have the opportunity to attend campus to consult with their module leaders and discuss their results. As we cannot hold the event on campus this year, our Consultation Day will be held online. Consultation Day for undergraduate students will take place on Wednesday 15 July and for Postgraduate Taught students it will take place on Wednesday 22 July. To manage time efficiently, students will be required to book an appointment directly with their module leaders. Our Dean of Students, Professor Michelle Millar, will email our university community later this week with more information about the virtual Consultation Day process. For more information on the exams appeals process more broadly, visit the Exams Office website.

#NUIGalwayresponds

Our university community continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in extraordinary and inspiring ways. Thank you to the staff and students who have already shared their COVID-19 stories with us. Bit by bit, we are building a picture of our collective response to this moment through the COVID-19 website. Visit www.nuigalway.ie/covid-19 to:

And make sure to Share Your COVID-19 Story and be part of the record of this extraordinary time in the history of our university. Thank you for your continued fortitude in challenging times.

Virtual events

  • ReelLIFE SCIENCE Winners Announced: Young filmmakers from Antrim, Kildare and Cork were awarded prizes for their short science communication videos in this year’s ReelLIFE SCIENCE competition. Competition entries are usually recorded by groups of students in their primary schools. However, this year, the young filmmakers had to work at home and online to put their videos together. The winning videos, which were chosen by the public, explore the science behind Blood Clotting, the Immune System and ‘Germbusting Heroes’. Meet the winners and watch their videos here. Congratulations to Dr Enda O’Connell and his team of volunteer scientists for continuing to run the competition during challenging times.
  • Supporting Older Adults during COVID-19 and beyond: On Thursday, colleagues in the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology hosted a live public event on Facebook to explore issues facing older people in the age of COVID-19. Members of the public were invited to take part to broaden the debate about the public policy options that can best support our ageing population into the future. Watch back on the debate here.
  • Soapbox Science: This annual event engages the public in science. Because it couldn’t take place in-person this year, Galway’s Soapbox Science organisers Dr Jessamyn Fairfield (Physics) and Dr Emily Growney (Boston Scientific) were joined on Facebook Live by 12 female scientists from the University to talk about their remarkable research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Watch back on the event here and see a full list of participants here.

Communications: all-staff webinar

As we come to the end of a long academic year and into what passes for summer both in terms of weather and this year’s exceptional academic cycle, we normally would gather together for an all-staff meeting. With that in mind, we are scheduling an all-staff webinar on the morning of 16 July where we might all gather virtually to share information and mark the time of year.

Topics we have in mind include planning for the next academic year, the university budget and marking our university community’s remarkable experience over the last few months. If there are other topics you would wish to discuss, please contact John Caulfield before 10 July so we can plan accordingly. We are seeking to facilitate the widest possible audience for the staff webinar, and we will follow up with details on the format to all staff soon.

Contemplating the weeks ahead, we again encourage colleagues to take time away from work to refresh and replenish our energies. It has been a challenging few months behind us and there are fresh challenges ahead. We shall together nonetheless overcome.

With that in mind, we may well wind down this regular Monday message over the coming weeks. These messages became over time more than what was originally intended. We hope they were nonetheless helpful but when you run out of things to say, it’s often time to stop talking! We will continue to communicate in this and other ways over the summer but as we progress into July, my sense is that here will at least be shorter if not more infrequent, re-emerging in the Autumn if and when needed.

Always remembering … an rud is annamh is aoibhinn!

Looking forward to seeing you on the 16th if not before … and watch this space still for a few more weeks!

 

June 2020

Staff/student email updated from University President, 29 June

Reopening of campus facilities

Today marks a significant milestone in our lives, as we take another step forward in the reopening of our society and economy. We can all take heart from the gradual, still vigilant return to activity in businesses, transport, culture and community, as well as the increased activity in some areas of our university campuses. While our early focus remains on facilities that support research that cannot be undertaken remotely, it is heartening to see the gradual return to some university services also.

  • Returning to Research: As of today, research activity has resumed in facilities in seven buildings across our campuses: Biomedical Sciences, Arts/Science, Human Biology, the TRF Lambe Institute, Orbsen, Alice Perry Engineering and the Martin Ryan buildings. I’m pleased to say that research will resume in a facility in the IT Building later this week, and planning is underway to reopen facilities in a further seven facilities over the coming weeks.

We welcome the update our Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi, made last week with regards to the extended and accelerated schedule of reopening buildings. I join with him in encouraging our researchers to find out more about the plans, processes and roles as outlined in the Returning to Research Sharepoint site.

We also welcome the plans of our Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor Dónal Leech, to host an online Postgraduate Researcher Forum this week to help engage those researchers in the reopening process and to hear their concerns. PGR students should look out for more details on the forum from the Graduate Studies Office.

  • Parking: There are few issues that have in the past raised more discussion in our university community than that of parking! Parking management resumes today and, while the prospect of clamping may not be celebrated by everyone, I think we can view it as a welcome return to some normality. Apcoa are now fully operational on campus and they have been taking steps in recent weeks to post warning stickers on vehicles in advance of the resumption of parking restrictions to prepare motorists. The local authority has also resumed parking management measures on neighbouring streets, so make sure your parking permit or pay-and-display ticket is accounted for if you are parking on or near our campus.
  • Summer accommodation: While most students returned home at the time of campus closure, a small number remained with us and we also welcomed some students from off-campus private accommodation into campus residences. Our residences remained open as an essential accommodation centre, also welcoming some frontline medical personnel taking part in the COVID-19 response. Now that restrictions on travel have been eased, our campus accommodation team is busy preparing to welcome holiday guests to our campus accommodation from today onwards and throughout the summer break. If you know of friends or family who may be planning a break in Galway, share the news that our campus accommodation is open for business: www.campusaccommodation.ie/summer-visitors/summer-bookings

Research and innovation

  • Digital Health Literacy and Mental Health during COVID-19: Colleagues in our Health Promotion Research Centre, School of Psychology and Student Services are investigating digital health literacy and mental wellbeing among third-level students across the country. It is part of a multi-disciplinary 39 country study, with partners across five continents, investigating how students search for, judge, interpret and use online information and how this relates to their mental health in the context of COVID-19. Find out more here (https://covid-hl.eu/) and take part in the survey here (https://nuig-psychology.ie/index.php/877112?lang=en).
  • Corona Citizens Study: Results from the fourth phase of this national survey have shown that a fifth of respondents under the age of 25 report feeling anxious as the country emerges from lockdown. You can find out more about the study, which is led by Dr Akke Vellinga (Medicine) in collaboration with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and DCU at: www.nuigalway.ie/corona-study
  • Contact tracing app: New research has shown that the vast majority (82%) of Irish adults are willing to download a COVID-19 contact tracing app to contribute to the greater good. The study was carried out by a team from Lero, UL and NUI Galway. Read more

Virtual events

  • Moore Institute seminars: The Moore Institute has established a COVID-19 response group to provide a national platform for interdisciplinary dialogue about the impact of the virus in Ireland and overseas. Over the past few weeks, they have hosted 11 webinars with Irish and international panellists on key questions, ranging from philosophy, ethics, and education, to politics, racism, and of course the role and responsibility of universities. Over 15,000 people have viewed the webinars live or via the recordings, which are shared here on the Moore Institute website. Well done to Professor Dan Carey and all our colleagues in the Moore Institute who made it so.
  • Arts in Society conference goes online: Over 100 contributions were received to the virtual Arts in Society Conference last week. Plenary speakers included our own colleagues: Dr Rióna Ní Fhrighil (Gaeilge), Dr Ann Karhio (Moore Institute) and Dr Charlotte McIvor (Drama) with other contributions from Lorraine Tansey (CKI), the Burren College of Art and the Galway International Arts Festival. Watch back on the presentations at https://artsinsociety.com/2020-conference/virtual. The Arts in Society conference was due to take place on campus in June and we hope to welcome hundreds of delegates back to Galway in person, when the conference returns here in 2022.

Budget planning for the year ahead

This academic year has been longer than usual and much more challenging in many ways. And as we come to the end of one year, we are also having already to begin planning for the next one. It is natural – and human – that this is causing us concern and a sense of fatigue. It therefore may be opportune – and hopefully helpful – to share with you how we are financially as an institution and what plans we have for next year.

Údarás na hOllscoile approved the University’s 2020/21 budget at their meeting last Thursday. This followed a review of our financial situation by the University Management Team and the Finance Resource Committee of Údarás earlier in June based on the process anticipated here in my message of 25May.

We said then that we are determined that we go about this task with a level of sophistication and wisdom. In particular, we wish to avoid using blunt instruments which, from experience, we know can be counterproductive. We therefore devolved budgetary decision-making to the greatest extent possible and we will only re-centralise what we previously de-centralised if we find it necessary to do so.

The scale of the financial challenge caused by the COVID-19 crisis is both uncertain and unprecedented and this made setting a university budget for the coming year a more complex endeavour than usual. Instead of implementing crude budgetary cuts, our aim as we set out is to draw on our collective wisdom to make sensible decisions in relation to our income and cost base. The devolved budgetary system within our university was never more evident as so many colleagues pulled together – School by School, College by College, Unit by Unit – to help us find ways to bridge the gap between income and expenditure next year. The efforts of those involved in maintaining as much fee, research, rental and commercial income as possible as well as those who sought ways to curtail expenditure is greatly appreciated.

This has enabled us to preserve and protect funding for activities that matter to us in staying true to our strategic vision and values, including: protecting jobs, supporting staff and student welfare and wellness, advancing research and targeted initiatives, maintaining and expanding Hardiman and University of Sanctuary Scholarships, protecting cover for maternity leave, maintaining our academic promotions schemes and safeguarding and supporting our model of income generation.

I’d like to thank our Bursar, Sharon Bailey, and our colleagues in Management Accounts, John Gaffney, Nicola McNicholas and Dermot Kelly, for their professionalism and expertise as they worked with budget managers throughout our university to bring the budget to this stage. As we all know, a budget is based on a set of assumptions at a certain point in time: this is an uncertain point in time. Due to the unprecedented nature of this current pandemic and the as yet unknown impact it will have on our university, we will continually revisit and review the budget as we plan for the autumn when we have more clarity on student numbers and other items. 

The result of our collective efforts to date is a deficit budget, an excess of expenditure over income of over €5 million for 2020/21, with us potentially reaching the end of that financial year having fully utilised all of the revenue reserves as expressed in our HEA accounts. This out-turn is highly contingent on events ahead and will also stretch us as an institution and as individuals as we seek together to give of our best for our mission as a university community. As we plan for the year ahead now in more detail, we are particularly aware of the potential impact of our planned savings on the fabric of our university life, on the student experience and the work of our colleagues. Moreover, we are also acutely aware of the potential need, not factored in here, for additional rather than less resources and the challenges in meeting these expectations given our overall financial position. Conscious also of the implications of the pandemic for the society of which we are a part, we do not underestimate its impact: we thank you for your fortitude and will work with you through these challenges.

There is not much nice that can be said about the budgetary position in which we find ourselves. There is little poetry here. We and those who have gone before us have managed our university finances prudently over a long period of time. While this leaves us in a relatively good position on our balance sheet, it means that we may not be able to invest in our infrastructure as is needed and it does not mitigate to a sufficient extent the exigencies of our recurring budget. It piles challenge upon challenge as we enter yet another challenging decade.

As a new government is formed this week, we will continue to work closely with those who represent us as a community and as a valued part of society to make the case for the value of the university and for investment in education. There is much goodwill towards universities in a society which cherishes education: every asset needs investment and replenishment and we hope there is now an opportunity to sustain that goodwill, the public good to which we have committed ourselves.

Over fifty years ago, a graduate of this university, Donagh O’Malley created a memorable, radical legacy through State investment in secondary education. This had profoundly positive impacts on our society, our wellbeing as a nation and on our economic development. We are the generation which benefitted from that investment and the offspring of that investment now comes to our care in greater numbers than ever before. More than half a century later, education and innovation are our greatest resource and perhaps, as the tide goes out on all else, the last advantage standing of those things that bolster civic society, build new enterprise and bring new investment to our shores.

This is the time – here is the now – for another radical political moment, investment in the next, extra mile of the educational journey, an investment in third- and fourth-level education, prompted by need and propagated by research. We look forward to working with the new Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science and his colleagues in creating this legacy, this memorable mark, for the next generation.

In his speech in 1966 announcing free universal second-level education, in which he also announced ‘building plans’ for universities, our Galway graduate, Donagh O’Malley as the then Minister for Education said: “What of the future? We are, it must be remembered constantly, living through an era of change. Many of the former assumptions on which we based our lives are being questioned… We will be judged by future generations on what we did for the children of our time.”

This was true then and, for sure, it is now in and for another generation.

Staff/student email updated from University President, 22 June

Reopening of campus facilities

As we continue to reopen research facilities safely and steadily, we can take hope in the again accelerated reopening of our society and in the gradual return to activity on our campuses. The health and safety of our university community will continue to be our priority.

One particularly heartening milestone happened on Wednesday when the University’s Mail Services Centre reopened a reduced service. Our Mail Services team has sorted through the backlog of mail that had been held by An Post since late March – no easy task. While the usual campus delivery and collection schedule cannot be resumed for safety reasons, university staff can now deliver and collect their mail directly from the Mail Services Centre in the South Campus where physical distancing arrangements are in place. I would like to thank the Mail Services team most sincerely for their commitment to their service and I would like to acknowledge the work, more broadly, in the Buildings and Estates team in getting a limited service back up-and-running. It is a boost for us all.

Teaching and Learning Forum

As we continue to plan and prepare for the next academic year, we will need lots of open discussions and information sharing to make sure that our staff are supported to deliver the best learning experience possible in these changed times. In that context, I welcome the creation of a new Teaching & Learning Forum on Microsoft Teams, set up by our CELT team, where all university staff can discuss relevant issues and share news of events and training around teaching and the shift to online/blended learning.

We know that the next academic year will be different from others, that is for certain. And we know that as a university we are committed to delivering a blend of online and on-campus learning and experiences for our students, all the while prioritising our people’s health, safety and wellbeing. What we don’t know yet is the balance and shape of that learning and experience and we will need to work together in finding that balance and in shaping that shape. In that context, the potential for sharing expertise, tools, concerns and tips through the Teaching & Learning Forum is most welcome. I would like to thank the CELT team for their ongoing energy and innovation in supporting teaching, learning and assessment since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and I encourage our academic community to engage with the forum over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, the CELT team have updated their SharePoint site for Preparing for Online & Blended Learning and they also recommend an online lesson on converting your modules to online teaching, available at www.allaboardhe.ie/OER/pivot/shift.

In particular, the recent survey of our students is instructive as we prepare for next year, indicating their challenges with remote access, online learning and preferences with regard to their learning experience for the next academic year. A webinar on the survey results will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 23 June (details below).

As a reminder to us all of our shared commitment in our strategic plan that we are here for our students, our students have spoken and we will listen.

