April 2021

Update for Staff and Students - Tuesday 4 May

Dear colleague,

I hope you enjoyed a restful holiday weekend.

This is the final week of a long and challenging academic year and I would like to start by saying thank you for seeing it through. Our entire university community – students and staff – deserve gratitude and great respect for the commitment, agility and resilience you have shown throughout the academic year to get this far. We wish our students every success as they complete their studies and prepare for exams.

We have also reached a significant moment in the calendar – passing Lá Bealtaine or May Day, which marks the start of summer according to the traditional calendar. It was a time of bonfires and gatherings in centuries past. While our country continues to fight the Covid pandemic, there are some sparks of hope this week with the announcement of the Government’s staged lifting of restrictions, the brighter days and longer evenings, and the completion of an extraordinary year in our university’s history.

1 May is also more recently recognised in Europe as Labour Day. We commend all those working for us and on our behalf at this time. Hopefully, the Covid pandemic – with all its challenges – will enhance our respect for work and for those who work in caring for us, serving us and protecting us through difficult times. Their value is clearer now more than ever.

National Covid-19 restrictions update

Last week the Government announced a roadmap of new public health measures for May and June 2021. We will keep our university community informed as we respond to the phased easing of some restrictions on campus. But in the meantime, please familiarise yourself with the national guidelines.

FROM 10 MAY…

Travel: Travel between counties in Ireland will be permitted. Public transport will run at 50% capacity.

Gatherings: Indoor social visits will be permitted for those who are vaccinated only. For everyone else, restrictions on outdoor gatherings will be eased as follows:

  • Outdoor social visits, including in private gardens, will be permitted for a maximum of 3 households or 6 people from any number of households
  • Organised outdoor gatherings will be permitted for a maximum attendance of 15 people

Sport and Fitness:

  • Outdoor training will be permitted for adults in pods of a maximum of 15 people
  • Restrictions on gyms and indoor swimming pools will remain in place until June. In the meantime, the Kingfisher Club has extended its Free Fitness Club Digital Membership to all staff and students until the end of May 2021. Download the Kingfisher App today to access home workouts and guided fitness sessions.

SPACE ON CAMPUS FOR STUDY AND SITTING EXAMS

Sitting Online Exams on Campus: Please note Friday, 7 May is the closing date for registering your interest in a space on-campus to sit your online examsThese supervised spaces are for students with scheduled online exams only. If you need a space with reliable wifi and away from the distractions of home, please indicate your exam dates and times using this form: https://forms.office.com/r/N7ucxb3nAU

Study Spaces on Campus: Please note that the Library Seat & Equipment Booking system has changed from period-based bookings to open bookings. This provides students with greater flexibility as exams approach.

The change...

·         Eliminates cancellation email issues allowing students to book seats at any point in the day and check in up to 30 minutes after the start time

·         Gives students more flexibility in choosing when they will arrive at the library

·         Allows students to book a maximum of 8 hours per day and minimum of 1 hour

o    The max of 8 hours in the Library is the same amount of time as two periods, the previous booking limit

o    The 8 hours do not need to be consecutive

o    Students can also book unlimited time per day in any other study venue

Sharing Student Stories from Lockdown

At the end of this exceptional year, it is a great opportunity for you to reflect on how you’ve managed during this pandemic and the efforts you’ve made to keep your community safe. Despite all the lockdowns, so many of our students have been making the most of life and using their free time in a positive way. We believe that by sharing your stories, other students can take comfort that they’re not alone during this challenging time.

  • Instagram stories: See for yourself how students are sharing their stories through our Instagram channel @NUIGalway – and record and share your own. 
  • Prime Time students: Meanwhile a group of NUI Galway students shared their experience of university life in lockdown in a recent RTÉ Prime Time report. You can listen to their stories here.

summer of staycations

It is increasingly likely that our summer holidays will again be characterised by staycations and excursions within the island of Ireland. No matter where the destination is, all forms of tourism have some impact on the people and environment that we visit. With that in mind, Dr Kevin Lynch (Geography) drew together five tips to ensure your staycation is a responsible one. You can find out more on RTÉ Brainstorm.

Idir Dhá Thine Bhealtaine

There is a phrase in the Irish language pertaining to this time of year. Someone can be described as being ‘idir dhá thine Bhealtaine’. It translates literally as being ‘between two May Day fires’ but the better English language equivalent might be between a rock and a hard place, to be on the horns of a dilemma.

As we mark the feast of Bealtaine, it seems to me that our community and our society are collectively located between two different instincts: the caution of the past year and the optimism of the months to come. This brings its own sense of dilemma. Looking back, we recognise the devastation and disruption that this pandemic has brought to our families, our networks and our everyday life and freedom. At this point, as we look ahead, we have cause for hope. However, we also know that this optimism has been hard won and could be quickly lost.

Once again, we place our hope and confidence in each other and in the public health experts who are guiding our gradual emergence from lockdown – belief in each other and resolve in our own actions to continue to fight this deadly virus in our community.

Paula Meehan’s poem Crossing the Threshold brings together this dilemma of hope and the value of caring and of work, apposite of this May day in 2021. She recites her poem here.

Reflecting on her nieces who are nurses, she writes:

When I ask what they’d say to you of their lives now,

this: how unnatural to say goodbye

through windows, Facetime, Zoom,

the machines ticking out their cycles; how we find new ways

to hold and be held; how we deepen in mercy,

in kindness. And this is routine! All this is normal!

They step over the threshold, outer to inner, inner to outer,

they ward off the darkness, they are bringers of light

to this world — its dazzling confusions, its crystal certainties.

As we hopefully cross another threshold of this pandemic and of the academic year, we ‘open the curtains wide to the bright star of morning / after long night, between one breath and the next, / on a blackbird still praising the earth in her turning’.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway 

April 2021

Update for Staff and Students - Tuesday 27 April

Dear all,

I hope you and those around you are keeping well.

This is the penultimate week of the academic year and the fine, sunny weather is a welcome sign of the summer break to come. With the continuing disconnection and disruption of Covid-19, it is easy to lose focus. With the end of semester in sight, now is the time to renew our students’ commitment and concentration. The work they put into this final fortnight will pay off in the exams in May.

Study and Exam Space on campus

With just three weeks before exams commence for most students, we wish to remind you of study space provision on campus, and to encourage those students who need a space on campus to sit their online exams to register their interest now.

Study spaces: Individual study spaces are available in the Library (including Library PCs), the Library Reading Room and the Bailey Allen Hall throughout the week. Spaces must be reserved in advance. Please see the Library Seat & Equipment Booking system for availability and reservations.

NEW Hardiman Building Seminar Rooms: From today, you can book a study space in the Hardiman Building Seminar Rooms THB-G010 and THB-G011. These rooms are located across from the main entrance to the Library, so students will be close to campus facilities including An Bhialann and the SU Shop. You can reserve a space using the Library Seat & Equipment Booking system.