Research and innovation

Here we highlight some of our research community’s work related to COVID-19. For more news on excellent ongoing research and innovation included in the media this week, visit the NUI Galway News & Events web page.

  • Corona Citizens Survey: The fourth phase of the nationwide Corona Citizens survey took place last week and asked people how well they are coping as they emerge from lockdown. It also explores respondents’ attitudes to adhering to restrictions should a second wave of the virus occur. Find out more, and look out for the results on the Corona Study web page.

Virtual events

  • Student COVID-19 Survey webinar: Tomorrow (Tuesday 23 June), our Dean of Students, the Director of Student Services, and Dr Pádraig MacNeela (Psychology) will present a webinar on the findings from the recent survey of students on their experience of the COVID-19 emergency arrangements in March/April. This webinar commences at 3pm and will be hosted in the Teaching & Learning Forum on MS Teams. I encourage staff to join the webinar and discover more about our students’ concerns and how we can all help to support them in the months ahead.
  • Adult Education Virtual Open Day: For many people, the past few months have been a time for personal reflection, in particular thinking about our place in a changing world. The Adult Education Virtual Open Evening on Wednesday (24 June) is a great opportunity to explore the potential to gain new skills and qualifications, develop your career in a different direction or devote more time and energy to your passions. With a panel discussion, video showcases and live Q&A sessions, it is a perfect opportunity to find a part-time course that suits you. More info and registration at www.nuigalway.ie/adult-open-evening
  • Trials in a Pandemic – Expert Webinar: The Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery is hosting a special online symposium with world experts to explore best practice in conducting trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘Trials in a Pandemic’ symposium takes place on 30 June and 1 July in collaboration with UCD and the University of Aberdeen. More info and registration here.
  • Summer Virtual Conferring: We celebrated the conferring of over 150 graduates on Tuesday with a mix of Postgraduate researchers, Health Sciences students and the MA Social Work, among others. On the day, the students were congratulated by video by our two guest speakers – An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ginny Hanrahan, CEO and Registrar of CORU. I encourage you to look back on the virtual ceremony on Facebook and leave your messages of congratulations for our inspiring graduates.

World Refugee Day and our University of Sanctuary

On Saturday, we marked World Refugee Day, when we are all encouraged to raise awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. This year the occasion seems all the more urgent. In the words of the United Nations: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent anti-racism protests have shown us how desperately we need to fight for a more inclusive and equal world: a world where no one is left behind.”

COVID-19 has exposed many hills and valleys of inequality and created many others. As a university community that champions open and respectful engagement with the world, we know that we have an important role in highlighting issues of injustice in our own communities and around the world. We also see the importance of breaking down barriers to education for the most vulnerable and under-resourced in society, those who have experienced discrimination and dispossession, including Ireland’s refugees. For many of us, the University is part of the furniture of our world. This is not the case for everybody in our society and we must work harder – act more – to make our university a place that is comfortable for all, particularly those for whom it is not part of their context. Not only is this a matter of human rights but it strengthens through diversity the human experience.

I am pleased to let you know that NUI Galway has increased our new University of Sanctuary scholarships this year from 9 to 12. In an uncertain world, the work of the University of Sanctuary team provides support for asylum seekers, refugees, vulnerable immigrant groups, and Irish Travellers to fulfil their potential by undertaking full-time programmes in all four Colleges of the University (scholarships for part-time study are, we understand, problematic under current Revenue rules in that regard). This is one significant step among others in making our community and society a more just place. We must do more. We will continue in all our university activities to stand together as staff and students to reject racism, celebrate diversity and champion equality and greater access to opportunity. This matters to us all.

In that context, I am pleased to share with you that our colleague and Údarás na hOllscoile member, Owen Ward, has been appointed to the Government’s new Anti-Racism Committee. Owen is a member of the traveller community and a passionate voice for equality and justice for all.

Earlier this month, our colleagues Professor Siobhán Mullally and Professor Ray Murphy (Irish Centre for Human Rights) were appointed to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. We are proud that all three members of our own university community will be playing such prominent roles in addressing racism and inequality in our country.

Thank you to our research community

Finally, we opened above with an update on the reopening of our university campuses to research and more generally. This gives me the opportunity to close by thanking our university research community – researchers, technicians, professional staff and all those who support, clean and make safe our space – for their enthusiasm and justifiable pride in our research and for continuing our research in really challenging times. This enthusiasm was evident in the clear desire to reopen our facilities to research and in the dialogue that ensued. We learned a lot together and from each other in unprecedented times.

Through our research, we contribute to our hinterland of industry and to our health service regionally, nationally and internationally. Our research and our clinical practice has therefore had a profound impact on the most vulnerable in our community. We often think about the challenge of measuring research impact but now more than ever we saw and we see the positive impact of researchers who took to the task with an energy and diligence of which they – and we – can be proud and for which we are very grateful.

As the pandemic evolved, we also saw a profound impact on our society and on our economy. Issues such as loneliness, isolation, inequality, remote working, economic disadvantage and opportunity – issues which are the very essence of what it means to be human – emerged. And again, our research community has responded admirably, reimagining our humanity in a myriad of areas which make manifest the respect and empathy to which we aspire as a university community.

As we continue to address the impact of the virus, our researchers will continue to contribute in this and in many others areas of excellent, impactful research. Excellence in research defines a university and your research – our research – defines NUI Galway. Thank you.

COVID-19 showed us many things about ourselves, as a university community as well. It showed us that our walls are truly permeable: we are not immune to the world beyond our walls. It showed us that we are not immutable: that we have agility that we may not know we heretofore possessed. It showed us the value of research and solid evidence as the best basis from which to live in uncertain times

It also showed us once again that the problems of the world and their impact are not solved from one discipline or from one perspective. By working together, seeing through different lenses as a mark of our strength, we also contribute profoundly to the solution of complex problems, to supporting the most vulnerable in our society and to our understanding of the world’s many moving parts. This is impact in its truest sense. This is NUI Galway.

Thank you to all who make it so.

Staff/student email update from University President, 15 June

Phased reopening of our campuses:

Academic Year 2020-21: We are seeing another milestone in an extraordinary academic year as colleagues complete the grading necessary to allow our students to progress and/or complete their studies. Thank you to all those who made it so in often very challenging circumstances.

We continue now to plan for our next academic year.On Friday, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh and Professor Michelle Millar updated our students and staff on the dates of Semester 1 and on the ways in which we are planning to deliver teaching and provide a student experience from September onwards through a mix of online and on-campus activities. It was a welcome update and one that helps us all plan for the months ahead. I know that many of you crave more clarity on the amount of on-campus learning, services, sports and social activities that you are likely to participate in. Rest assured that work continues in Schools and Disciplines across the University, guided by the Academic Planning Group, and in the University’s services too to plan for September, albeit in an evolving environment. I would like to thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to develop these plans in consultation with staff and student representatives. As we did in closing the academic year, we are keen to give flexibility to colleagues in finding the best way to be here for our students while also together ensuring a meaningful on-campus experience for our students.

Reopening research facilities: Work progresses on the reopening of research facilities across the campus. Last week, research facilities in the Biomedical Sciences building resumed activity, and today facilities that support COVID-19 related research in Microbiology (in the Arts/Science Building), Human Biology building, TRF Lambe Institute and Orbsen Building resume. Planning is underway for the reopening of other research facilities in those four locations, in addition to research facilities in the Alice Perry Engineering Building, Martin Ryan Building and in other Disciplines in the Arts/Science Building.

The Returning to Research working group and the University Management Team acknowledge the importance of the Library as a valuable resource for our research community and, in advance of a broader opening of the Library, discussions have commenced in relation to the provision of a ‘click and collect’ service.

This progress gives us focus and hope, but of course there are many more facilities yet to open. We continue to work with the Returning to Research and the COVID-19 Operations working groups to schedule the accelerated resumption of further research activities in the weeks ahead.

To this end, I met with the Returning to Research working group on Friday afternoon who shared with me feedback from across our research community with regard to the reopening of our facilities to research. In this context, Professor Lokesh Joshi, our Vice-President for Research, will communicate further with our university community this week, describing the process for reopening research facilities and the progress made so far, as well as outlining some of the key steps ahead. Our buildings will open over time and, if your building is not on the list for immediate reopening, we ask for your patience: rest assured that planning in that regard is factored into our schedule. No more than in society, the phases of reopening are coming quicker than anticipated even a week ago but still require careful planning and preparation.

Throughout this progress the health, safety and wellbeing of our people remains our number one priority, and has remained so throughout the closure and phased reopening of our university. Speaking of priorities, the schedule of reopening buildings in no way signals a priority with regard to our research as a university community: while we are progressing COVID-19 related research, laboratory research that cannot be carried out from home and research where contracts are coming to completion, this reflects practicalities rather than research priorities per se. It is important that we respect a parity of esteem in research and please do not take the schedule of our reopening as a conscious or intended sense of the importance of some research over others.

COVID-19 Remote Working Survey for Staff

This week the Office of the Vice-President for Equality and Diversity will launch a COVID-19 Remote Working Employee Pulse Survey to gather data on colleagues’ experiences of remote working and to see what supports the University can provide as we plan for our reopening and the next academic year.

It is more difficult from a distance to get a sense of how things are going for our colleagues. As indicated here before, we want to know so we can learn and do better. So please let us know.

Again, as we come to the end of the assessment process, we hope this is for colleagues a convenient time to launch the survey. I urge you all to take part in the survey – the more responses we receive, the better we will understand, measure and mitigate together as best we can the effect of the current context on your life, work and careers.

Virtual events

Our colleagues are continuing to show great determination and creativity in presenting many events online during the university closure. They include webinars on academic themes, training and upskilling sessions, and wellbeing workshops. You can find a list of upcoming virtual events here, and I would like to draw attention to some upcoming events below:

  • Media & Learning Online conference: This two-day conference will explore a broad range of issues relating to online teaching and learning with multiple perspectives from across Europe. On Wednesday, Dr John Murray and Dr Tiernan Henry (Earth and Ocean Science) will moderate a discussion with Stuart Perrin from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) about what is a happening in Chinese universities in post-corona times. The emphasis will be on lessons that can be learned on adjusting the learning offer including video-based services. Find out more here
  • Summer Virtual Conferring: Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will hold our Summer Virtual Conferring where over 150 students will graduate with a mix of Postgraduate Research degrees, MA Social Work, degrees in the Health Sciences, and others. Each and every graduate is worthy of our celebration, and the energy, passion and hard work they have shown through their research and studies will be important as our society and economy recovers beyond COVID-19. Join us on the NUI Galway Facebook page at 2pm on Tuesday to wish them well.
  • Universities and COVID-19: Last week, I had the pleasure of joining with the heads of St Andrews University, Bristol University and Uppsala University in a webinar hosted by Professor Dan Carey (Moore Institute) entitled ‘Universities and the COVID-19 Crisis’. We shared our own experiences of coping with our universities’ closures, our plans for reopening and our hopes for the future. While we don’t have all the answers, it is reassuring to know that other universities are dealing with the same issues – in different countries and on different scales – and I hope that it is the beginning of a conversation on how we can work together as civic universities for the benefit of our students, our staff and higher education more broadly across our countries. Watch back here.

Research and innovation

  • Food Habits during COVID-19: Colleagues in our Insight Centre for Data Analytics have launched a survey to find out how people’s attitudes to food have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.It is part of a Europe-wide research project to measure the change in people’s relationship to food, diet, ingredients and growing. Find out more and take part in the survey here.
  • Improvising in a crisis: Research carried out by colleagues in the NUI Galway Ryan Institute has found that Ireland can improvise well in a major crisis, but that ‘silo mentality’ is a barrier to long-term environmental planning. The study has shown that Irish policymakers can respond in fast and imaginative ways when put under pressure by disruptive crises. Read more here.
  • SFI Funding for rapid test for COVID-19 antibodies: Science Foundation Ireland announced funding last week for a research projectled by Professor John Dalton. The team at NUI Galway will develop a fast, lab-based test known as an ELISA that can measure antibodies in blood and determine whether a person has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Read more about this promising research project here.

Uncertain times ahead

This email this week has been shorter than many heretofore as we plan ahead: planning for our continued reopening to our research, the new academic year, surveys of staff. There are considerable uncertainties ahead and this can be a cause for concern as we find ourselves less in control of our context.

We do not know all the answers now. However, there are some things we do know.

We know that all of us do not know all the answers. We know we are here together. We know that we will continue to prioritise the health and safety of our community. We know that all that is expected of us all is that we do our best. We know that we will learn a lot as we have before. We know that we have recently together navigated uncharted waters and come safely together to an albeit uncertain shore.

We hope that these things give us courage and encouragement. We hope that in this Summer and Autumn we will find with each other the same kindness for each other as we did in this Spring.

 

Staff/student email update from University President, 8 June

Phased reopening of our university:

As we officially commence Phase 2 (now ‘Phase 2 Plus’) in the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, today is an important day in the accelerated yet still cautious easing of restrictions on life and work across our country. As restrictions are lifted, our spirits are lifted too.

Today is therefore a very significant milestone in the phased reopening of our university too, as the Biomedical Sciences building in the North Campus opens its doors again to research activity. This reopening follows three weeks of careful planning, assessment, training and changes to ensure that accessing the building and working in the research facilities is safe for our colleagues, our researchers, support and technical staff as well as our colleagues who clean, secure and provide the other necessary support for our space.

We have achieved much together thus far in really challenging times. I am keen that, as a university community and as a part of society, we continue to work together to ensure that we can preserve the health and safety of colleagues, open our buildings on a now accelerated yet still cautious timeframe – and stay open once we re-open. In many ways, our discussions in this regard echo those in the wider society: balancing the public good as represented by health and social and economic wellbeing.

Our University Management Team continues to meet twice a week. We have heard the frustrations of colleagues enthusiastic to return to work and we are endeavouring to do our very best in this regard, again, mindful of the Government’s now accelerated roadmap for reopening.

With that in mind, as previously noted, we are treating Biomedical Sciences as a pilot and the learnings from returning to research activities in this building will help inform the reopening of further facilities in greater numbers over the coming weeks. As a learning organisation, as people for whom evidence is important, we will use this time to learn and learn quickly and the reopening of other buildings will then gather pace, facilitated and encouraged now by an accelerated roadmap.

The health and safety of our people has been our number one priority from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. It continues to be now and it always will be, mindful that COVID-19 has not gone away as yet. As in the reopening of our society more generally, we cannot and will not underestimate the potential impact of COVID-19 on the health of our university community and the communities in which we live. Therefore, those colleagues who can work from home are still required to work from home and, for those returning to work, the Return to Work Safely protocol is still the operative guide for employers and employees.

In that context, I would like to thank and commend all our colleagues who are co-ordinating our return to campus. They deserve our respect in the work they are doing in challenging circumstances. I also know that many colleagues are liaising with them closely with regard to their own space, applying their expertise and their knowledge of their space to assist in planning for its reopening. We appreciate this and encourage colleagues to continue to engage positively in this regard as it will increasingly make a difference to accelerating the pace of our reopening as we learn from Biomedical Sciences and plan for other buildings.

We also thank our researchers for their continued patience and understanding. Our research is highly valued and valuable: as I have said before, it defines what it is to be a university. I am therefore anxious to facilitate a return to on-campus work as expeditiously as possible. I appreciate that, while those of us who can work from home are still required to work from home, many colleagues are anxious to get back to work to carry out the research about which they and we are admirably and justifiably enthusiastic. With your ongoing support we will reopen all of our research facilities in good time, and we will be able to look back together with pride on the measured way in which we returned to our mission and passion for research, while respecting the health, wellbeing and safety of everyone in the university where we work and in the communities where we live beyond our walls.

In the interest of providing our researchers with as much clarity as possible, the Returning to Research SharePoint site is being continuously updated with information and a description of the processes, and there will be further updates in this regard later this week to our research community from Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research.

This an important moment. We can justifiably look back with pride on what we have achieved together so far in keeping each other safe and, while challenges and uncertainties lie ahead, as we work together in our reopening we can also continue to sustain and further extend the heritage of excellence in and respect for research which distinguishes us as a university.

Return to teaching:

As restrictions ease, we can also imagine returning to a new academic year in the autumn, for which we continue to plan. I am grateful to report that the Deputy President and Registrar, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, will be announcing more details on when and how we will deliver Semester 1 teaching in the coming days. This follows engagement with academic staff and those who support them, carried out by the Academic Planning Group. Ours is a large and diverse institution and not all programmes or subjects are delivered, taught and supported in the same way. It is right that we take our time in getting it right and in hearing different perspectives from across teaching and learning. It is also right, that we give clarity to our staff and students in a timely manner so that they can plan for the months ahead, knowing also that many may be anxious about or restricted from returning to campus. Once the details have been circulated to staff and students, we will also update the University Alerts page and other communication channels to share the information widely with our community and stakeholders.

One particular issue that is of immediate concern for students and their families is the question of accommodation in September. While we await greater details on Semester 1 this week, I would like to assure our students that the emphasis in the next academic year will be on a blend of online and on-campus learning, coupled with online supports. We are conscious that some students and staff may not be able to return to campus during that time, and this will be factored into our planning. We know the importance of an on-campus experience as an essential aspect of a university experience and, at all times with our students’ health and safety in mind, we will endeavour to provide such an experience. It may also be that, to minimise the number of contacts and protect the health of more vulnerable people, students will be encouraged to stay in Galway rather than going back and forth to home. Therefore, we encourage students to secure accommodation in Galway from 28 September onwards, which is the start date of Semester 1.

Student concerns:

Last week, our Student Services team collated the feedback of over 1,000 students from across the University through the recent Student COVID-19 Survey. The results highlight the needs and concerns of students in a range of issues, including their health and wellbeing, ability to study and self-motivate at this time, accommodation concerns, access to services and access to lecturers and tutors. Our Dean of Students, Professor Michelle Millar, will report back to students and staff on these results later this week, and we will begin the work of addressing your concerns in targeted ways to ensure that we are supporting you in effective and appropriate ways. I commend Student Services for the initiative they have taken to identify and address our students’ concerns. It proves to me, once more, the strong connection our staff have with our student community, their profound sense of responsibility for student welfare and their drive to enhance our students’ experience in real and meaningful ways.

Virtual events:

Our virtual events allow us to connect together as a university community and to engage with others around the world in our shared response to COVID-19. With that in mind, I would like to invite you to get involved in two events this week.

  • Universities and COVID-19 Crisis: Problems, Prospects and Pathways webinar – 11 June: On Thursday, I will be joined by university presidents in Bristol, St Andrews and Uppsala to discuss the way forward for higher education during the crisis and its aftermath. This webinar is chaired by Director of the Moore Institute, Professor Dan Carey, who will invite questions and comments from the audience. It is sure to be an engaging discussion, covering topics that will affect us all in the coming months and years. I hope you can join us on the NUI Galway Facebook account from 4.30pm. Register your interest and set a reminder here.
  • SocsBox Live – from today: Beginning today, our SocsBox team is running a number of daily online events from Monday-Thursday each week to give an opportunity for students to communicate and connect with each other. These online events will include guest interviews, campus updates, entertainment news and reviews, cookery and craft demonstrations, health and wellbeing tips and lots more. Join in the activities or turn off your video and watch the fun. Plus stay for a chat and catch up with friends in our chill room which will be open for the last hour of each show. Information and links on www.nuigstudents.ie/socsboxlive 

Research and Innovation:

Our research community continues to attract attention in Ireland and around the world for their response to COVID-19.

  • High blood pressure linked to increased risk of death from COVID-19: A team of five global cardiology experts based in the University has collaborated to study the links between high blood pressure and increased risk from COVID-19. Recent appointments to the University, Professor Patrick W. Serruys, Professor Osama Soliman and Professor Yoshi Onuma, joined with Professor William Wijns and Professor Bill McEvoy, to co-author the study, which is based on data from over 2,800 patients in Wuhan, China. The results showed those with raised blood pressure had a two-fold increased risk of dying from COVID-19, and the risk was even greater if they were not taking medication. Read more
  • Ultraviolet drone to fight COVID-19: Dr Derek O’Keeffe (Medicine) and Dr Ted Vaughan (Biomedical Engineering) have collaborated with UL to develop an autonomous drone that can disinfect surfaces from above using ultraviolet light. It is a novel and effective way of reducing the transmission of coronavirus and other microbial threats in a wide variety of environments. Read more
  • Sharing of COVID-19 misinformation linked to social media overload: A study co-authored by Dr Eoin Whelan (Business Information Systems) had examined the triggers leading people to share COVID-19 misinformation through social media. It showed that when people become overloaded with social media content, their ability to critically assess the validity of the information received is impaired, and in turn they are more likely to share that content. Read more
  • Computational models to help personalise medicine: Researchers, led by Professor Ines Thiele (Microbiology and Medicine) have developed whole-body computational models. Named Harvey and Harvetta, these male and female ‘virtual humans’ comprise whole-body systems of metabolism, physiology, diet and the gut microbiome and they can be used to predict known biomarkers of inherited diseases at a personal level. Read more

Respect:

Finally, I mentioned at the beginning that the current debates we have with regard to the pace of our reopening echo debates in wider society. While this weekly communication is intended to support our university community by providing information and content in the context of COVID-19, there are other debates in society about which one cannot stay silent, which I take the opportunity to address here and which I regret not addressing earlier.

There is a view that sees universities as focussed primarily if not exclusively on research, teaching and engagement and that, institutionally, we should stay silent on other matters. I am convinced by passionate, courageous correspondence from many colleagues and students – our students in particular – that we should not stay silent at this time.

In our recently-launched strategy, Shared Vision, Shaped by Values, we as NUI Galway, and as a recently-designated University of Sanctuary, committed ourselves to the public good and to shared values of respect, openness, excellence and sustainability. We committed ourselves to respect all members of our community and to be open to – to embrace – all of our communities, including and especially those who have not found our context to be their own. We cannot therefore stand by: we must therefore act and stand with.

Much of our work, our research, our teaching and our engagement, as a university community – and in our communities beyond our walls – reflects this commitment to human rights and to inclusion. However, we cannot be blind to the mote that is sometimes in our own eye by believing that racism and infringement of human rights are problems for somebody else and therefore for somebody else to fix. We as a community – I – need to do more to embrace difference and diversity, to ensure inclusion, and to actively challenge racism and discrimination wherever they are found. In dialogue with our Students’ Union, we will be exploring ways in which we can provide sustained supports to our students over the coming months, reiterating to our university community supports that are currently available and seeking out ways in which we can take more, meaningful action in this regard. Our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Campus Committee in particular continues to meet regularly. It has broad cross university membership including members of our University Women’s Network, our International Staff Network, our Students’ Union and our UMT, and I encourage colleagues and students to engage with this committee – and with me – to highlight areas where we need to do more. I ask all of our university community not to be silent where we see injustice.

We therefore stand with all of those – globally and in our own community – who have felt the pressure of discrimination and dispossession on their necks. We stand and we are not silent. We stand and we stand in solidarity, knowing that we need to do right and that we need to sometimes do better too.

We hope that this is a different time, a different season from those countless ones that have gone before and that this time – in our time – the world – our world – will be moved to change. We know that language matters and I hope with humility therefore that I have done justice here to the compassion of our community. Black Lives Matter. This matters to us all. 

 

Staff/student email update from University President, 2 June

Phased Reopening of our Campuses

A few short months ago, none of us imagined that our lives and work would be changed so dramatically. We have since seen the best of our collegiate spirit in operation and in our operations. We hope that this spirit will enable us emerge from these current challenges as a stronger institution, a more solid community.

When we closed our campuses, we acted quickly, by necessity. This served us and our communities well.

As we reopen our campuses, careful planning and attention to detail is required by necessity. This will serve us and our community well as we face what remains a deadly virus still live in our midst. We know the virus, deadly for many and undesirable for all, is still among us and we do not wish to give it traction again.

I appreciate that many colleagues are anxious to get back to work to carry out the research which defines what it means to be a university. I also appreciate that the pace of our reopening will likely be frustrating, very frustrating, to colleagues who are admirably enthusiastic to return to work and to the research we love. However, the University Management Team is also determined that we prioritise health and safety as well – to keep us well – in our reopening. The Government Return to Work Safely Protocol is the guiding framework of our reopening plan. This requires us to give careful consideration to the redesign of access to and circulation in buildings, the training of colleagues with regard to the challenges associated with new working arrangements and also requires formal declarations from all colleagues entering buildings. This requires the input of many colleagues. We will also learn as we go, learnings from the first building (the Biomedical Sciences building) will be applied to the reopening plans for other buildings. This means that we will start slowly – cautiously as we always said – and that, we hope, the reopening will gather pace. Conscious that many colleagues are very keen to return to work, I ask for and appreciate your patience and understanding as we go about this work.

The Health and Safety Authority will expect that we adhere to the requirements as set out in the Government Protocol. It is critical that we are cautious and careful as we progress our reopening. We are, again, determined to put health and safety first and we ask for colleagues’ forbearance in being true to this determination in challenging times. The consequences of getting it wrong are profound. As we reopen, I remember the uncertainties we faced together as a university community as we closed. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies felt in our community since then, but we can take comfort that the worst that we imagined did not come to pass. We do not want to get back to the vista we faced in February and March and that we might have experienced in April and May had we not taken early and decisive action as a society and as a community. When we reopen, we want to stay open as a safe place to work, respectful of all in the community of which we are a part. Careful planning at this stage makes it more likely that we can keep moving ahead rather than having to retreat.

We closed together but the pace and place of our reopening will necessarily be at a different pace and place for some than for others. In many ways, therefore, our reopening will be more challenging than our closing. We will do our very best that this is undertaken with respect for all members of our community and for the exigencies of the moment. Please stay with us and together – in solidarity – on this journey as you did in our closing of our campuses.

We are also mindful that, in the roadmap for reopening, colleagues who can work from home should continue to do so. Therefore, we are focusing in particular on those buildings housing research laboratories and other associated facilities that facilitate work that cannot be carried out remotely.

  • Researcher Forum: In that context,last week, over 130 of our researchers attended an online forum to hear more about the ongoing plans and preparations to open research facilities on our campuses on a phased basis. Conscious that this is a very important issue for many in our community, colleagues were briefed on the wider context for our planning, the guidelines we are following for prioritising buildings, the four-week process through which preparations for reopening are progressed, and the important requirements and steps needed along the way to make sure those facilities can open safely. I would like to thank the panellists John Gill, Aengus Parsons, John Gibney, Carmel Browne and Alan Lambe for organising the forum. I hope that lots of our researchers’ questions were answered by the panel on the day and lots more will form an FAQ to help address your individual concerns. For those of you who weren’t able to attend on the day, you can watch back on the forum on the new Returning to Research SharePoint site. Over the coming days, our colleagues in the Research Office and other units will upload all of the documents, forms, templates and resources related to the process of reopening research facilities to the Documents section of the SharePoint site.
  • Teaching and Learning: The Academic Planning Group chaired by Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh spent the past week consulting with Colleges on plans for reopening to get their perspective on how best to deliver Semester 1. We are keen, as much as possible and subject to public health advice, to give our students an on-campus experience and to provide once again a meaningful educational experience. This will be challenging and we appreciate – and will support – colleagues’ work in this regard. We and our students will have another perhaps profound learning experience ahead, as we learn to deal with uncertainty and the need for adaptability. I would like to thank colleagues across the Colleges for your ongoing engagement. I look forward to the Academic Planning Group issuing recommendations on the dates and format of Semester 1 later this week.

Research and innovation

  • Providing Laptops to School Students in Need: The sudden closure of schools due to COVID-19 exposed a considerable technology gap in society, with many families not being able to afford the laptops that are now essential for children to access online learning. Our colleagues in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics have helped address the problem by providing easy-to-follow video and written instructions that allow people all over the country to reimage laptops. It includes step-by-step advice on how to wipe off all data and install free open-sourced operating systems and other key software. See how at: https://youtu.be/ypaAj1Lz8uQ. I would like to thank Brendan Smith and his colleagues in Insight for showing how our university can have real impact on the communities around us when we share our knowledge and expertise openly.
  • The Economic Costs of Workplace Bullying: New research led by Dr John Cullinan (Economics) and Dr Margaret Hodgins (Health Promotion) has estimated the economic value of lost productivity from workplace bullying in Ireland. The research, which was published in Occupational Medicine, highlights an important issue that is unlikely to have gone away as a result of new COVID-19 work-from-home practices. Read more
  • Valuing healthcare and health insurance: With COVID-19 shining a spotlight on our healthcare system, a recent study suggests that there is no meaningful difference in how people value health, whether they have private health insurance or not. The research, which was undertaken by Dr Anna Hobbins (CÚRAM), and led by Professor Ciaran O’Neill (QUB) in collaboration with colleagues in Galway, London and Spain, suggests that differences in use between those with and without insurance more likely relate to the differential access private health insurance affords than to differences in preferences. Read more
  • Supporting heart failure patients to avoid hospital during COVID-19 pandemic: The cardiology team at Galway University Hospital (GUH) has carried out a first-in-man clinical trial for a sensor that detects changes in the health of patients with heart failure and allows for clinical intervention to prevent a heart failure flare-up resulting in urgent hospitalisation. This technology is particularly relevant now during restricted movements when patients with underlying conditions are cocooning to minimise the chances of contracting COVID-19.
  • Global Leadership Award in Medicine: Now is a time to celebrate our healthcare staff and researchers. I would like to congratulate Professor John J. Carey (Medicine) on receiving the ‘Dr John P. Bilezikian ISCD Global Leadership Award’ by the International Society for Clinical Densitometry (ISCD). Professor Carey was presented the award for his distinguished service and leadership in the global promotion of the field of bone densitometry and the ISCD.
  • Seeing the Brighter Side of Life: And finally… we could all use some fun and laughter at this time. Our colleague Dr Jessamyn Fairfield (Physics) is hosting a new podcast series from Bright Club Ireland called You’re Up Next. Bright Club is a science comedy variety night that trains academic researchers to explain their work through stand-up comedy, and Jessamyn is the founder and director of the Irish branch. The first episode of You’re Up Next explores whether you can teach someone to be funny and whether it is wrong to laugh at things that are challenging or upsetting. Listen on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Switcher and other platforms.