Exam spaces: During the exam period, we will be providing quiet, supervised space on campus for students to come with their laptops to sit scheduled exams. These spaces will be for students sitting scheduled online exams only and they will be required to show proof that they have a scheduled exam at that time.

If a student wishes to avail of this service, they should use this form - https://forms.office.com/r/N7ucxb3nAU -  to indicate the time slots that they need, so that our team can reserve a space on campus for them. Closing date for exam space reservations: Friday 7 May.

Exam information: For up-to-date information on exam timetables, regulations and policies, visit: www.nuigalway.ie/exams

Incoming international students

Following engagement at a sectoral level, the Department for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has confirmed that students arriving into Ireland who are fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test will not need to enter mandatory hotel quarantine as long as the vaccination they have received is authorised for use in Ireland. Students can find out more specific information in the Covid-19 Exempted Traveller regulations, which came into effect on 17 April (available here). Our universities will continue to advocate collectively on behalf of our Irish and international students for the clarity and support you need as we plan for the academic year ahead.

Our university must continue to evolve to ensure that we remain a globally diverse and connected community, enabling engaging and enriching experiences of students and staff whether they are coming to Galway or leaving to explore the world. Despite all of the disruption caused by Covid-19, we must continue to plan for greater internationalisation, knowing that it has a positive impact on our community and on the impact we can make in and for the world. The Global Galway Project began a series of webinars today that will continue over the coming weeks to explore how we can all play a role in opening our university to world. Topics include: Why Internationalise?, Creating a Global Student Experience, and Excellence in Global Partnerships. Webinar information and registration here.

 

Solidarity with our Indian students and staff

While Covid cases remain relatively stable here in Galway, we look beyond our shores to the devastation caused in other parts of the world, most notably at this time in India. The figures and images reported from India in recent days are distressing, and the strain on the Indian health system is immense. Our thoughts now are with our Indian students and staff and the many Indian people working in our health service in Galway. We know that you are concerned for family and friends at home and that you are anxious about what the coming days and weeks will bring. Our International Office and Student Services continue to offer support to our students at this challenging time. See ‘Contacting Student Services and Supports’ on the Alerts web page.

Closing out a challenging year

This year, as we prepare for our end-of-year exams, the days of crowded exam halls seem like a distant memory. Most of our students will be sitting their exams online at home, away from the campus and the bustling corridors where last minute advice was shared and where post-exam analysis raised and dashed hopes of a good result. Despite our disconnection at this time, the upcoming exams are as significant to our current students as they ever were – an opportunity for them to apply all that they have learned during this exceptional academic year.

We have been using the phrase ‘hold firm’ in recent weeks to encourage everyone to remain steadfast in the fight against Covid-19, not to get distracted, to keep our eyes on the prize of eliminating the threat of the virus from our community – to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. Now, we ask our students to hold firm once again – this time for their own personal gain.

The work they put in now will help deliver on the prize of good grades, progression or graduation, the avoidance of repeat exams and the freedom that brings for a summer of relaxation and reflection. As the countdown to the end of semester begins we ask them to hold firm, remain steadfast, keep it lit, keep the faith, keep their eyes on the prize, make the personal sacrifices… This time it is for themselves, their potential and their dreams of the travel, work and opportunities to come.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Update for Staff and Students - Monday 19 April

I hope you and those around you are keeping well.

As we begin Week 10 of Semester 2, with just three weeks of teaching remaining, our thoughts turn to exams and the end of the academic year. Without doubt, it has been an exceptionally challenging year for us all and there are many things to take hope from today – including brighter evenings, warmer weather, expanded Covid testing and vaccination, and a fall in virus spread in our community.

Thank you

We note with great relief the sustained fall in virus cases in Galway and – notably – among our student community. This is due to the dedication and vigilance of you, our students and staff.

I would like to thank you most sincerely for continuing to adhere to the advice of our public health experts. While we must all continue to stay alert, it is important to acknowledge the personal sacrifices you have all made, as we all look forward to better days to come. Well done. Now, let’s keep going!

Studying and Sitting Exams on Campus

  • Reading Room: From tomorrow (Tuesday, 20 April), we are extending our on-campus study spaces to the Reading Room downstairs in the Hardiman Building. This provides supervised study space for an additional 25 students, with social distancing and virus control measures in place. You can reserve a place – along with all other available study spaces on campus – through the Library booking system.
  • Sitting Online Exams on Campus: We know from our students that not all of you have a suitable environment at home in which to sit your online exams. For some of you, your home environment has too many distractions or your wifi connection is unreliable.

During the exam period, we will be providing quiet, supervised space on campus for students to come with their laptops to sit scheduled exams. These spaces will have social distancing and virus control measures in place.

These spaces will be for students sitting scheduled online exams only and you will be required to show proof that you have a scheduled exam at that time.

If you wish to avail of this service, please use this form - https://forms.office.com/r/N7ucxb3nAU -  to indicate the time slots that you need, so that our team can reserve a space on campus for you. Closing date for exam space reservations: Friday 7 May.

Exam information: For up-to-date information on exam timetables, regulations and policies, visit: www.nuigalway.ie/exams

 Preparing for the next academic year

Throughout the pandemic, our research community has played a significant role in providing data, evidence and expertise in the fight against Covid-19. Our university community has contributed from multiple perspectives in addressing specific health challenges, innovating technology, studying human behaviour and debunking misinformation – reaching outwards and sharing their knowledge locally, nationally and internationally to beat the virus.

Our university has benefited hugely from the support of public health experts based in our city and region. HSE West and the Saolta Hospitals Group have shared data and advice with us that has helped us mitigate virus spread within our university community.

Today, I am pleased to say that we are yet again collaborating with the HSE and other universities on a programme of research to support students returning to campus for the next academic year. This research will provide important evidence for us in determining the best ways to ensure that we can open safely and confidently.

On Wednesday, RTÉ Radio 1 Drivetime spoke to Professor Charles Spillane (Ryan Institute) and some of our students about the impact of Covid-19 on higher education and the potential for Covid testing programmes to help reopen our campuses. We are looking forward to announcing more details on this important work over the coming weeks. But in the meantime, you can listen back here.

HEA Sexual Health study

Last week, the Higher Education Authority launched an important national survey to monitor the experiences of staff in relation to sexual violence and harassment. The anonymous data will help to inform national equality, diversity and inclusion planning processes. We want your input.

I would encourage all colleagues to take 10-15 minutes of their time to respond to this important survey at: https://forms.office.com/r/qBiHSsiQmM

All-Staff Forums – Mark Your Diaries!

As the academic year draws to a close, we will be inviting colleagues to come together virtually for a number of all-staff webinars. This is your opportunity to get up-to-speed on recent news and initiatives, and join in the debate as we look to the months ahead.

  • Town Hall Meeting, Research & Innovation: 2pm on Friday 23 April

Vice-President for Research and Innovation, Professor Jim Livesey invites all NUI Galway staff involved in research to join him and a panel of speakers to engage in shared issues of interest, including the impact of Covid on our research community, review of research accounts, and the new Research and Innovation Strategy. See last week’s all-staff email from ‘VP Research’ for event details and link.