Support Services – maintaining our systems, services and supports from home

Last week our third monthly payroll was completed successfully with colleagues working remotely to make it happen. Once again, it reminded us that there is a lot of ongoing work behind-the-scenes to keep vital university systems, services and supports that matter to us all running. Many people are working remotely to continue to provide IT support, process payments, generate Payroll, support online events, teaching and learning, and provide advice and support through virtual meetings. Other staff continue to support students in our campus accommodation or through online supports and services. This work isn’t easy and has involved a lot of new work practices and creative thinking to adapt to all of the disruptions. The word extraordinary can describe something outside the norm but also something or someone who is exceptional in nature. Time and time again, the professional staff working in our support services have shown themselves to be truly extraordinary – and I would like to thank you on behalf of all of our colleagues who rely on your commitment, flexibility and hard work to continue with our work and studies.

Virtual events

On Thursday, UNESCO Chairs at NUI Galway and Penn State presented a live discussion with representatives of Barça Foundation and the GAA to explore sport’s role as a tool for good in supporting society and the development of life skills such as empathy and identity during COVID-19: Sport as a Tool for Empathy During COVID-19 Pandemic (Watch back on the webinar here).  I had the pleasure of listening in and was inspired by the work done by sportspeople and sporting organisations for the most vulnerable in society, children and young people who are often at risk. While Dublin footballer Jack McCaffrey’s comments on professionalism in sport made the national press, I was also very impressed by the range of areas where, as expressed by Kalyn McDonough of the University of Delaware (who also coaches at a juvenile correctional facility), sport ‘can have a great place of possibility for empathy’. Yolanda Antin, Partnership Co-ordinator of Barcelona FC, gave examples of the relationships that Barça maintained and established to articulate the club’s ‘social commitment response’ during COVID-19. In particular, as Yolanda phrased it, ‘so we won’t drop off our kids’, Barça maintained its remarkable relationship with its communities during the crisis. Similarly, we hope to maintain our relationships with our students and staff during the summer months ahead. Colleagues have done so with great commitment through webinars, meetings and other ways to keep in contact remotely, socially distancing but not distant. We have some ideas in that regard which we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks as we head into a different time of year, most different this year and would welcome your suggestions too

There was a great sense during the webinar of the role played by sporting and other organisations in and for society, engendering a sense of community and solidarity, learning through winning and losing, learning to live with empathy. Similarly, as NUI Galway, we have a role to play in our community and we have shown it again and again over the last few, challenging months. As we move into a new phase of this challenge, we are also part of a wider community and we can once again be exemplars, a city on the hill, for others and other organisations. We are conscious of this also in the pace, progress and prioritisation of our reopening, careful first of and for our community in and beyond our walls.

COVID-19 has taught us the deadly, negative consequences of infection. We know this now. As we come now to another inflection point in our university’s experience, I look forward with you a new phase in our lives together – taking care of each other – and conscious of the live, and hopefully positive consequences of our actions as they are seen and felt by the community of which are a part and not apart.

May 2020

Staff/student email update from University President, 25 May

Reopening our university campuses:

As you know, while our university campuses remain closed, we remain open to our shared mission, for the public good, as our university community continues to work together, albeit remotely. Thank you to all those who continue to make it so.

We are now one week into the first phase of the Government’s Roadmap to Recovery for Society and Business, and as we experience the gradual lifting of restrictions and a return to some business activity outside our University, it is natural for staff and students to wonder when regular access to research facilities, offices and teaching spaces might be possible. The safety of our students and staff is always and will always be our first priority. Decisions that could impact your safety will be taken with care and caution and therefore cannot and will not be rushed. While we are still in the early stages of planning a phased reopening of our campuses, I want to reassure you that it is being progressed in a structured and consultative way, and I would like to give you some indications of the road ahead.

All of our decisions are made in the wider national context of the Government’s Roadmap to Recovery for Society and Business and I encourage you to familiarise yourself with the key milestones along that roadmap and how they will affect your life and work.

  • Research: Consistent with the Government’s Roadmap, our early focus is on reopening research facilities on campus, particularly laboratory and other spaces that support work that cannot be continued from home. This work is being guided by a working group of the Research Committee (chaired by Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research) and supported by the COVID-19 Reopening Operations Groups (chaired by John Gill, Chief Operations Officer). Preparation is already underway for the reopening of facilities in the Biomedical Sciences building as a pilot building in Phase 2 of the Government’s Roadmap for reopening. Contingent on public health advice in that regard, this is being planned for 8 June, and will be followed week-by-week for other research facilities as we move through the necessary planning, training and preparation for other priority buildings. The learnings from reopening the Biomedical Sciences building will be important in informing our decisions to reopen other areas of the campus, as we assess the challenges of putting the necessary health and safety measures in place. In the meantime, colleagues who can carry out their research remotely should continue to do so until further notice.

According to the Government Roadmap, all other activities will not resume until Phase 5 of the reopening at the earliest (again, contingent on public health advice, pencilled in for the week beginning 10 August). After that date, we anticipate significant changes to the spaces in which we work and that colleagues who can do so will be encouraged to work from home.

  • Teaching: As you know, the start date for Semester 1 of the next academic year is planned for 28 September. However, we will still need to prepare for the delivery of perhaps limited on-campus teaching and supports to complement online teaching, for example, through lab-based practicals and other on-campus tuition and academic support. The Academic Planning Group of the Teaching and Learning Committee (chaired by Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar) is actively planning and prioritising for what can and will be facilitated on campus and they will issue recommendations, following consultation in the Colleges next week, in the first week of June. This work is supported by the COVID-19 Reopening Operations Group.

In particular, we will continue to support colleagues in preparing for new forms of teaching and learning, untypical of those we have seen before, even in the last few weeks of this academic year. We know that the effort and experience of what was an emergency transition to remote learning is not the same as planning a semester in a new way and we are keen to support colleagues as much as possible in this regard.

  • First Year students: The start date for First Year students is dependent on confirmation of the Government’s revised CAO timeline, following the decision to cancel this year’s Leaving Cert examinations. If Leaving Cert results are issued on or close to the usual release date in August, we would envisage that First Year students would start on 28 September, in line with most other students across the University. This start date is subject, as always, to public health guidelines and no further delays to the release of results. We know that the move to university is a big milestone in our First Year students’ lives and we are particularly conscious of the need to support their transition at this challenging time. Our colleagues in Student Services have our students’ best interest at heart, and we are grateful knowing they will be to the vanguard in providing support to incoming students as they orientate themselves to university life and study.
  • Professional Support Services: The many professional staff involved in providing services across our university are also undoubtedly looking ahead to when they might be able to return to offices and workplaces. The health and safety of our staff is our priority and in line with Government guidelines and public health advice we cannot resume these activities until after 10 August. Our Chief Operations Officer will shortly convene a meeting of the Support Services Directors’ Forum to begin to plan and prioritise for the months ahead. We ask our support services to continue to work from home and to be prepared to continue to do so well beyond August 2020 and we appreciate your continued fortitude and patience in challenging times. We thank our professional staff for their ongoing work to keep the university systems and services going, working from home in new circumstances and using new technology.

Student Supports:

On the subject of supporting our mission, and our students in particular, I would like to draw your attention to two new initiatives aimed at helping our current and incoming students with their finances and language skills.

  • Student Tax Clinic: Colleagues in the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics are providing an Online Tax Clinic for our students to support them in their tax compliance and correspondence with Revenue at this challenging time. Students who have been an employee or PAYE worker over the past four years may be due a tax refund or they may need advice to ensure that their tax affairs are in order. The Online Tax Clinic is open for appointments from 25 May – 19 June, 2020 and students may book an appointment by emailing taxclinic@nuigalway.ie with a short outline of your query. This initiative is supported by the Student Project Fund and we would like to thank project director, Professor Emer Mulligan, and the tax lecturers and pro bono tax experts from the external tax advisory community who have offered their time so freely.
  • English Language Centre – Pre-Sessional Programmes Go Online: The University’s English Language Centre will be delivering Pre-Sessional Programmes online to help prepare our incoming international students linguistically and academically prior to commencing their postgraduate courses in September. The Centre offers 4-week, 10-week and 25-week programmes depending on the students’ language skills and the type of qualification they want to achieve. The first programme commences in June. You can find out more information or refer your students, by visiting the Pre-Sessional Programmes web page or by contacting Dr Maeve Egan directly at eganm@nuigalway.ie.

Research and innovation round-up

  • Supporting Vulnerable Communities around the World: I was pleased to hear of the ongoing work of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) in supporting disadvantaged communities in Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Margaret Barry (Health Sciences) is President of the IUHPE and she shared with me their recent success in securing funding from Vital Strategies to develop community-based health promotion interventions to empower local communities across Africa in stopping the spread of the virus. It is a heart-warming example of the positive impact that our people can have on the world through their leadership, knowledge and skills.
  • Corona Citizens’ Survey: The latest findings from the nationwide Corona Citizens’ Science Study has found that 84% of respondents would consider installing a contact tracing app if it contributed to an easing of restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus. These results come from the third phase of the survey, which is led by Dr Akke Vellinga (Medicine) in partnership with DCU. Read more here
  • International Society of Travel Medicine: Professor Gerard Flaherty (Medicine) has been appointed as lead for the COVID-19 task force of the International Society of Travel Medicine. Under his leadership, the task force will advise the Society on its COVID-19 activities and the best ways to provide technical advice to international agencies in relation to the safe resumption of international travel. Read more here
  • Home Possessions and COVID-19: New research by Dr Padraic Kenna (Law) shows that most home possessions in Ireland are pursued by household name banks not vulture funds. His report shines a light on a ‘lost decade’ of mortgage possessions and warns that COVID-19 could result in a new round of arrears. Read more here
  • The Potential of Marine Tourism: Our Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) has released a report on the value of coastal and marine tourismin Ireland, shining a light on its potential to help in our economic recovery. The numbers suggest that coastal and marine tourism could significantly contribute to rebooting activity in the sector as we look beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Read more here
  • Adolescent Health and Wellbeing: A new report published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe compiles extensive data on the physical health, social relationships and mental wellbeing of over 220,000 schoolchildren across 45 countries. The Irish arm of the study was led by Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn (Health Promotion) and provides valuable comparable data to inform national policy. The information was recorded shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and will enable us to gauge the effect of the pandemic on teenage behaviour, health and wellbeing in years to come. Read more here
  • Royal Irish Academy: On Friday, I was pleased and proud to attend virtually the Royal Irish Academy’s Admittance Day, as three of our colleagues, Professor Enrico dal Lago (History), Dr Paul Michael Garrett (Political Science and Sociology) and Professor Afshin Samali (Biochemistry and CÚRAM) were admitted as new members of the Academy. We congratulate all three on this wonderful success, recognition from their colleagues in the academy of their stellar contributions to their respective fields.

Budget Planning:

Finally, as we emerge from the immediacy of our response to the COVID-19 crisis and plan for the months ahead, one of the biggest challenges we face as a community is ensuring the financial stability and sustainability of our university. The economic shock caused by the pandemic is in many ways both unprecedented and unpredictable. While we know there will be significant impact on our university and others, the scale of the impact is currently difficult to forecast. We do know, however, that it will affect every aspect of our university mission. While the value of our collective contributions to society and the economy and the consequent case for investment in education is well-supported based on the evidence, given the level of uncertainty in our economy, politics and society, it is prudent that we plan on the basis that it is unlikely that we will receive sufficient financial support in this regard from Government at this time.

With that in mind, our University Management Team (UMT) has established a sub-committee to assess the financial impacts and advise on how we can mitigate against them. The COVID-19 Business Continuity Financial Planning Sub-committee has compiled a number of guiding principles to how we can approach the challenge of sustaining our finances while staying true to our values and our purpose to serve the public good. As we plan ahead for the new academic year, members of our UMT will engage with colleagues in their areas of responsibility to discuss the principles, practices and processes that will guide budgetary decision-making by Colleges, Schools and Units for the year ahead. These discussions will be challenging but they are necessary, and they will once more require flexibility, resolve and creative thinking – characteristics shown so often by our university community throughout this crisis.

We are determined that we go about this task with a level of sophistication and wisdom. In particular, we wish to avoid using blunt, blanket instruments which, from experience, we know can be counterproductive. We also know however that if we do not make these decisions ourselves – School by School, College by College, Unit by Unit – these decisions will be made for us, although they are best made closest to their impact. We are therefore keen to devolve budgetary decision-making to the greatest extent possible, only re-centralising what we have previously de-centralised if we find it necessary to do so.

As our planning continues, we will continue to consult and advise on the implications of this financial management on our university mission, seek to protect and project our best selves and ensure as much as possible that our decisions are fair, transparent, proportionate to the goals to be achieved in these exceptional times and consistent with good governance, exemplars of how together we can manage through extraordinary times.

Together, we have achieved a lot over the last number of months in uncertain and challenging times. The action and expertise, the selflessness and kindness that our staff, students and alumni have shown has been truly humbling. They give us great reason to be proud of our university community. We hope that, in the manner we deal together with the next uncertain chapter of our university’s experience, we can once more be proud of our university community and how we will face challenging times together, managing our own activities true to our values.

We are once more reminded that ‘this too shall pass’ and that how, once more, we deal maturely and meaningfully with challenges faced together as a university community will in turn be a mark of our present and will mark out our future, for the public good.

Staff/student email update from University President, 18 May

Friday marked a significant milestone for our university community – and indeed in our University’s history more broadly – when our Semester 2 exams, our first ever online-only assessment period, drew to a close. The end of exams is always a time of relief and celebration for our students, and on this occasion our staff join in that relief and celebration too as we look back on a job well done. When the scale of the interruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic first became apparent, the challenge of sustaining teaching and holding exams online may have, understandably, seemed overwhelming. And yet, due to our collective determination and flexibility, we have overcome those challenges not without difficulty but with distinction. We thank our students for their patience, flexibility and resilience. And we commend staff right across the University who contributed to concluding the academic year with such palpable respect for our students’ needs and the value of our university mission.

The feedback I have received is that we were and are at our best when we put the student first, as a person, as a matter of principle and purpose, and not just as a policy or practice. Extraordinary times received an extraordinary response. Thank you to all who, in the everyday, made it so. As we begin to realise what is increasingly termed a ‘new normal’, we respect and recognise that the extraordinary will not be rendered or reduced to the ordinary. For us as a university community, extraordinary has that extra meaning, an extra dimension, above and beyond the ordinary – above and beyond a replicable routine – and we must plan accordingly.

Semester 2 of Academic Year 2019/20 will be recorded in the history of our university as a time when our community pulled together and supported each other, and it shows our collegiality and kindness at its best.As it draws to a close, we should together take this opportunity to quietly, knowingly applaud our success.