  • All-Staff Webinar: 11.30am on Tuesday 11 May

Our final All-Staff Webinar of this academic year is an opportunity for us to come together virtually to mark an exceptionally challenging year in our history. Our panel will update you on recent developments and look ahead to the academic year to come. We will send you more information and a link to attend closer to the date. For now, please mark this date in your diaries, and should you have an issue that you would like addressed at the webinar, please email john.caulfield@nuigalway.ie no later than Friday 30 April.

Good luck!

Finally, some of our exams start earlier than others and today our Final Year Medicine students sit an important exam. We wish them the best of luck in their exams, and thank them most sincerely for the contribution they have made to our efforts – locally and nationally – to beat the virus, preserve life and support our health system over the past 14 months. We know now more than ever the value of those working in healthcare – our students, our graduates and our colleagues – and thank them once more most sincerely for their continuing efforts on our behalf, with us, for the public good.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Update for Staff and Students - Monday 12 April

Dear colleague,

I hope you had a safe and restful Easter break.

As we return to teaching this week, I would like to take the opportunity once more to thank all of you who make this possible, continuing to abide by the public health guidelines. When this pandemic started, I don’t think any of us anticipated that we would be so restricted in our movements for two Easter breaks and that we would need to make so many sacrifices to help keep our community safe. By holding firm and continuing to abide by the guidance, you are doing everything you can to get our campus, city, region and country – our world – back open as quickly as possible.

In the words of Deputy Chief Medical Officer and distinguished graduate, Dr Ronan Glynn: “There are many reasons for hope as we head into a new week. If we can maintain our progress, vaccines and basic public health measures will be our way out of this pandemic.”

The view from the Covid frontline

This week, we have messages from two of our Medicine students, Evan and Julia, who share their perspective from the frontline on why it is so important that we continue to abide by the guidelines. They also offer some great tips for self-care at this challenging time. Playing our part and staying positive & Practicing self-care to pull through the pandemic

 Taking care of yourself

Many of our students and staff are now preparing for a second year of online exams. Each one of us is grappling with a year spent so much online and all the many restrictions to our daily lives. If you or someone you know needs support, there are lots of services here to help.

On-campus services

As teaching resumes this week, so too do the limited on-campus services, including:

  • An Bhialann – takeaway and sit-in services
  • Students’ Union shop
  • On-campus study spaces in the Library and Bailey Allen Hall

Extended Library study space opening hours: The Library study spaces are now operating extended opening hours:

  • 8.30am-10pm, Monday-Friday
  • 8.30am-5.30pm, Saturdays
  • 10am-5.30pm, Sundays

Library booking slots on weekdays are divided into morning, afternoon and evening slots, and students can now book up to two slots per day.

Exam spaces: Study space in the Bailey Allen Hall will be available to students during exams. Students who wish to sit their exam in the Bailey Allen Hall can use the online system to book the space.

We will continue to monitor demand and open additional spaces, safely and adhering to the public health guidelines, if and when we can. One of the primary risks in this regard is the risk of congregating outside these spaces and we continue to ask all of our university community to avoid such risks.

More information about Library services and booking is available here.

‘Trust, kindness and empathy’ 

We are now beginning to consider how life will be as we emerge from the pandemic. Planning for next year’s academic year is underway and will be discussed by our Academic Council this month. We will keep you updated in that regard as these plans develop. As always, we will be guided by public health advice and by how we progress as a society and as a community in dealing with the virus. One can therefore be hopeful of facilitating a return to our campuses, no doubt different than before but a return nonetheless.

More generally, the world of work, ways of working in a context characterised by change, decalcified by Covid, is one of those areas being imagined and reimagined. Remote working, our use of technology and space, and the resultant working relationships between colleagues and students have been and will undoubtedly be different – and different than anticipated. We will be surprised again.

Traditionally, management has sometimes been seen as requiring command and control, leadership as being tough and unyielding. The pandemic rendered these approaches even more implausible and impossible than they were before.

For quite a while now, in research and in practice, more progressive approaches see good management as the setting of a purpose (starting with why) and allowing colleagues to find their own best way to achieve that purpose, within a strong framework of policies and guidance. This is particularly so for knowledge organisations, learning organisations, like ours.

As set out in a recent publication by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) from their Future of Work Forum, there is an emerging literature in leadership that emphasises yet again the importance of those human ‘traits like resilience, agility, humility, authenticity, trust, empathy or even kindness. In the last year, these qualities have risen to the top of the pile. Indeed, even before the pandemic, there was growing evidence that these human factors were increasingly important to business success’.

I encourage colleagues and students to consider these thoughts on the future of work, the workplace (not necessarily any longer a particular place) to which we will return. They ‘provide some useful guidance for leaders who are facing this challenge. They point out practical ways to increase sustainability and run organisations with a sense of purpose.

‘They show how trustkindness and empathy are not just hollow words of intent but are built into everyday leadership actions.’

I would particularly emphasise the necessary pervasiveness of this latter point: trust, kindness and empathy are empty without being found in the lived experience of our university community every day. It is not enough to write them here, to advocate for them here: we all need the courage to exercise these aspects of our humanity every day for others. We all create the culture and the context in which we work together. Otherwise, it is an empty exhortation, sounding nice but not lived out.

There is a flipside. Trust also requires reciprocation. It allows us, expects us and therefore challenges us to be our best selves. The future of work.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

March 2021

Shared Frustration - Student/Staff update

2/3/2021

Dear colleague,

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

Shared Frustration

Over the last week, I have received two strands of correspondence, both frustrating and upsetting, from our university community and our neighbours, those with whom we share society. Our students contact me expressing their frustration that study spaces are not open on campus, articulating the value of the Library and sharing the real challenges posed by the constricted space in which they study. I share this frustration and, this week, in line with the Government timetable as previously indicated, we are letting you know of the controlled reopening of study spaces on campus, balancing the health and safety of students and staff and the need for accessible study spaces for our students.

Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share:

“I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flaunted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

One might reasonably contemplate the connection between these two sources of real frustration and upset as we cautiously reopen additional spaces on campus. Limitations on campus reopening impact us all profoundly and collectively. Adherence to public health guidelines is the responsibility of us all, individually and collectively. Both are deeply frustrating implications of Covid-19, particularly to the extent that they impact on our choices in life.

We ask all of our community to consider the consequences of our individual behaviours on the people we encounter over the coming weeks.

We continue to urge all of our university community to adhere to the public health advice and, specifically, to avoid congregating. Flouting public health guidelines brings unnecessary risk to health and life, it shows disrespect, it frustrates our communities, it lengthens the lockdown measures and it disheartens the majority of people who are making sustained sacrifices to beat this deadly virus.