Teaching and learning

  • Career development: Traditionally the end of exams would herald the beginning of overseas travel, J1 visas and summer jobs for our students. Sadly, for many, your summer plans have been disrupted, delayed or cancelled. Summer break is a time to take a break from your usual schedule and explore new opportunities. For Final Year students, it is also an important time to focus on your future careers. For these reasons, our Career Development Centre is providing a range of events and supports to help all students use this time to invest in the future. Starting this week, their College2Career through Covid series presents online workshops, webinars and special guests to help you make the most of this down-time. See the full event listing here on the Career Development Centre website.
  • Conferring ceremonies: Due to the ongoing closure of the University, its phases of reopening and the associated social distancing restrictions, our June conferring ceremonies will not be held on campus. However, a Virtual Conferring Ceremony in June will mark the occasion and formally confer over 170 undergraduate and postgraduate students. Our Conferring Office will be in contact with those graduands with details of the event, and I look forward to celebrating your achievements with you then, albeit virtually. We have revised the dates of our Winter Conferring Ceremonies to 30 November to 9 December to accommodate our new semester dates, and our Conferring Office will be in contact with those graduands closer to the date with details on how and when the ceremonies will be held.

Research and innovation

  • Phased reopening of our facilities: Preparations for the phased reopening of the campus are progressing with an early focus on research facilities. A broad team of Professional Service staff are working with the guidance of the Research and Innovation Committee and the new COVID-19 Reopening Operations Group to develop a rolling week-by-week process to begin reopening research facilities in a safe way. They aim to commence the pilot reopening of one research building from 8 June, in line with the National Return to Work Safely Protocol. This requires the University and its employees to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE, all of which will require clear guidance and local coordination within buildings. Our Chief Operations Officer, John Gill, who chairs the COVID-19 Reopening Operations Group will update staff with more details of this approach shortly. I understand that many of our researchers are eager to recommence their work in labs and facilities across the campus, and I ask you for your continued patience as we work out a practical and safe approach to reopening. For now, we ask all colleagues across the University who are working from home to continue to do so.
  • Atlantec 2020: Today marks the beginning of the Atlantec Festival 2020, one of Ireland’s biggest tech events, which will be entirely online this year. Across five days, over 30 online events will discuss hot topics and trends in tech and digital innovation in the fields of AI, cyber security, fintech, medtech, mindfulness and leadership. This year’s line-up will also include a special focus on COVID-19 and feature our researchers who are responding to the pandemic with innovative solutions. Find out more about Atlantec 2020 here.
  • Remote working survey: A recent survey by researchers from the Whitaker Institute and the Western Development Commission has shown that 83% of respondents expressed interest in continuing to work remotely. Over half of those surveyed (51%) had never worked remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic. The results prompt organisations and managers to rethink how we work, and the study will help inform policy in the area of remote working beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Read more here.
  • Ensuring the Safety of PPE: It is clear that personal protection equipment will become part of our normal life as we begin to reopen society. Dr Jurgita Ovadnevaite and Dr Marie Coggins in the School of Physics have been advising the National Standards Authority of Ireland on establishing an appropriate quality framework for barrier masks to be sold or manufactured in Ireland. Working with engineers in TCD and CIT, they have shared their expertise in aerosol physics and exposure science to ensure that this type of PPE is effective and safe for all.

Budget planning beyond COVID-19

Now that we begin to emerge from the immediacy of our response to the pandemic in the current academic year, we begin planning our budget for the next. With that in mind, our UMT has established a sub-committee to advise us in that regard. The committee comprises Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh (Deputy President & Registrar) as Chair, and Sharon Bailey (Bursar and Chief Financial Officer), Professor Walter Gear (Dean of Science and Engineering), John Gill (Chief Operations Officer), Josephine Hynes (Director of HR) and Professor Becky Whay (VP: International). Realising the significant financial and other challenges ahead, and recognising that such decisions are best made closest to their impact, this committee will advise in the first instance as to a set of principles to guide budgetary decision-making by Colleges, Schools and Units. We are grateful to our colleagues for undertaking this important work. As our planning continues, we will continue to consult and advise on the implications in that regard.

The Academic Planning Group for Academic Year 2020-21, chaired by the Deputy President and Registrar, has begun work on preparing for the year ahead. The APG is the Teaching and Learning Committee, enhanced with additional members from across the University. Guiding principles have been developed by the group, and sub-groups have been formed that will develop strategy in key areas including delivery of teaching, research, student support, estates and resources. They will begin to engage this week across the University to prepare for what will undoubtedly be a challenging year ahead.

As well as being the week beyond the end of our extraordinary end-of-semester, this week also sees the first phase of a planned reopening of our society and, over time and carefully, our campuses. Last week, the board of the Saolta Hospitals Group, of which I am a member, met. We were presented with an update on the global, national and regional (Saolta) experience of COVID-19 to date and with a perspective on the future. Time and again, across the range of our responses to COVID-19, the excellent contribution of our university community was noted and appreciated.

It was and is our privilege to be in a position to make a difference. The close working and locational relationship we have with the hospitals in our region mean that we are instinctively predisposed and distinctively positioned to openly offer our expertise and experience in making the world in which we live a better – or less dark – place for the most vulnerable among us. While the current crisis has meant that we have not made as much progress on our university strategy in formal, measurable ways, it has brought our values and our strategy to life in real and immeasurable ways. It is all the more meaningful for that.

Last week also saw, on 12 May, the marking of International Nurses Day. The Saolta board also commended with deep and passionately expressed appreciation the work of our nurses during this crisis. As we reopen to new challenges, we take this opportunity – as we did at our closing – to commend the work of all our colleagues in the health service and, this week, our nurses in particular.  As a society, we have grown to a greater understanding of the value of our nurses in caring for others. As we re-evaluate what matters in life and with life, there has also been a recognition that such care has often not been sufficiently estimated or esteemed in the past and should therefore be valued more in the future. There are so many stories of quiet heroism, of improvisation and innovation for patients – COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 – at an extraordinarily profound and lonely time in their lives. As people and as a community, we recognise it and are grateful for it.

Once again, the feedback was of putting the patient first, as a person, as a matter of principle and purpose, and not just as a policy or practice. Values realised and recognised in extraordinary times which we hope will sustain us and serve us all well as we face times less ordinary ahead.

Staff/student email update from University President, 11 May

As we enter our final week of exams, we look back with pride on what we have achieved together. In particular, we recognise the challenges that many of our community have faced and continue to face in the current context – those with caring responsibilities, those living alone, those living away from home or remote from family and loved ones. And, as we enter the marking season, some with significant numbers of assignments to grade, we know that working from home or away from home poses significant challenges to many colleagues. We wish to support colleagues who find themselves facing these challenges and, where possible, mitigate these challenges through, for example, workload management and other means. Please do contact your manager and/or member of UMT if you are under particular pressure at this time as we would like to provide support to you where we can.

In this recognition, we also hope that there is a realisation that we are not alone: many others share these experiences and, while we may be remote from each other and socially distanced, we are not removed from each other or some other way distant. We encourage colleagues to both give space to and to connect with others who may appreciate that thought as we get used to new routines of living.  Give each other a call, send an email, see if everybody is ok, offer support and collegiality.

Our focus also now turns to the summer ahead and how our university community might begin to emerge to new realities over the coming months. In that context, we plan – at a more opportune, less busy time – to survey our university community to get a sense of the particular challenges posed by this extraordinary time and, as we plan for the new academic year, identify ways in which these challenges can be addressed. Throughout our response to the COVID-19 crisis, we have been guided by public health advice, government guidelines and the diverse needs and priorities of our students and staff. These will continue to frame planning for the phased reopening of our university over time.

Roadmap for Reopening: The Government has published a Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and any return to campus activities will be phased in line with their schedule for lifting restrictions. While 18 May is an important milestone in this roadmap, it represents the first of five phases, and there will still be continued restrictions on our work, movement and social interactions. I know that many of us are keen to return to a normal life, but quickening any return to campus would be counterproductive and potentially dangerous. We therefore urge you to be patient as we continue to plan for the months ahead.

Three groups are guiding this planning process:

  • The Teaching and Learning Committee, chaired by Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh (Deputy President & Registrar), and the Research and Innovation Committee, chaired by Professor Lokesh Joshi (Vice-President for Research & Innovation) are working to frame the challenges and priorities from our teaching and research communities respectively.
  • The newly formed COVID-19 Reopening Operations Group chaired by John Gill (Chief Operations Officer) comprises representatives from across the Colleges, research and support services and is working with inputs from the two committees above to assess how and when we can initiate phased reopening of our university in line with government guidelines and mindful of ongoing health and safety requirements.

While we needed to make some quick decisions over the last few weeks, we are committed to consulting with the university community, our staff representatives and student representatives throughout this planning process as we work through the many challenges of reopening and preparation for the new academic year. We know that not all staff and students need to, want to nor can return to campus in the short term and we will continue to be flexible as we work this out together. For now, we ask for your continued patience as we work through how and when we can gradually reopen.

We will continue to update you in that regard and please continue to consult our University Alerts website for updates in this regard.

Teaching and learning

  • Leaving Cert and First Year commencement: You will have seen on Friday that the Government has decided to cancel this year’s Leaving Certificate examinations and replace them with an alternative four-step method for assigning marks to students. We welcome the certainty that this gives our incoming students. We also welcome the reassurance from the Government that the CAO and further education processes will run as close as possible to their original dates and that a new timetable will be announced as soon as possible. As you know, we had revised the start date for incoming First Years to 2 November to accommodate delayed Leaving Cert exams. While there has not yet been time to consider – and consult on – the implications of this change, we anticipate that the Government’s new approach may allow us to start the new academic year for our incoming First Year students before November, as always contingent on public health advice. We will continue to keep you posted as the plan for re-opening campus and for the new academic year becomes clearer.  
  • Exams and assignments: Friday marked a major milestone, as up to 18,000 assignments were submitted online in the run up to the submissions deadline. Our ISS team assure me that despite the scale of demand, our systems stood up to the challenge, enabling students to submit their assessments. I would like to thank our colleagues in ISS and CELT for their ongoing support and technical expertise as we put our university’s virtual learning environments to the test. We are grateful also to our module leaders, administrators and support services who have helped make this process run as smoothly and stress-free as possible.
  • Virtual Open Day: Our Virtual Open Day was a huge success with over 59,000 page views and 20,000 unique visitors to the website. On the day, a panel discussion with staff and student experts was viewed by 5,600 students on Facebook, where over 200 questions and answers were posted. Over 160 staff and students took part in the live chat sessions and helped answer 1,200 questions from prospective students and their parents. We thank most sincerely all of the staff and students involved in the success of the event. Your work shows our university in its best light – a community of people focused on supporting our students to be their best.

Thank you to our Student Recruitment and Outreach Office and the Marketing and Communications Office for their work in making this innovative event possible. In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Sarah Geraghty, our recently appointed Director of Student Recruitment & Outreach. Sarah brings great leadership, insight and innovation to this important role, and we wish her and her team every success responding to the opportunities and challenges of student recruitment over the coming months and years.

  • Open Scholarship Week: One of our core values is that of openness and this week marks Open Scholarship Week in the University. The COVID-19 crisis shows us now more than ever the importance of sharing expertise, data and facilities for the public good. I invite you to visit the Open Scholarship Week website where you will find lots of webinars to engage our university community in open science, collaboration and the sharing of data.
  • Other virtual events: Keep an eye out for webinars, online conferences and other virtual events on the Staff Calendar, Student Calendar and our Virtual Events webpage.

Research and innovation

  • New Smartphone Solution for Social Distancing: Researchers in the Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) Lab, led by Professor Derek O’Keeffe, have developed a new smartphone app to help with social distancing. The SPACER app alerts users when they have been within 2m of other users for more than a minute via a vibration alarm. The app is currently being tested in a hospital setting before its planned release to the public. Read more
  • Online Teaching Support in STEM for Primary Teachers: Staff in CÚRAM are now offering co-teaching support for primary school teachers in STEM. By adapting their Teachers in Residence programme, they are providing lesson plan kits to engage fifth and sixth class students in science and link in with their curriculum. Read more
  • Remote Management of Heart Failure During COVID-19: Researchers led by Dr Faisal and Dr Haroon Zafar (Medicine) are collaborating with US medtech company Endotronix to use telehealth for remote management of heart failure during COVID-19. The CRÓGA project will use a cloud-based disease management data system and an implantable wireless pulmonary artery pressure system to help patients. Read more

Community welfare

  • Testing centre: NUI Galway volunteers in the Galway Airport COVID-19 testing centre reached a formidable milestone this week when they collected their 3,500th swab. We would like to thank our colleagues (aka the ‘Corona rangers’) most sincerely for the important work they continue to do to benefit vulnerable people in our community and to help protect us all from the spread of the virus.
  • International Staff Network: Last week, we launched virtually our new International Staff Network to help raise awareness of our international colleagues’ pressing issues and encourage them to engage ever more in the life of our university. Our international colleagues represent our values of respect for each other, openness to the world, to new ideas and to other voices and excellence in attracting the best of all the talents. They sustain our university community by replenishing and renewing us with new perspectives and perceptions of the world. Through history, Galway has been a welcoming place, as symbolised through trade by the Spanish Arch and through culture in the co-mingling of talent that makes our region so vibrant. As NUI Galway, we embrace this sense of diversity as a strength of our university. In the spirit of those values, I welcome the new network and encourage them to have their voice in encouraging each other and us and in representing the diverse experience and expertise of our international staff. For now, I encourage international staff to become a member and to follow the network on Twitter.
  • Annual Leave Policy: The past few months have been a particularly busy and stressful time for staff and students as we navigate the challenges of COVID-19 together. As our exams conclude and we look forward to the summer, it is important for us all to take a break. Not all of our work schedules are the same, and I know that many teaching staff will be extremely busy marking exams, essays and assignments in the weeks ahead. Others might be seeking to focus on their core job following weeks of adjusting to the demands of responding to the university closure and restrictions in our work and personal lives. To make sure that we all take a break from work, our Director of HR will shortly issue an Annual Leave Policy encouraging staff to take at least two weeks of their annual leave over the summer months and indicating a longer closing of the University over the Christmas period. Please look out for the policy and discuss leave arrangements with your line manager, so that together we can take the time and space to relax, reflect, refresh and recuperate.

Finally, last week, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) launched a national report highlighting the significant contribution that Irish universities are making in the fight against COVID-19. ‘Irish Universities Help Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic’ includes many examples of the advice, testing, research, equipment, training, facilities, supports and volunteering that all of the universities are providing. We can be very pleased as NUI Galway to see the considerable and considered efforts of our own staff and students celebrated among the case studies in the report.

This research is research for others, with real impact on the profound experiences of our fellow human beings at this time. We are, as a university community, often drawn to our work as the life of the mind: this work we see, this work that others benefit from and feel, comes from the life of the heart and is all the more profound as a consequence.