Reopening Study Spaces on Campus

We have been informed by Public Health West that the outbreak of Covid-19 that they had identified in the student community has been largely contained. While there were a small number of cases among our students last week, this was greatly reduced from previous weeks. This will come as a relief to us all and we thank most sincerely those colleagues in the Student Health Unit, Campus Residences, our Security Team, Student Services, and Buildings and Estates, as well as our community partners, Public Health West and the gardaí, who helped to manage the outbreak to the best of our ability. We recognise too the many many students who supported them through their advocacy and positive behaviours.

Today the University Management Team approved the controlled reopening of Library study space. This decision was taken following a review of case numbers in the community and under the conditions permitted during Level 5 measures as outlined by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. It brings us in line with most other universities in the country.

  • Library Study Space: Open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday, from Monday 8 March to Thursday 1 April inclusive, at which time we will consult updated Government guidelines. As before, 135 study spaces will be available at 2-metre social distancing, with spaces reserved in advance via the LibCal booking system. There will be two available time slots – 9am-1pm and 1pm-5pm – of which users can book one slot per day. The successful control measures that were in place during Semester 1 will be implemented, including a requirement for appropriate use of PPE and cleaning protocols.

We will continue to monitor usage levels of the Library study space before considering the reopening of further study spaces on campus.

We will also continue to engage with Public Health West regarding prevalence of the virus in our community, and we will scale back or close facilities should we be advised to do so.

We also aim to open some limited catering facilities on campus for students and staff, initially on a takeaway basis only, to support the reopening of the Library study space. We will update our community on these plans in due course.

Opportunities to Connect

It is as important as ever to reach out to others, to connect, chat and collaborate through virtual events. Here are some opportunities to look out for in the coming days.

March Lunch Meetups: Our colleagues in Societies, Student Services, the Students’ Union, ALIVE and Clubs have come together to arrange a series of virtual lunchtime events for students in March. They take place 1pm-2pm, Monday-Thursday with each days focusing on a different College and a different year. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet students and staff in small groups in a fun relaxed atmosphere with games and opportunities to win prizes as well as find out about supports and opportunities. Additional information at: www.nuigalwayevents.ie/march-lunch-meetups

Monday, 8 March – Thursday, 1 April

  • Monday: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies
  • Tuesday: College of Business, Public Policy and Law
  • Wednesday: College of Science and Engineering
  • Thursday: College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
  • Week 1, commencing 8 March: First Years
  • Week 2, commencing 15 March: Second Years (closed 17 March, doubled-up on 18 March)
  • Week 3, commencing 22 March: Third Years
  • Week 4, commencing 29 March: Fourth Years & Postgrads

Marchathon Step Challenge: Put a spring in your step this month by taking part in the Marchathon Step Challenge organised by the Students’ Union. Get your team of 3-6 people together now and register at: https://activetravellogger.ie. There are prizes for the most active teams and best team names, free live workout classes online, and all of your contributions will help worthy SU charities in Galway. More information about the challenge is available at: www.marchathon.ie and you can contribute at: www.gf.me/u/y4ykb4

Seachtain na Gaeilge: Yesterday marked the start of Seachtain na Gaeilge – a two-week long celebration of the Irish language in our community. Thousands of our students and staff can speak Irish and hundreds of us use the language every day in our lives. No matter what your level of Irish from beginner to fluent, the language can be a wonderful way to express yourself and interact with others. Check out some of the events being organised by the Students’ Union here

Strength in Civility and Diversity

A third strand of communication from students and staff to me this week has related to social media, our social media policy and the extent to which we provide a safe space for all our students and staff. Everybody should feel safe as part of the NUI Galway community and we will in accordance with the terms of our policies and procedures vindicate the rights of our students and staff to their rights to free speech and their good name. Respect is a value to which we are all committed. It is the greatest of our values and the minimum expectation of students and staff.

One might consider it advisable to avoid stepping in to a live debate. However, I am moved to do so as there are important points to make, in general, in this regard. 

Social media, and the internet more generally, has been a lifeline to many of us this past year, as we seek to replace physical meet-ups with virtual ones. We have delighted in reading each other’s daily updates, shared our concerns and anxieties, showed off our new lockdown hobbies, and sent our love and appreciation to family, friends, healthcare workers and others that we admire in our community.

Social media can be an unpleasant place too – one of aggression, confrontation, bad language and name calling. We have seen this across all sectors of society. Too often, the size of the audience, the speed with which we can communicate, the lure of anonymity and the desire to play to the crowd encourage a coarsening of discourse that can have harmful and negative effects.

From my earliest days of student debates in this University, back in the 1980s, I learned that the louder the voice the less persuasive the argument. In my experience, the more considered opinions are the more convincing ones. At this time of profound change in society, we would all do well to reconsider the strength of civility and diverse voices in public discourse.

In particular, your attention is drawn to our social media policy: www.nuigalway.ie/media/studentservices/files/Social-Media-Policy-v4.0-Staff-and-Students-2020.pdf. The policy was updated in February 2020 in response to challenges at that time and attempts to balance the right to free speech and the right to safety and respect as a member of our university community, both profound rights which must be vindicated and which characterise the decency and values of any university and NUI Galway in particular.

We do not routinely monitor social media interactions of our community and are therefore normally reliant on inappropriate content or suspected breaches of our social media policy being brought to our attention. As and when appropriate under our policies, we must and will follow up on any and all such reports without fear or favour.

University that Values Openness, Respect and Diversity

Two of the core values that our community chose to guide our university strategy are Openness and Respect. As a learning institution and as a meeting place for people and ideas, these values can have a transformative impact on how we view the world around us – and impact it for the better.

Words matter and I urge all of our university community to take care of each other in that regard.  All members of our university community have a right to expression but, more importantly, self-expression and identity. This gives us strength as a place of learning and of living but, importantly, provides a safe place for us all to be our best selves.

Words are however empty without action.

Combatting Sexual Violence: On 1 March we launched “Start Here”, an 8-week social media campaign presented by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent, USI and Galway Rape Crisis Centre. This campaign empowers our students and staff with basic information to respond to disclosures of sexual violence and harassment.

“Start Here” furthers Minister Simon Harris’s call for the higher-education sector to tackle and take seriously sexual violence and harassment through direct action and engagement while continuously centralising the needs of survivors. The timing of this campaign launch also follows directly on Higher Education Institutions’ submission of Action Plans for the Consent Framework giving all those within our higher education institutions an immediately tangible and actionable call to action which can inform and engage staff and students around these issues.  

As President of NUI Galway, I am determined that these words will not be empty words and that we will use all the tools at our disposal to create a safe environment for our staff and our students. I encourage all those who see it or are subjected to it to disclose any inappropriate activity or language that undermines this determination through the appropriate channels.  Such disclosures will be listened to and acted upon appropriately.

Furthermore, I would like to share two recent updates putting making those values of Openness and Respect real in our lived experience as a community.

LGBT+ Support, Research and Advocacy: Last week, colleagues in our Health Promotion Research Centre launched a report into the lives of young LGBT+ people in Ireland. The ‘Connected, Respected, and Contributing to Their World’ report showed that LGBT+ adolescents were more likely to feel discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and that some LGBT+ groups were less likely to report high family support or having a caring adult whom they can trust. More info

Though the findings are alarming and dispiriting, they are sadly not surprising. On behalf of our wider university community, in case it needs reiterating, which it shouldn’t, I remind our LGBT+ students and staff that our university will continue to be a safe and welcoming place for you. You are as valued and as important as every other member of our university. We are better that we are all ourselves, our best selves. In a respectful and open community, discrimination against students and staff based on their sexuality is simply and firmly rejected by us all.

Traveller Ethnicity Day: Yesterday, we celebrated Traveller Ethnicity Day in the university with a series of high-profile virtual events organised by our Access Office. The programme included insights into Traveller culture, history and social issues today, and among the speakers were Minister Simon Harris and Senator Eileen Flynn. We are also better as a university because we have and have had members of the Travelling Community as our students, our colleagues and on our Governing Authority. We have much to learn. You can hear stories from some of our students from the Travelling community here

No one should feel threatened or unsafe in our community. Disrespectful and inappropriate behaviour or language has no place in our university or in our society.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway 

February 2021

A call for Sense and Solidarity - Student/Staff update

22/2/2021

Dear colleague,

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

As we await a Government announcement later this week on the revised plan for Living with Covid, we can anticipate that many restrictions will remain in place for the weeks to come.

This has been a frustrating start of semester for us all. At the end of last semester, we contemplated the possibilities of doing more on campus than we had in Semester 1. We started Semester 2, however, doing less on campus and challenged once more to do more online. As we continue to plan for the weeks ahead, we ask for your continued understanding and patience as we continue to navigate this crisis together.

 call for sense and solidarity

The number of Covid-19 cases in our student community is still far too high. This means that we are still not in a position to open study or other public spaces on campus. We are very conscious of the value of having study and other spaces on campus available for our students and staff and will therefore continue to review on-campus provision in the light of case numbers in the community and Government advice for the period beyond 5 March.

 While we thank the majority of students who continue to adhere to public health advice, we must reaffirm our value of respect – respect for evidence, respect for expertise, respect for others and respect for sustaining life.

 As we seek to eliminate the virus from our community in Galway and across the country, our distinguished graduate, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn made a short and simple appeal to us all. We repeat his words here:

 “The ultimate and the strongest tool that we have is people's buy-in and people's willingness to protect themselves and their families at an individual level. If we lose that, nothing else will work.”

 As from the beginning, the power to beat this deadly virus rests in our collective efforts and spirit. We are asked to redouble our efforts to stand with the most vulnerable in society as we wait for the vaccination programme to take effect.

 Our University continues to engage with Public Health West, and we are most grateful for the proactive care of Dr Eoin Mac Donncha of our Student Health Unit and his colleagues and the direct and practical advice shared with us by Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health Medicine, HSE West, and her colleagues. Most importantly, we reiterate her advice:

 “If you develop symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, such as cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss or change in sense of taste or smell, you should isolate in your room immediately and contact your GP or the Student Health Unit for further advice. All your household contacts should then restrict their movements.

 “Covid-19 is very variable, with some people experiencing severe symptoms, others experiencing mild symptoms and many experiencing no symptoms at all. Whether or not you have symptoms, you can still pass the virus on to others. I urge you to comply with basic public health advice:

 STAY HOME … [where you are]

  • Wash your hands; Wear a mask; Stay apart
  • Do not congregate
  • Do not go to work if you are a case or a close contact
  • Do not travel home to your parents and family if you are a case or a close contact”

 time of crisis

The word ‘crisis’ conjures in our minds a short and sudden moment of emergency. However, this pandemic has shown time and again that crisis can ebb and flow over time and manifest itself in many different ways. We can suffer medical crises, emotional crises, financial crises, among others. Please remember that whatever you are going through, there is help at hand.

 NUIG 50808 – Crisis Textline: If you are experiencing a crisis of any kind, there is no need to suffer in silence. NUIG 50808 is a free and confidential 24/7 text response service available to all NUI Galway students or staff members experiencing a personal crisis, such as in your relationships or finances, through loneliness, bereavement, job loss, assault, high anxiety or low mood. By simply texting 'NUIG' to 50808 you will receive a reply within 5 minutes from a highly trained and motivated volunteer who will provide a warm listening ear and help you to find local supports and services. Your family and friends can also avail of this service by texting ‘Hello’ to 50808.

 Online Student Services: Our Student Services – like Counselling, Accommodation and Welfare, the Student Health Unit and the Chaplaincy – continue to offer remote services at this time, via phone, email and MS Teams. See how you can avail of the support of these caring professionals in the Important Contacts section of the Alerts page.

 Employee Assistance Service: Our HR team would like to remind you of the range of wellbeing supports available to staff through our Employee Assistance Service. You can find more details about services like counselling, mental health support, and parenting, financial and legal advice on the Employee Wellbeing website.

 Financial Aid and Advice

The pandemic has impacted all aspects of society, including our work, income, spending and finances. For many of us, we have been sheltered from the greatest impacts through income protection and government supports, but for others – in particular for many of our students – the loss of part-time work has caused financial uncertainty and anxiety at this time.

 In providing financial support to our students, it is important to focus those limited resources on the most vulnerable and needy. To date, our Financial Aid Fund, Hardship Emergency Fund and Laptop Loans Scheme have been means-tested to ensure that they have the greatest impact on the most disadvantaged students. We would like to remind students that some of our Financial Aid Fund schemes are still open for application. The HEA has doubled its contribution to the University for EU students and the University has increased its contribution to these funds by an additional €100,000 to date, in order to assist International students who are experiencing financial distress caused by Covid-19. We would strongly encourage students experiencing financial difficulties to apply to the Hardship Emergency Fund.

 You can find out more about the Financial Aid Fund here: www.nuigalway.ie/financialaidfund

 Our International Office continues to engage with our international student community on their needs at this time.

 As part of our Staff Wellbeing programme, Bank of Ireland is providing a range of 1:1 clinics and financial wellbeing webinars for NUI Galway staff over the coming weeks:

• 3 March, 12pm: Introduction to Financial Wellbeing Webinar

• 7 April: Financial Advice Clinics – 1:1 Virtual Appointments

• 5 May: Budgeting Webinar

• 2 Jun: Financial Advice Clinics – 1:1 Virtual Appointments

• 7 July, 12pm: Going Green for Financial Wellbeing Webinar

Look out for upcoming workshops in the An Dialann weekly listing.

 If you are interested in a 1:1 session, please email workplacebanking@boi.com to arrange an appointment.

 International Mother Language Day

Yesterday marked UNESCO International Mother Language Day, an opportunity to reflect on the joy of using language, the importance of preserving linguistic heritage and the benefits of linguistic diversity.

 Our university is rightly proud of the unique role we play in promoting scholarship in the Irish language and serving our Irish-speaking communities through our Gaeltacht centres. Colleagues in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures help to develop passions and skills in many different languages, including French, Gaeilge, German, Italian and Spanish. We are among Ireland’s most international student and staff communities, located in Ireland’s most diverse city, and in normal times our canteens, hallways and campus echo with many different accents, dialects and languages as staff and students engage with each other in their mother tongue. In this time of isolation, we miss the colour that multilingualism can bring to life.