We are also focussing therefore, with the IUA, on the role of our universities as partners in the recovery, recovery of our society and recovery of our economy. Over the last number of weeks, there is an increased recognition of the vital role of evidence and of research, of education and reflection, in realising our responses to COVID-19 and in re-imagining our humanity. As we face into challenging times, the COVID-19 crisis and our responses to it have, more than ever, shown the value of our public service, of our research and teaching, of our being here for the public good, supporting our society and economic growth.

Along with the growing recognition of the importance of research in our response to COVID-19, there is also a growing realisation of the importance of social cohesion and economic growth in our recovery from COVID-19. As was noted by the Minister for Finance & Public Expenditure and Reform during the week, as a society, we need economic growth to pay for the consequences of COVID-19. Together, we hope to be in a position to play our part, invested and investing in this albeit challenging and uncertain new future, considered and considerate partners in the reopening and in the recovery.

 

Staff/student email update from University President, 5 May

Teaching and learning

Exams: Week 2 of our online and remote assessment appears to have run smoothly. We are grateful to our academic staff and administrators, and all of the professional services that are supporting the delivery of exams at this time through hard work behind the scenes. We thank our students too for their continued resilience and we wish them well for the exams to come.

Term dates for the next academic year: Last week, our Deputy President and Registrar released revised dates for the Academic Year 2020/21. These include dates for teaching, exams, inductions and school placements, and help give our current students, our incoming students and our staff greater certainty over how the year ahead will be structured. Conscious of the exceptional context in which we are required to make decisions, I would like to thank our staff and students who inputted to this process and I would also like to commend the flexibility and decisiveness shown by Colleges, Registry and by Academic Council Standing Committee in agreeing these revised dates. We can now begin to plan and prepare for the next academic year with a shared schedule in mind.

As we plan together in exceptional times for the implications of the next academic year, we are also very conscious as your UMT of the need to engage and consult with our university community, through our trade unions and our Students’ Union and in formal decision-making fora such as Academic Council and Údarás na hOllscoile. Recognising our expectations that the changes we plan in this regard will arise, where necessary, in the context of combatting the impact of COVID-19 and seeing the wellbeing of our community as a priority, we are also conscious that any changes to the context of our work need to be fair and reasonable, supported and proportionate to the goals to be achieved in these exceptional times. Cognisant of the challenges ahead, as indicated last week, it you have any questions or comments in this regard, please raise them early through your UMT member so that they can be addressed as necessary as early as possible.

Virtual Open Day: Our first ever Virtual Open Day will run from 12pm-3pm on Thursday, 7 May. Over three hours, a number of different online sessions will provide an interactive experience to facilitate students, parents and guidance counsellors to explore the full range of undergraduate courses on offer. I would like to thank colleagues in Student Recruitment and Outreach, and Marketing and Communications who are working to prepare and present the event, as well as all of our colleagues and students who will be participating in the event and answering lots of prospective students’ questions. More info and registration here.

Other virtual events: Many staff across campus are engaging the public in our work through online webinars. One particularly interesting approach this week is from the Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) team who will be holding their annual conference online on Wednesday. We believe this is our first ‘virtual conference’, and we wish our colleagues well with it. It is an innovative way to bring researchers, patients and the public together to share their experiences of working together. The conference will close with a reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic. More info here.

Celebrating NUI Galway successes over the years: I am pleased to say that our retired staff are joining in the conversation too. We are grateful to the Office of the Deputy President & Registrar and to the Retired Staff Association who have partnered together to invite retired staff to record podcasts talking about some of the highlights of their teaching and research careers. As we celebrate our University’s 175th anniversary, it is a great way to share some of the stories of our shared successes over the years.

Research and innovation

Our research community continues to attract attention, praise – and funding. On Thursday, the Taoiseach announced funding for seven new NUI Galway projects in response to the COVID-19 emergency. Together, they show the breadth and depth of our research community’s response to the emergency, and highlight how we are working not only to address the health challenges created by this pandemic, but also our understanding of the economic and social implications. They are in the following areas:

  • Equipment to make it easier and safer for patients with COVID-19 to breathe
  • Expediting the diagnosis of COVID-19 in a clinical setting using AI enabled analysis of CT scans
  • Improving long-term patient recovery and reducing disability after COVID-19 critical illness using microRNA-based approaches
  • Identifying mental health needs and best practice for psychological support in frontline healthcare workers during and after the COVID-19 outbreak and in future pandemics
  • Modelling real-time population-wide impacts of COVID-19
  • Optimising Covid-19 social distancing communications: Identifying and addressing psychosocial determinants of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Rapid response and learning for later: establishing high quality information networks and evaluation frameworks for the National Ambulance Service response to COVID-19

Find out more about these research projects and who’s involved on our NUI Galway News webpage.

As we plan for the re-opening of our campuses for our research and other activities vital to our life as a university, we will be guided at all times by public health advice and by the need to protect the health and safety of colleagues and the wider community of which we are a part.

Remote Working Survey: The Whitaker Institute and the Western Development Commission have launched a national survey to gather data on employees’ experiences of remote working in these unprecedented times. This project is being led by Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor Alan Ahearne and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell, in partnership with Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at WDC, and it is a great example of the impact we can have on regional development and policy. Take the survey here.

Corona Citizens Survey: Phase 2 of the Corona Citizens Survey attracted over 35,000 responses from the public last week and the results garnered much interest around the country. The survey was a collaboration between our University (led by Dr Akke Vellinga), DCU and Insight. See the results here.

Community welfare

Our response to the COVID-19 crisis will be measured by how well we supported the most vulnerable in our community.

I would like to commend our colleagues in Student Services, Sports, the International Office and the Career Development Centre for their voluntary work running our Student Call-out Campaign, which concluded last week. They made thousands of calls to students to ask how they were and see if they needed any support. Our thanks also to our colleagues in Commercial Services for supporting and accommodating students in need during this time. These are most heart-warming examples of care and kindness in our community, and shows our university at its best.

On Thursday last, our Institute for Lifecourse and Society hosted a webinar ‘Living and Learning with Empathy in COVID-19’, in partnership with the Fred Rogers Center at St Vincent’s College in the US and with fellow members of ILAS’ UNESCO network at Penn State University. Fred Rogers first came to my attention when Tom Hanks, who plays Fred in the movie ‘A Beautiful Time in the Neighborhood’, spoke about him on ‘The Graham Norton Show’. Fred’s philosophy of life, he said, can be summed up in three parts: be kind, be kind, be kind. As good a philosophy as any in challenging times.

Dr Dana Winters of the Fred Rogers Center commented during the webinar that ‘one kind word to nourish another person, finding the invisible in others … has a ripple effect’ through our society. In that regard, beyond our walls, we know that the demand for support – and a kind word and deed – is growing. Many of our local charities are struggling to cope during the pandemic, while the ability to reach out to the community is increasingly hampered by social distancing restrictions. The challenges are compounded further by the cancellation of many charity fundraising campaigns. I would like to remind staff of An Ciste Carthanachta – the University’s payroll charity contribution. More details can be found here.

Finally, as we face new phases of a differently restricted life and a planned, phased re-opening of our society, we may all remember as I do the uncertainties and the fears we faced as our campus closed and as our university community took to new challenges remotely. We contemplated with sadness the prospect of tragedy in our community, of social and personal upheaval and the potential that our university community would fragment and become disconnected. I hope you are heartened – as I am – that we have achieved much together, more than we imagined possible as we closed. While we are socially distant, we have remained close as a community, while we are working remotely, we are not remote from each other.

There is no doubt that we have had great challenges and upheaval in the past few months in the face of significant change and, sometimes, sadness. Our thoughts in particular are with those in our community and in our society who have faced grief and loss in very challenging circumstances.

As we enter a new week and a new phase of the academic year, let’s hope together that a continued sense of solidarity, more than we imagined possible as we closed, will nourish us all.

 

April 2020

Staff/student email update from University President, 27 April

Exams update

One week in to our assessment in a new world and I am pleased to report that our online and remote exams seem to be running relatively smoothly. There have been a small number of technical issues reported and, thanks to our colleagues and our students, the majority of these were resolved quickly with minimal disruption to students. Running online and remote exams for up to 19,000 students is a big challenge, particularly given the diversity of exam types and the large number of students sitting certain modules. I would like to share my sincere thanks with our module leaders and School administrators, and our committed colleagues who are directly involved in supporting the exam process in ISS, CELT and Registry. Your hard work and expertise behind the scenes is ensuring that our exams can continue with minimal disruption and for that we are all very grateful.

  • Student support during Exams: I would like to remind students of our Exam information and advice on the Student FAQs section of our Alerts web page, as well as the Exam Stress Helplines run by our Chaplaincy Support Team – see opening hours and contact details on the Student Services web page. I encourage staff to add the attached images to your email signature to help publicise these supports.
  • IT Security and Data Protection: As we continue to maintain contact and share information remotely, it is critically important that we take steps to protect our IT systems and data. Only use NUI Galway email accounts when contacting students and colleagues, and only use those IT systems and services supported and secured by ISS when uploading data. Our colleagues in ISS have shared recommendations for good IT Security practices on the Staff FAQs section of the Alerts web page. We ask all our university community to read this advice carefully and to continue to follow the good practices outlined. Working from home provides a number of challenges not least of which is securing your work and protecting both your data and that of the University. You can find advice on best practice for data protection here. Both ISS and our Data Protection Officer are available to address any queries you may have in this area.

Teaching and learning

As our Semester 2 exams continue apace, we now plan and prepare for the new academic year ahead. Now is a period of great uncertainty and our university community will undoubtedly be presented with challenges. Recommencing teaching in the autumn will require creative thinking and flexibility to adapt to the continuing restrictions and disruptions to normal life.

  • Semester dates: Earlier today I emailed all staff and students outlining some of the ways in which we are adapting to these challenges. We know that you want clarity on term dates and modes of teaching, as well as the time and support to adapt and prepare. We are proposing a later start date of 28 September for all taught students, with the exception of First Year Undergraduate students who will commence in November to accommodate the later Leaving Cert schedule.
  • Modes of delivery: We are also planning to deliver teaching in Semester 1 through a mix of face-to-face on-campus and online methods, and we will be contacting Heads of School to initiate a planning process at School level with Discipline Heads, Programme and Module Leaders to prepare to deliver programmes in these scenarios. I want to reassure our university community that we will continue to consult with staff and student representatives in the coming weeks and months as we work out the details and try to overcome the challenges of this new approach. We are also very conscious of the challenges this poses for colleagues and students and have been keen to signal our intentions early so as to accommodate and support planning in that regard.

Today, we also announce the date of our Virtual Open Day on Thursday 7 May. This is a significant date in the University’s calendar as it gives us an opportunity to highlight our campus, recognised as one of the most beautiful in Europe, and our courses, recognised as among the best in their respective fields, to prospective students and answer their queries directly. Presenting all of this information online will be challenging, and I commend all the staff who are involved in making it happen. If you know anyone who is considering studying in Galway next year, please invite them to visit our Open Days web page to find out more: www.nuigalway.ie/opendays

Last week, we held our third virtual conferring ceremony, this time for new graduates of the Burren College of Art, whose degrees are awarded by our university. It was a lovely opportunity to celebrate the students and to find out more about their experience and art. The sense of purpose and place provided by the setting of the Burren is an inspiration at this time. I invite you to view the ceremony and share your messages of congratulations on our YouTube channel.

Research and innovation

Our researchers continue to inspire us through the many ways they are responding to the COVID-19 emergency:

  • AIT and NUI Galway Explore PPE Decontamination Amid Global Shortage: As the world grapples with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Irish academics are exploring eco-sustainable solutions to decontaminate single use masks. Researchers and clinicians from Athlone Institute of Technology and NUI Galway have joined forces to tackle the global shortage of N95 masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by frontline workers and other healthcare professionals.
  • Aquila Bioscience Delivers Pathogen-removing Technology to Irish Frontline Workers: This week Aquila Bioscience started delivery of AntiBioAgent Decontamination Wipes (ABDs) to frontline services in Ireland, including the Defence Forces, the HSE and An Post. ABDs will serve as a safe and effective decontamination wipe for first-responders, healthcare workers and postal workers to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Connecting COVID-19 patients with their families: University Hospital Galway (UHG) has introduced a new video call system known as ICU FamilyLink which will enable contact between families, patients and the clinical teams providing care. This is particularly important as currently visitors are not permitted in the hospital, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is led by Aoife Murray and Irial Conroy, and I would like to acknowledge Professor Martin O’Halloran in facilitating this important work.
  • Webinars: Colleagues across the University have been adapting their events to suit online modes of presentation. Recent and upcoming webinars from the Moore Institute, Institute for Lifecourse and Society, History and others continue to engage the public in our research at this time. Keep an eye on the Staff calendar for upcoming webinars.

Workplace wellbeing

As well as caring for our physical health, we must be mindful of how the challenges of this time impact our wellbeing and mental health. We need to be aware that adapting to new work practices, working from home and balancing our professional and personal lives have an impact on us all. Without the structure of our normal work schedule, I know that many staff have been working outside normal hours and going above and beyond to adapt to the challenges of teaching, researching, developing new supports and services, and maintaining existing ones.

In particular, tomorrow (28 April) marks the payment date for our monthly payroll. We are reminded of and are grateful to all our colleagues who are maintaining payments in payroll, accounts payable and in expenses, often facing the challenges of remote, secure access. This is a very necessary role in our university community, carried out with great professionalism. It is work done behind the scenes but we would certainly notice if it became undone! Our gratitude and respect, therefore, to all our valued colleagues who make such a valuable difference to all of university community in their continued work!

Mindful of the need for us all to collectively take a break, our University Management Team is cognisant that we should be sure to signal to our colleagues that it is important to have time away from our work and to avail of annual leave. While travel may be restricted over the coming months, annual leave is not. With that in mind and conscious of the demands of our redefined academic dates and our reimagined modes of meeting, we are considering ways in which we can support colleagues in availing of annual leave and taking clear time away from the new routines of work which have a tendency to make their way into our personal and physical space. We will consult further on plans in this regard and update staff and students once these are agreed.

Friday 1 May 2020 is by tradition International Workers’ Day. With that in mind, I would like to draw your attention to National Workplace Wellbeing Day. This is an initiative of IBEC and they invite us to celebrate the occasion by focusing on those positive health and wellbeing activities in the workplace. We invite you to share your tips and experiences through social media using the hashtag #WorkWell2020, and join in the conversation about how we can all promote workplace wellbeing in different ways.

Lá Bealtaine, or May Day, is also traditionally in the Celtic religions the spring festival and commemorates fertility and the blossoming of flowers and fruit. The brighter days and longer evenings at this time of year invite us to take time to enjoy the renewal and replenishment that nature brings. For some of our staff and students, this time of year is also the beginning of an important time of faith and spiritual renewal. Whatever your location and background, I hope that you will have the opportunity to take some time to sustain your mental and physical wellbeing in the days ahead.

Stay safe and well – and mindful of the opportunities and challenges which reflection often brings as we enter a new season and a new sense of the world.