As Heinrich Böll, the German who wrote so fondly of his time in Ireland, has written (‘The Paris Review’, Spring 1983):

Behind every word a whole world is hidden that must be imagined. Actually, every word has a great burden of memories, not only just of one person but of all mankind. Take a word such as bread, or war; take a word such as chair, or bed or Heaven. Behind every word is a whole world. I'm afraid that most people use words as something to throw away without sensing the burden that lies in a word.

To mark the day in some small way, I would like to share this blessing with all of our students and staff:

Sláinte chugaibh is beannachtaí oraibh. Wishing you all good health and blessings. Nous vous souhaitons une bonne santé et de bonnes affaires. Alles Gute, vor allem Gesundheit. Les deseamos mucha salud y bendiciones. 祝大家身体健康,万事如意!आप सभी के अच्छे स्वास्थ्य और आशीर्वाद की कामना.

 Once more into the breach

This has been a time that has left us wondering about community, communication and choice and about human nature, left with no more to say this week in concluding this message other than, to put it simply, please abide by the public health advice of our public health experts (above), people who know what they are talking about. Following this advice means that, to put it positively and in order of importance in life and for life, more people – our family, friends and members of our community – will stay alive and will stay well, our health service – our colleagues – will be better able to care for those who need care, and our society and our campuses and campus spaces will reopen more safely and, therefore, more quickly.

 We thank the vast majority of our university community who adhere to this reality.

 Kind regards,

Ciarán.

 Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Student/Staff update from University President

15/2/2021

Dear colleague,

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

I hope that you have had a chance to reconnect with students and classmates over the past week, as we continue to settle back into Semester 2. In these strange times, it is more important than ever to connect with each other and to remind ourselves in our remoteness of the things that hold us together. We stay together by staying apart.

In recent days, as snow – flurries but snow nonetheless – came to the West of Ireland, there was a flurry too of photos and videos shared among friends and families. The simple pleasure of observing changes in the weather, rebirth in nature and the lengthening of the day brings us all a sense of shared experience and humanity. As we all continue to struggle with the ongoing restrictions to normal life, let us not forget to see the wonder in the everyday and to check in with friends and colleagues from time to time.

For far too many of us, we have also connected at this time through shared condolences on the loss of loved ones. Let us continue to honour those we have lost to Covid-19 in our community by redoubling our efforts to stop the virus from spreading.

Concern at Covid cases in Galway

The case numbers of Covid-19 in Galway remain stubbornly high with around 800 cases reported in the county in the past fortnight. Our colleagues in Public Health West have expressed concern that the numbers are not falling, despite the Level 5 restrictions in place. The circulation of the virus in our community is evidenced in deaths in families and care homes in the county. Public Health West have asked us all to remain vigilant and adhere to the public health guidelines at this critical time.

As we alerted over the weekend, the HSE’s Public Health West informed us of an outbreak of Covid-19 among students in Galway in recent days. A Public Health Risk Assessment had been undertaken and many close contacts of known cases were identified. While most of our students continue to observe the rules for the sake of their own health and that of their friends and families, there is worrying evidence of socialising between places of residence or households in breach of the public health advice. 

As before, we have consulted with Public Health West on the most effective and appropriate response and have implemented that advice, including communicating directly with the students potentially concerned.

Today we would like to reiterate:

  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Stay apart
  • Do not congregate
  • Practice Respiratory Etiquette
  • Download the Covid App

Further information on Covid-19 is available at: www.hpsc.iehttps://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus and www.gov.ie. The HSE has a helpline for general queries related to Covid-19 at 1850 241850.

We urge all our university community to follow the current public health advice for the good of us all. Thank you to all those students and staff who continue to adhere to those guidelines in these challenging times. Thank you also to Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health Medicine, HSE West and her colleagues for their continued advice and support to us, for the public good, and to all our colleagues most closely engaged with our response.

Bridging the digital divide

A new initiative supported by our Access Centre is seeking to provide laptops and computers to underprivileged families in our community. The #Tech2Students campaign aims to deliver more than 5,000 devices nationwide by encouraging businesses and individuals to donate money or unused devices. In partnership with Trinity College Dublin and Camara Ireland, the Access Centre has teamed up with our colleagues in Insight, the Galway City Partnership and Galway Chamber, as part of a drive to bridge the digital divide for post-primary school students.

Imelda Byrne, Head of our Access Centre, puts the campaign in perspective: “Remote learning is a challenge to all students, but in particular to those who have no access to a device. We are appealing to members of the public and businesses who are in a position to support this scheme to donate and to contribute to minimising the digital divide faced by thousands of young people.”

Find out more information, and see how you can help, at: www.nuigalway.ie/accesscentre/tech2students

Recent Covid-19 Research News

  • How do we cope with life during Covid-19? A new study in the School of Psychology is seeking 1,000 participants to explore adult coping mechanisms during Covid-19. The study will explore the relationship between adverse events in people’s childhood and their coping styles during this enduring pandemic. To find out more about the study or to sign up as a participant, please click here.
  • Covid-19 and the GAA: A new study co-published by Dr Seán Crosson in the School of English and Creative Arts examines the impact of the pandemic on Gaelic Games in Ireland during the first lockdown. The study examines Covid-19’s impact through an analysis of the media discourses surrounding these sports, identifying the key themes that emerged at this very particular time in the sport’s history. Read more

Connecting through shared passions, hobbies and conversations

There are so many opportunities to connect with other students and staff through our calendar of virtual events. Many webinars, workshops and training sessions continue to be held online throughout the week. We have picked out a few highlights below, but you can see a full listing at www.nuigalway.ie/virtual-events

  • Wellbeing – Why not join in the online mindfulness shared practice, every Tuesday and Friday morning – 8:15am to 8:45am. They are open to all and are led by Dr Eva Flynn, our colleague in the Discipline of General Practice. Intrigued? More information and registration at www.nuigalway.ie/mindfulway  
  • Music – Arts in Action kicks off with a concert by Sharon Shannon on Wednesday at 1pm. Register for this free concert today by clicking here.
  • Singing – The popular sean-nós singing workshops hosted by our Centre for Irish Studies are back! Beginning Wednesday at 7pm, our Sean-nós Singer in Residence, Saileog Ní Cheannabháin, will share her music, knowledge and singing style with participants. Galway is renowned for its traditional singing tradition and this is your chance to learn a song from one of our most celebrated voices. The workshops are free and open to everyone – go on, give it a try! More information here
  • Art – Free online art classes: Marina Wild's art classes are starting again this week, via Zoom and free of charge this term. Limited places still available for Tuesdays 1-2pm, Tuesdays 4:30-5:45pm and Thursdays 1-2pm. Duration: Five weeks. To express your interest, contact marina.wild@nuigalway.ie making sure to indicate the day and time that suits you best.
  • Network – Our LGBT+ Staff Network will host a special webinar to coincide with their AGM on Thursday. Guest speakers include Dr Mary McAuliffe (UCD) and Dr Declan Coogan from our School of Political Science and Sociology. It’s open to all, so please come along – Zoom login details here

Podcasts, poetry, books and audiobooks: Seeking staff recommendations! Wellbeing will be one of the focuses of our All-Staff Webinar on 24 February. In advance, we would like you to share any podcast, poetry, book or audiobook recommendations you have for your colleagues at this time. With so much stress and screen-time at present, your recommendation for things to read and listen to might help other staff switch off and take their minds off the pandemic. Submit your recommendations here.

Snow

I mentioned at the beginning the coming of snow – flurries but snow nonetheless – last week. This reminded me of the Belfast poet Louis MacNiece’s ‘Snow’.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was

Spawning snow and pink roses against it

Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:

World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,

Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel

The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world

Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes—

On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands—

There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

As a celebration of an ‘incorrigibly plural’ world, ‘of things being various’ is a very powerful phrase – and apposite at this time. There’s a sameness look to snow until you get into it and then it gets slippy, slushy and messy. And the longer it goes on, the slippier, the slushier and the messier it gets.

Many of us have a sense of the sameness of our limited routines right now. But for each of us, our routines are different. Our own experience of current restrictions may – and for many may not – have a sense of monotony across time but between people, our experiences are very different, various, incorrigibly plural. We are all challenged every day in profoundly different ways.

There are, for example, many of us – some who have contacted me over the last few months – who sometimes feel more lonely, more sad, when here and elsewhere we encourage connection. For many, technology does not enable connection or the way we are in the world does not facilitate contact. I encourage staff and students – those who find it easy and those who find it hard – to think about how we might this week and at this time make this life’s journey easier for us all. This demands us to question not how we would find it easier but how those with whom we journey would find it easier, maybe asking them in the first instance rather than thinking – well-intentioned though it may be – that our way –  the way, it may seem, of everybody else – is best.

I am also often reminded these days of one of those books that started what is called ‘The Quiet Movement’, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. In that best-selling book, in a world of flurry and of noise where being engaged and engaging is seen as a virtue, she challenges us as educators to see and seek out the value of those quiet students and as human beings to see the potential of reflection … and of quiet. See her 2012 TedTalk which she opens by remembering reading ‘as roaming around an adventureland inside your own mind’ (https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts).

Our world is crazier currently and more of it than we think.

 Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Sustaining Each Other in Semester 2: Student/Staff update from University President

8/2/2021

A chairde,

As we commence a new semester on campus, in this most difficult of years, we know that we will be faced with many challenges, frustrations and pressures over the next 12 weeks. But we also know that we are doing important work and impactful work. As we welcome back students to our virtual classrooms, we reaffirm our university’s vital role in sharing knowledge, opening minds and helping others to fulfil their potential.

Wishing you all good health for the semester to come, as we sustain each other at this most challenging time.

Giving each other space this semester

At this time, I reflect on a memorable line by Marilynne Robinson in her 2020 novel Jack, where she writes: ‘The intellect can share its wealth without diminution’.

The same could be said of respect. And generosity. Not only are they not diminished by being shared, they are extended.

Sadly, this is not the case with our time and our energy, which are all too easily and quickly expended. We know that many staff and students are struggling to balance the pressures of home life, work life and studies at this time, particularly those of you with caring responsibilities. Many of you are homeschooling children or caring for sick loved ones. This can be frustrating and exhausting.

At this most challenging time, time which is not without diminution, we have come to realise that we are together experiencing a marathon and not a sprint. Marathons are not only long and enduring but they often have rough and hilly terrain. We all need to take steps now to sustain ourselves and those around us. Work responsibilities that are time-critical should be prioritised and others, where not time-sensitive, deferred to create space for a sustainable work-life balance. When sending emails, setting up meetings or setting deadlines, please consider reducing the burden on colleagues who may be under particular pressure at this time. Let’s give each other the space over the coming weeks to sustain each other through Semester 2.

Semester 2 exams principles

To give our students and staff as much clarity as possible for the weeks ahead, with the health and safety of our people as our top priority at all times, we have agreed a set of principles for online exams this semester. You can read the full document on the Exams policies website, but I would like to highlight some key highlights below:

  • The majority of Semester 2 assessments will take place remotely or online.
  • In a limited number of cases, on-campus exams will be facilitated, where essential due to strict accreditation requirements. Proof of accreditation requirements must be provided and colleagues must have exhausted all other options with regard to acceptable alternative assessment types with the Accreditation Bodies prior to submitting a request for an on-campus exam.
  • We are conscious that our students sometimes cannot attend on-campus exams due to local travel restrictions, illness, COVID symptoms, self-isolation, family members in high-risk category or for other valid reasons. In these instances, they can defer on-campus exams to autumn or be permitted to sit under alternative arrangements.
  • It is planned to run a proctoring pilot for a small number of in-house exams taking place from March 2021. Students whose IT equipment does not meet the technical requirement for proctoring will need to complete an invigilated exam on campus. Affected students will receive more information about Proctoring in advance of these exams.

The evolution of the pandemic in Ireland has been difficult to predict. While some progress has been made in recent weeks to reduce the number of cases, the spread of the virus remains stubbornly high and there remains substantial pressure on our health system. We must plan ahead with that in mind, and we hope that the information above will help provide clarity to students and staff as we look ahead to the end of the semester and the summer exam period.

We are very aware of the continuing levels of Covid-19 in the community and the need for continuing caution in that regard. We are also conscious of the importance of the Library as a central resource for students and staff. We will therefore continue to monitor the situation locally and nationally, and take public health advice with regards to the gradual reopening of services, including the Library, when we can, prioritising health and safety as always. Mindful that some other university academic libraries are open on a limited basis and that some others are not, we will continue to keep you informed of our plans. We know from our students that this is an important decision and will do all we can to reopen spaces when it is safe to do so in the context of the risks of transmission of Covid-19.

Recent Covid-19 Research News

PANDEM-2 – improving the EU response to future pandemics: NUI Galway has been awarded almost €10 million funding by the EU to develop a suite of novel concepts, services and IT systems to improve how the EU prepares for and responds to future pandemics. The two-year project, known as PANDEM-2, aims to create a more consistent and futureproof approach to pandemic management.This is a very significant investment in our expertise in improving health and enhancing policy. PANDEM-2 will enable the simulation of future pandemics and improve management of critical resources including hospital beds, PPE and vaccines.