 

Staff/student email update from University President, 20 April

Today marks another historic day for our university community, as we embark on our first ever online-only exam session. Ordinarily our computer suites, large teaching rooms and Áras na Mac Léinn would be buzzing with activity today, with backpacks abandoned outside exam venues and last-minute study tips being exchanged in cafés and canteens across campus.

While we won’t see our students during this exam session, I want to assure you all that we are thinking of you, and wishing you every success in the days ahead. Our students have already proven their resilience and adaptability – now it’s your chance to shine and show how much you have learned in the classroom and online in the past semester. While the world around you (and the good weather) might be a distraction, we hope you can put the anxieties of COVID-19 to the back of your minds and focus on giving your very best at this challenging time.

Thank you also to all those colleagues who have so diligently shown significant resourcefulness and resilience in moving online and staying connected remotely.  A remarkable transformation in our activities. Thank you.

Exam supports

Many thanks are due at this time to our module leaders, to our colleagues in learning and assessment support, to our students and all those in our university community who, module by module, have risen to the undoubted challenge of online and remote assessment. We are grateful to our module leaders across the university who have been and will continue to be in contact with their students regarding the upcoming exams and how to raise issues with them. The next three weeks are critical to the completion of this semester and we are grateful to all those involved in making it possible.

As we begin this week of exams in a different, unexpected context, if you have queries or concerns about your exams, don’t forget that the Student FAQs section on our University Alerts webpage has lots of detailed information regarding exams, based on questions your peers have raised.

This can also be a stressful time, particularly accentuated in our current challenging circumstances. Thank you to our Chaplaincy Support Team who are available to support our students at this time: students experiencing exam stress and seeking support in that regard can speak to our support staff, Monday - Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm at (091) 49 7999 or, by way ofInternational Calls at +353 89 462 3763 or by emailing examstress@nuigalway.ie wherevideo calls can also be arranged.

Research and innovation

Lots of research activities continue to address the challenges of COVID-19 from multiple perspectives:

  • Health Behaviour Change: Researchers in the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at the School of Psychology are collaborating with over 100 behavioural scientists from more than 20 countries around the world on an international study evaluating awareness and responses to the pandemic. We wish Professor Molly Byrne and her group every success in their contributions to this important research.
  • Symptom-tracking Software: Our researchers are collaborating with others in UL and Orreco on a new software package to track the spread of COVID-19 symptoms in Ireland. Led within NUI Galway by Professor Derek O’Keeffe (Medicine), the MyCovidSymptoms.ie website gathers anonymous symptom data to more accurately estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 across the country.
  • Enhancing Laboratory Diagnosis: Dr Kate Reddington (Microbiology) and Professor Dearbhaile Morris (Bacteriology) have been nominated to a new HSE COVID-19 Laboratory R&D Product Solutions Group, which has been established to support enhanced capacity for laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19. We wish them both well in their contribution to this important national initiative.

Sustaining important services and respecting our colleagues

I would like to commend the work of our Buildings and Estates team who have been busy in recent weeks scoping out how best to make our campus facilities available to the HSE at this critical time. This work is carried out behind-the-scenes with little fanfare, and it is an excellent example of the type of unique contribution our university can make to the public good, for the public good. On their behalf, I would also like to thank colleagues for their patience and understanding in response to the necessary access restrictions on campus.

I would also like to acknowledge those core support services who are experiencing particularly high levels of demand at this time. Colleagues in Accounts, Payroll, ISS, CELT, HR and others continue to provide as efficient a service as possible despite the challenges of working remotely and accessing university data and systems from home. I ask colleagues to be mindful of these challenges and respectful of their context when contacting colleagues in these core support services.

Colleagues across our Student Services and more generally have been working hard behind-the-scenes and front of house to continue important services remotely and develop new supports focused on our students’ needs during the COVID-19 crisis. These include pastoral care for students who are isolated and away from home, online Q&A sessions for students, supports for students with anxiety and mental health concerns, additional exam support for students in need of support, tailored advice for students with accommodation and finance worries, the delivery of careers modules online, and online awards ceremonies to mark our students’ achievements. This work is carried out every day by colleagues in difficult circumstances, and it embodies so clearly our core values of respect for others and excellence in our mission. I would like to thank staff across these Student Services for their continued commitment and compassion.

Friends in need

Our university community is determined in our focus on getting through this crisis together. There will come a time when we will look back with pride on how we supported and sustained each other as a community. There will be stories of the courage, compassion, agility, innovation, volunteering and kindness we all experienced and gave at this time. Some of these stories will be sung, some unsung.  All will have their value, defining this extraordinary moment in our university’s history.

One heart-warming example occurred last week when our alumni association in China pulled together to send 4,000 facemasks to the Saolta hospitals group here in Galway. The packages were marked in Irish and English, and with the Chinese proverb 天涯若比邻, which loosely translates as ‘close in spirit although far away’. In this time of pandemic when the world seems to shrink by the day, it is reassuring to know that we can draw on our global network of alumni, students and supporters to bring us through. Close in spirit although far away. Buíochas libh uilig.

Staff/student email update from University President, 14 April

This is a traditional time, at our Easter break, to connect with family and friends. I hope that you were able to overcome the challenges of social distancing in creative ways to spend some quality time with your community of loved ones. At times like this, we value more than ever the kindness, love and sustenance of those around us.

Teaching and assessment

  • Study Week: This is the time in our academic calendar when students are most focused on preparing for their exams. I am pleased to see the warm sunny weather returning for exams – in this time of great change, it is reassuring to see some traditions never change! We wish all of our students well in their studies this week. This is not how you expected – or wanted – to sit your end-of-year exams, and we acknowledge your great resilience and flexibility in adjusting to the new online assessment methods.
  • Staff-student contact during exams: We want to ensure that students have appropriate and reliable ways of raising issues during their exam, as they might do in a traditional exam hall environment. Email is the University’s default communication channel during exams. Your module leader will share instructions on how to raise your issues with them (or their nominated contact) in advance of the exams.
  • Student FAQs: The Student FAQs section of the University Alerts page has been updated with very valuable information on a whole range of topics, including Online Assessments and Remote Learning, and Health and Wellbeing. Browse the information here to make sure you know what supports are in place to help you through your exams.
  • Leaving Cert: The decision of the State Examinations Commission regarding the timing of the Leaving Certificate Examinations is likely to impact on the start of the 2020-21 academic year for our first year undergraduate programmes. The implications of this change will be considered in consultation sectorally as well as by us as a university community and, as they become clearer, we will keep you informed of plans in that regard. While we will continue to be guided by public health advice with regard to our activities and access to our campuses, the change in the date of Leaving Certificate Examinations will not affect the start of the academic year for other students.

Research and innovation

Our researchers continue to shine during these challenging times, and they have shown time and time again the important impact research can have on health and social issues from diverse perspectives. For example,

  • Health facts, respecting the evidence: A group of researchers in NUI Galway and UCD have contributed straightforward and reliable information online to fact-check health claims at this particularly sensitive time. This is a great manifestation of our respect for the evidence and for robust research. Led by Professor Declan Devane (Nursing and Midwifery), the iHealthFacts website went live this week. See it for yourself at: https://ihealthfacts.ie
  • Respiratory Clinical Trial: University spin-out company, Orbsen Therapeutics, has commenced a phase 2a clinical trial for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in COVID-19 patients. Between 80-90% of COVID-19 deaths are caused by acute respiratory failure and, if successful, these trials could have a major impact on the treatment of the virus.
  • Policy in a time of Pandemic: Our policy-advisors are also helping to bring expertise to the wider COVID-19 response. In a set of three new briefing papers, Dr Pádraic Kenna stresses that housing rights must be central to Europe’s financial response to the pandemic.
  • Corona Citizens Survey: Researchers in NUI Galway and DCU carried out a one-day national survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives, interactions and wellbeing. Dr Akke Vellinga (Medicine) is the NUI Galway lead on the Corona Citizens Science Project.
  • Ventilator innovation: Did you know that half the world’s ventilators are made here in Galway? Now a team of staff and alumni has devised a new system to enable two patients to be treated safely from one ventilator. The Inspire Team is sharing the system globally to help increase ventilator capacity around the globe. See how at: www.galwayventshare.com.

Conferring celebrations

I am pleased to say that our Virtual Conferring ceremonies went off without a hitch or technical glitch last week, and they were a hugely positive event for our graduates and onlookers. It was also an opportunity for us to maintain and re-imagine our sense of community at this time.  Thousands of people tuned in live on Facebook to view the events, where graduates were presented with a virtual parchment (to be followed shortly by the real thing in the post). Judging by the reaction in the national media and in the heartwarming messages shared by friends, family, lecturers, supervisors and onlookers, it is clear that these virtual events lifted our diverse communities during this difficult time. Many comments reflected on the wonderful images of our graduates celebrating with family and friends, socially distanced but together in spirit, as well the encouraging sense of life going on albeit in different circumstances.

  • Special guests: We were honoured to have video messages from four very distinguished guests who added great empathy and inspiration to the event. Special thanks to
    • Dr John Ging, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    • Dr Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
    • Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health
    • Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme

They added so much to the ceremonies and reminded us of the sense of humanity they bring to the frontline, a value of which we can be so proud.

  • Watch back: you can watch back on the School of Medicine Virtual Conferring and the Postgraduate Research Virtual Conferring on the University’s YouTube channel, or go to our NUI Galway Facebook page to share your messages of support to our new graduates on last week’s broadcasts.
  • Thanks: Special thanks to the Registry team, Marketing and Communications, and David Brandt Studios for making the event possible.

Our community’s welfare

This is a sad and anxious time for many of us. Our normal human interactions have been disrupted and we have to reimagine ways of sharing company and compassion with others. This is especially the case when we are mourning the loss of friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. I want to reassure our University community that once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, we will come together to remember again and commemorate those members of our community who pass away from us at this difficult time. It will be an emotional occasion for us as we remember colleagues and friends. In the meantime, we will continue to cherish their memories.

  • Mindfulness: The University’s Mindful Way team is continuing to offer online mindfulness shared practice at this time, and I would encourage staff and students to find out more at: www.nuigalway.ie/mindfulway
  • Counselling: Our Student Counselling Service is continuing to provide online counselling to all students. Please email counselling@nuigalway.ie to access the service. The Counselling website also contains a list of useful online self-help resources that can be accessed at anytime.
  • Employee Assistance Programme: We remind staff that support for staff wellbeing is available through the EAP Programme.

The above update is simply a snapshot of all of the extraordinary work our University community is doing to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

As well as marking a significant time of hope in our religious traditions, this is also the time of year when Spring arrives, much of nature shows signs of rebirth and renewal and our evenings turn longer, bringing us more light. This reminds us, as it reminded generations before us, that there are better times ahead, brighter times, renewed times. We look ahead in hopeto those times too as we experience our current challenges and uncertainties.

Thank you all for your continued commitment, flexibility and resolve, and above all else the care and kindness you continue to show to one another.

 

Staff/student email update from University President, 6 April

On Friday, we marked the end of an extraordinary semester in the 175-year history of our university. Let the history books show that, in these exceptionally challenging times, our staff and students responded to the COVID-19 crisis with flexibility, resilience and resolve. We can together be extremely proud of the huge collective, excellent effort our community has shown in sustaining our teaching, research and services with openness and respect at this critical time.

I would like to give you an update on some recent initiatives as we continue to navigate this public health crisis together.

Teaching and learning:

Last week was the final week of teaching for most students, with all modules delivered online. At various times throughout the week we saw over 3,000 people live on Blackboard Collaborate, illustrating the agility of staff and students in responding to the challenge and recognising the significant additional efforts which were called upon in that regard.

We now have a two-week period to allow our students to prepare for online assessment. I know a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to develop and test different online assessment methods, all of which has taken time, great effort and creative thinking. I would like to thank our lecturers and School administrators for their flexibility, and acknowledge the incredible commitment and hard work of colleagues in CELT, Registry, the Library and ISS, in particular. Throughout all of this, we are mindful of the patience and goodwill our students are showing as we continue to adjust to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Research and innovation:

There are many ways that our research and innovation community is mobilising to contribute to the local, national and global COVID-19 response efforts. Research groups are identifying innovative and practical options for activity areas where we can make knowledge, research, innovation and resource contributions (including with our research partners outside the University) that are aligned with government, HSE and WHO priorities.

  • COVID-19 Response Groups: Across each of the University's five Research Institutes researchers have coalesced in establishing COVID-19 Response Groups.
  • Ventilatory Support working group: A group of researchers is looking at solutions to increase the capacity of hospital and ICU doctors to provide respiratory support to COVID-19 patients.
  • Mobilizing IT to respond to COVID-19: Our research community is monitoring and providing data to help build projections and modelling for COVID-19 impacts. There is ongoing work to explore how IT tools can facilitate contact tracing and enable communication between quarantined patients and their families.
  • Developing Ventilators: Our staff and students are contributing to a multidisciplinary team that is developing a new, open-source, simplified ventilator. Our most high-performance computers have been made available to facilitate this critical work.
  • Improving Supplies: A new web tool developed in partnership with UL is helping laboratories, companies and universities to make PPE stock available to our over-stretched hospitals. See more at https://covidmedsupply.org
  • Groundbreaking Anti-Bioagent Wipe: Campus-based company, Aquila Bioscience, is collaborating with the Irish Defence Forces to provide soldiers with its groundbreaking Anti-Bioagent Wipe (ABwipeTM).
  • Clinical and Pre-Clinical Studies: The University and hospital are working together to support an international pandemic research consortia to develop and rapidly implement Clinical Trials in patients with COVID-19. This will bring our facilities and expertise in a number of connected disciplines to bear on developing treatments for the virus.
  • Sharing expertise: Our researchers have been providing expert advice to the government, HSE and public as the COVID-19 emergency has evolved.

We have also hosted online research seminars to maintain our sense of community at this challenging time.

To all of our researchers, we say thank you. And we wish you every success in your work and discoveries.

Student welfare:

For some of our students, returning home to their families – or even to their home countries – is currently not possible. I would like to thank our colleagues in Student Services and the International Office, in the Access Office and in Sports, for reaching out to these students and providing pastoral and practical support where needed. It is through our continued compassion and kindness that we will get through this crisis together.

  • The online Q&A sessions for current and prospective students continue, and you can see a list of upcoming sessions at: www.nuigalway.ie/virtual-events
  • A new Student FAQs section of the University Alerts page has detailed information for students on a range of issues and concerns raised directly by them
  • There is now a list of FAQs for prospective students available through our Alerts page, and colleagues are working together on adjusting and progressing our student recruitment cycle in response to the difficulties and uncertainties caused by the pandemic.

The national effort:

Throughout the COVID-19 emergency, our actions have been guided by our university’s mission to serve the public good. This is borne out by the heart-warming efforts of staff and postgraduate researchers to volunteer their skills and time to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Volunteers with clinical backgrounds have been attending the Galway Airport testing centre and a contact tracing centre is now up-and-running in the Alice Perry Engineering Building where volunteers are working in shifts to assist in this important work.

  • Making facilities available: I am pleased to say that the University is continuing to work with the HSE and government departments so that facilities and infrastructure can be made available for the national effort as appropriate. The College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences has released the facilities in all of the Medical Academies in Letterkenny, Castlebar, Ballinasloe and Sligo to provide additional space to the HSE. The Clinical Sciences Building on Galway University Hospital’s grounds has been opened up for training purposes for HSE staff. Our Buildings and Estates team are working with the HSE to scope out further needs for facilities over the coming weeks.

Celebrating success in the middle of a crisis:

Although it is a sad and anxious time for so many of us, there are lots of reasons to be hopeful and positive too as our community and country respond to the challenges of COVID-19.

This week we will be marking the achievements of our newest graduates in two Virtual Spring Conferring ceremonies on Monday and Wednesday. These ceremonies are being held in the interests of facilitating our students’ graduation as quickly as possible and celebrating this important milestone in their lives.  

  • School of Medicine Virtual Conferring: Today (Monday) at 10am, we will hold a Virtual Conferring for our Final Year Medicine students who have been working so hard on the frontline of our hospital services.
  • Postgraduate Research Virtual Conferring: On Wednesday at 12pm, it will be the turn of our new Postgraduate Research graduates.
  • Join us in marking their achievements: We invite you to join us on the NUI Galway Facebook page at 10am today (Monday, 6 April) and at 12pm on Wednesday, 8 April to share your reactions, good wishes and comments with them. We also plan to hold more informal but nonetheless meaningful events in the autumn, circumstances permitting, to mark the success of these graduates who will be graduating remotely this week. These are important days in the life of our university and our students and we look forward to marking them together in better times. 

I would like to thank you all for your continuing support, commitment and flexibility in our collective response to the COVID-19 emergency. And I wish you and your loved ones my best wishes for the days and weeks to come.  We continue to live our values as a university community in times that both challenge and show our collective humanity.

March 2020

Staff/student email update from University President, 30 March

Following An Taoiseach’s announcement of 27 March with regard to further COVID-19 restrictions, all NUI Galway campuses are closed until 12 April. Consistent with the current public health protocols and priorities, campuses will be accessible only to those who are doing HSE-related work or supporting the HSE in its COVID-19-specific work. This is a critical time to combat the spread of COVID-19: all members of our university community are urged to comply with public health protocols and advice at this time.

We appreciate that this poses further challenges for our university community as we maintain our communications and our activities remotely. Thank you all for your fortitude in this fast changing situation. Most of all, look after yourselves and each other.

This was to be – and is – the last week of the teaching semester. As we start into our final teaching week of Semester 2, I would like to give you an update on the University’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 emergency.

This has been a very challenging time for all of us, both staff and students, as we adjust to new ways of learning and working together. I want to thank you all most sincerely for your continued hard work, commitment and flexibility. I know that it is additional challenge for us all in different ways – in our studies, in our research, in our work routines and in our personal lives. We recognise the demands it places in terms of extra workload and we truly value the efforts you have gone to – through extra training, new technology, unexpected meetings, late nights and creative thinking – to help us all adjust to and overcome the challenges of this time.

A collective effort

Ours is a large and diverse community and so much effort has gone into keeping our important work going. The following short animation will give you a sense of how different groups have come together to respond to COVID-19 on campus, in our community and across the world: Responding to the COVID-19 emergency together

The past week has seen a number of important initiatives:

Online teaching and assessment: All of our teaching has moved to online and remote methods, which involved a lot of technical support, training workshops and extra hours to achieve. We have led the way nationally in changing our assessment methods and making a new Exams schedule available to students at short notice. This work was difficult and detailed and I would like to thank our lecturers, School administrators and the staff of CELT, Registry and ISS for their efforts and expertise. I would like to thank our students too for their patience and for giving us the space to work through these changing, unanticipated times.

Sharing information: In dealing with the abrupt changes to our work and studies caused by the COVID-19 emergency, we have been conscious of the importance of sharing up-to-date, reliable and relevant information with our University community. New web pages and email accounts have been created, new working groups and conference calls have been established, and a lot of work has gone in behind-the-scenes by so many people to make sure our communication is as clear and timely as possible. Last week, we kick-started a series of online Q&A sessions for current students and prospective students to help answer their concerns, and these will continue, along with regular updates to our Alerts web page. I would like to give special thanks to our staff in Student Services, Marketing and Communications, Student Recruitment and Outreach and colleagues across campus who have engaged in this important information sharing.

Many of our colleagues are working remotely, often in reimagined roles. Many also have caring responsibilities at this time. Please be mindful of this in the tone, content and volume of our communications. Take time before sending an email and give time in waiting for a response.

Research response: Our researchers have been extraordinarily forthcoming in their desire to apply their expertise to the challenges of the pandemic. COVID-19 Response Groups in each of our Research Institutes continue to collaborate on ways of addressing the spread of the virus from multiple perspectives. I would like to acknowledge, in particular, ongoing work to excellently support WHO and HSE priorities. Colleagues are actively contributing to expertise, data collection and supports as sought by health organisations at a national and global level.  Much of this work is being carried out remotely. Given the current restrictions in place, we can only continue to provide access to campus to those colleagues who are doing HSE-related work or supporting the HSE in its COVID19-specific work.

A spirit of volunteerism: It has been truly humbling to see the response of staff and students to calls for volunteers from the HSE and within the University. 70 staff and postgraduate researchers are assisting with HSE COVID-19 testing in the Galway airport test site. Most of these volunteers have clinical backgrounds and the HSE have told us what a huge contribution they are making with such good grace at short notice and under tough conditions. At last count, over 60 staff and postgraduate researchers have been trained in contact tracing and are working from a base on campus in carrying out this vital work for the HSE. On our University community’s behalf, I would like to share our thanks and pride with all of our volunteers. And I would like to acknowledge the huge efforts of staff in Human Resources, Buildings and Estates, and the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences in making it possible.

In particular, once again we acknowledge and applaud the work of our healthcare professionals, many of them our staff, our students and our graduates who are to the fore nationally and internationally in combatting the impact of COVID-19.  This is profound work for which we are deeply grateful. Thank you.

Facilities and accommodation: As a large campus with a mix of buildings and outdoor spaces and a significant hinterland, we have the potential to make a uniquely impactful contribution to the HSE’s urgent needs for facilities, workspaces and accommodation at this critical time. I would like to thank our colleagues in Buildings and Estates, and Commercial Services, for their ongoing work and generous support in scoping requirements makings space available.

Key updates

  • University closure: The University continues to be closed until further notice. All teaching and assessment is online/remote, and staff are asked to continue to work from home unless otherwise requested by your line manager.
  • Semester dates: This week is the last week of semester.
  • Exams schedule: The newly revised Exams schedule is now live at: https://www.nuigalway.ie/exams/timetable-advice/examtimetable
  • Spring conferring: Our April conferrings will proceed as ‘virtual ceremonies’, recorded remotely and shared with graduates shortly after. These are extraordinary times and our graduates are extraordinary people. While we are deeply disappointed that we cannot share this special day with you in person, we are looking forward to marking the occasion and sharing good wishes online.

Our Alerts website www.nuigalway.ie/alert will continue to provide up-to-date information to our university community.

In our ongoing response to the COVID-19 emergency, our University community has not been found wanting. I thank you most sincerely and humbly for your work, commitment, agility and patience – and most of all, your community spirit – as we complete a teaching year in a way that we had not expected and – most of all – continue to support and respect each other at this time.

Our value of sustainability is called upon at this time: sustaining ourselves, each other, our university community and the health and wellbeing of those around us. Your resilience and resolve is particularly appreciated at this time as we support and provide sustenance to each other through challenging times with kindness and respect. 

 

Staff/student email update from University President, 23 March

I hope that you, your family and friends are keeping safe and well. I want to update our university community on our response to the COVID-19 emergency and, in this continuously evolving context, the changes we are implementing to continue our teaching, research and other activities as best we can, while serving, as a priority, the public good.

Teaching and assessment

Today marks the beginning of a week where we recommence our teaching online with a view to facilitating our students to complete their studies this semester. This follows substantial, collective efforts by colleagues who have come together to work remotely, sharing resources and expertise to facilitate our teaching mission. In particular, colleagues in CELT, Examinations, the Library and ISS have been active and busy supporting colleagues in moving teaching and assessment material online. This is undoubtedly challenging and we are grateful for the commitment of colleagues in this regard. It is heartening to see the Trojan work of many making this possible.

  • For our students:We appreciate your patience over the past week as we prepared to move lectures online. No one expected or welcomed this interruption, and we are committed to continue with this semester’s teaching and assessment, sympathetic to the disruption that you are facing. We understand your need for greater clarity around teaching and assessment.
    • I encourage you to scroll down to the end of this email for answers to some of your frequently asked questions.
    • Helpful guidance on adjusting to Online Learning has been provided by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)at the following links: 10 Points to Remember when Learning Online and Getting Started with Online Learning for Students
    • For lecturers and School administrators: I would like to thank you for your commitment and flexibility in responding to the sudden need for remote working and facilitating online teaching and assessment. I would like to draw your attention to the supports and resources on the CELT Sharepoint siteto help you deliver your classes online.
      • For Programme and Module Leaders: Please note that the deadlines for updating AKARI Curriculum Manager have been extended as follows:
        • New Programmes/Modules: 17 April 
        • All other updates: 28 April

Research and innovation

There are many ways that our research and innovation communities are mobilising to contribute to the local, national and global COVID-19 response efforts. For example, our researchers have coalesced in establishing a COVID-19 Response Group within the NUI Galway Research Institutes. These research groups are already meeting to identify innovative and practical options for activity areas where we can make knowledge, research, innovation and resource contributions (including with our research partners outside the University) that are fully aligned with government/HSE efforts.

Our research contributions span a wide range of areas including, for example, biological responses to decontamination wipes preventing the spread of COVID-19, the provision of further equipment such as ventilators, technical expertise that may be utilised in the scaling up of testing, research on the social impact of COVID-19, contributions to the debate on the economic impact of the virus, and issues for youth and specifically for youth empathy as a community contributor. We are conscious that there are many such examples from across our university where our research can make a difference.  Thank you to our research community for mobilising once more for the public good.

Facilities and support services

We also have significant physical resources, such as accommodation, lab and other space, which we are making available for the greater good as a priority. We are particularly grateful to our colleagues in Buildings & Estates and Commercial Services for their flexibility and facility in scoping such spaces at the request of the HSE, recognising the considerable challenges that this poses.

A kind, volunteering spirit

Most of all, this university community is its people. Our students, staff and graduates are our hands in the world. We continue to acknowledge and admire the work of our medical community on the frontline in Ireland and internationally, devoted to preparing for the clinical work that will make such a difference to those most in need in our society. Thank you: we are profoundly grateful.

In significant numbers and in substantial generosity, many of our NUI Galway colleagues have volunteered to support the HSE, sharing our expertise freely for the outside world, in areas such as contact tracing, technical support and communication.

Last week, we issued an invitation to staff and PhD researchers to sign up to our NUI Galway COVID-19 Response Volunteer list. We have had over 250 offers of help, and these volunteers will be contacted by units in the University and external organisations over the coming days to help alleviate overstretched services.

We acknowledge the commitment, flexibility and kindness shown by our university community in responding to the needs of the moment and of our time. We will continue to liaise closely with the HSE in making sure our resources are prioritised at scale to the areas of most need.

Responding to COVID-19 in our community

Over the weekend, we were made aware of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our student community. Both patients have been in communication with us: we understand, thankfully, they are both doing well, self-isolating and receiving advice from the HSE. I am heartened by the caring and timely responses of several of our colleagues in looking after the wellbeing of our students at this time.

We have assisted the HSE in reaching out to members of our university community with public health advice in cases where it is appropriate to do so. Rest assured that we will continue to work proactively with the HSE at all times, respecting patient confidentiality and working in the interests of the health and safety of our university community and of our society more generally. In particular, liaising closely with the HSE and consistent with public health advice, we will endeavour to maintain timely, considered communication with members of our university community as and when necessary. We are at all times guided by public health advice and expertise in this regard.

For information on the symptoms of COVID-19 and advice on how to respond, please continue to visit www.hse.ie or the University Alerts webpage.

In conclusion

This was the week when our first values workshop, on the value of respect, was to take place. Let’s practice respect as enthusiastically as we embraced it as our value. Many colleagues are doing their best to support our university community from a distance, in often challenging circumstances. Please be patient with each other and walk in each other’s shoes as we go.

Times such as this give us meaning too, none more moving than the responses of our colleagues and our university community to others and our wider society at a time of need. Let this be the hallmark of what we are as NUI Galway.

Answers to Students’ Frequently Asked Questions

Online Teaching 

Teaching recommences today (Monday) with lectures delivered via Blackboard for the rest of the semester. By now, the majority of modules have a Blackboard page with relevant course material for the coming weeks uploaded. Lecture notes, Powerpoint presentations and videos have been uploaded and further material may be delivered by recorded video or live lecture via Blackboard Collaborate on the relevant Blackboard pages. Log on to the relevant Blackboard page for each of your modules to access course material.

This may be in the form of:

  • a live lecture
  • a recorded lecture
  • or your lecturer may be available via Blackboard to assist you with any queries on the lecture material.

Exams

Your modules will be initiating alternative modes of assessment for end-of-semester exams. This task has required a lot of creative thinking and detailed planning to ensure the majority of modules will be examined in the coming exam session. Examinations will be conducted remotely using a range of exam modes including online exams run through Blackboard, Multiple-Choice Questions, take-home open-book exams, continuous assessment, projects, presentations delivered remotely via video, and more. For a limited number of programmes, the grade of some First and Second Year modules will not include an ‘end-of-semester’ examination. Details of module assessments will be available on most module pages on Blackboard by the end of this week.

Please be aware that some online assessments will need to be extended beyond the traditional examination period to facilitate staggered online assessment and to allow sufficient time for essays, projects and open-book exams to be completed.

The Examinations Office will issue a new exam timetable later this week. Most exams will remain 2 hours in duration with 30 mins added for upload.

For students of Shannon College, a separate email will be forthcoming from the Head of Shannon College regarding any differences in exam arrangements that may apply.

Please be assured that our primary concern is to maintain the integrity and rigour of the examinations process, and the alternative assessments provided for each module will reflect appropriately the same level of effort required for traditional exams based in exam halls. The quality of your NUI Galway degree is paramount and will not be affected by an alternative mode of assessment. 

Exam security will be protected by asking all students to complete a disclaimer statement at the start of each exam and each module leader reserves the right to follow up with a student by interview if there is any concern in relation to the integrity of the exam.

Postgraduate Research Students

Research should continue where possible, with supervisors contactable by email. Preparations for annual reviews are ongoing with online submission of reports and ‘virtual’ meetings with Graduate Research Committees expected. Electronic means will be used to facilitate submission and examination of research theses and plans are also being developed to hold vivas remotely.

Video message to university community in advance of university closure, 12 March