We would like to commend the leadership and expertise of our colleague Professor Máire Connolly, who is PANDEM-2 Coordinator. Our university – and our country – has benefited hugely from Máire’s expertise in this area as we navigate this pandemic, and we are fortunate that she will continue this critical role in the work of PANDEM-2. Another inspiring colleague, Professor Jim Duggan, who has also been providing his expertise to NPHET through the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, will bring his expertise on computer science and data to bear on the project. We wish them, the wider team and the various project partners every success with their important work. Read more

Virtual Events

Re-Orientation Day: Staff and students across our support services, Societies, Clubs and Students’ Union are eager to welcome back our students for Semester 2. Re-Orientation day is a jam-packed programme of online events on Wednesday, 10 February to help students make friends and find out how to connect with other students and develop new passions in the semester to come. All students are invited to visit www.nuigalwayevents.ie throughout the day for:

  • Clubs and Societies Fair (12pm-4pm)
  • Workshops (12pm-4pm)
  • NUI Galway Supports Q&A (4pm-6pm)
  • Social Events (From 6pm)

Students can join Clubs and Societies and much more by logging into YourSpace with their College ID & Password. www.yourspace.nuigalway.ie

Arts in Action: At times of disillusionment and isolation, at a time when we are reimagining our humanity, the arts can raise our sights and hopes in extraordinary ways. In that context, we are pleased to see the return of Arts in Action, our flagship programme of arts events, which will be hosted online this semester with a range of concerts and performances from February to May. See the full programme here.

Arts in Action will be launched by celebrated musician and our honorary doctorate holder, Dr Sharon Shannon, on Wednesday 17 February and you are all invited to join in. See how to register here.

This will be the first Arts in Action programme to be presented following the death of the programme’s founding director and curator, Mary McPartlan, the accomplished folk singer and educator, in spring 2020. In celebration of Mary’s passion for the arts, the theme of this 2021 programme is 'art as legacy’. We will think of her and honour her legacy as we continue to celebrate the power of culture and creativity despite all of life’s challenges.

I remember meeting Mary on Newcastle Road in the autumn of 2019. It feels like another world now. She crossed the road with her characteristic exuberance to let me know of her exciting plans for Arts in Action and to make arrangements for the then upcoming performance of another honorary doctorate holder of NUI Galway, Dr Martin Hayes. We had a great conversation, which I now wish time had extended.

Her recurring illness kept Mary from Martin’s performance and took her from us in the spring of 2020. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Intellect, respect and generosity, shared without diminution. And humanity extended.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway 

Focus on Wellbeing: Student/Staff update from University President

1/2/2021

A chairde,

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

Today is a significant day in the traditional calendar as it marks the beginning of spring. This may be puzzling for our international students and staff – and indeed for many Irish students and staff – who consider spring to begin in March. But according to tradition in Ireland, the first day of February, often called Saint Brigid’s Day or Lá ‘le Bríde, marked the ancient Gaelic festival of Imbolc. Going back to the earliest Gaelic manuscripts, it was a time of hope, celebration and purification as the earth emerged from its winter dormancy. If history had been gendered differently, today may well have been our national holiday.

As the days grow longer, as trees prepare to bud and bulbs emerge from the soil, we can look to brighter days ahead. This gives us hope in dark times.

A Focus on Wellbeing

We too must prepare ourselves for the weeks ahead – as we begin a new semester that will undoubtedly bring challenges to us all. At this time, like no other, we are struggling to balance the pressures of study, work and life, while being cut off from many of the support networks upon which we normally draw.

We think of the many students who are trying to find the right routine and space to continue with their studies, the many staff and students who are attending to work duties and family duties, those of us who have caring responsibilities and concerns, and all of us who are undoubtedly anxious about our own health and the health of loved ones. Over the past few months, and particularly more recently, I have received many sad messages – some of the saddest in my time in university life – of students and colleagues finding these challenging times a struggle, messages chronicling great hope and achievement dashed by Covid-19.

At this time, I urge you to consider drawing on the supports available to students and staff, which I share with you again below.

Are you coping with the pressures of study, work and life? Are you sustaining good mental and physical health? Do you have someone to confide in when you feel down? If the answer to any of these questions is no, please consider reaching out for help. There are lots of supports to draw on at this uniquely challenging time for us all.

  • NUIG 50808 - Crisis Textline: If you are experiencing a crisis of any kind, there is no need to suffer in silence. NUIG 50808 is a free and confidential 24/7 text response service available to all NUI Galway students or staff members experiencing a personal crisis, such as in your relationships or finances, through loneliness, bereavement, job loss, assault, high anxiety or low mood. By simply texting 'NUIG' to 50808 you will receive a reply within 5 minutes from a highly trained and motivated volunteer who will provide a warm listening ear and help you to find local supports and services. Your family and friends can also avail of this service by texting ‘Hello’ to 50808.
  • Online Student Services: Our Student Services – like Counselling, Accommodation and Welfare, the Student Health Unit and the Chaplaincy – continue to offer remote services at this time, via phone, email and MS Teams. See how you can avail of the support of these caring professionals in the Important Contacts section of the Alerts page.
  • Employee Assistance Service: Our HR team would like to remind you of the range of wellbeing supports available to staff through our Employee Assistance Service. You can find more details about services like counselling, mental health support, and parenting, financial and legal advice on the Employee Wellbeing website.
  • Virtual Events: There are lots of online events taking place each week, offering a chance to broaden your mind, develop skills and connect with others. Keep an eye out for the Students’ Union Weekly News & Events email (sent to all students on Thursdays) and the An Dialann weekly news and events ezine (sent to staff on Fridays), and check in on the Virtual Events page, which is linked from the Alerts page.
  • February Kilometre Challenge: Register here for the Students’ Union Charity Challenge for February. Join the hundreds of students and staff who are setting personal targets to clock up as many kilometres as they can for charity by walking, jogging or running over the next four weeks. Your efforts will help support the Galway Rape Crisis Centre, Galway Autism Partnership and Helplink Mental Health. 
  • Staff Wellbeing: The Wellbeing team in HR is looking for new ways to support our staff at this time, with planned initiatives aimed at improving mental and physical health. Look out for their announcements over the comings weeks, or suggest new ways for staff to connect by emailing: wellness@nuigalway.ie

Recent Covid-19 Research News

  • Understanding Covid-19 Infection: A team of researchers within our Advanced Glycoscience Research Cluster has discovered how human respiratory cells respond to the invading Covid-19 virus. Their study has identified the proteins and carbohydrates on these cells in response to infection from the coronavirus. Professor Lokesh Joshi, Stokes Professor of Glycosciences, described the significance of the findings: “This research will help us gain better insight on how our immune system responds to Covid-19 and the mutations in the virus, such as the variants identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.” The team hopes that the discovery will lead to more informative biomarkers and identification of therapeutic targets to combat Covid-19 and future pathogenic agent infections. Read more

Our new Governing Authority

Today, as we look to fresh starts and prepare for a new semester, we will also be hosting an introductory session for members of our new Governing Authority on their first day. (See membership here). There are many fresh faces among the staff, students, alumni and external members who were voted and appointed to the board last month and we will also be adding additional external representation and a new Cathaoirleach over the coming weeks. They represent strong, diverse voices and viewpoints from across our university community and our society more broadly. I look forward to welcoming them – new faces and returning members – to the Governing Authority later today and to working with them to build the success and sustainability of our university for many more semesters and springs to come.

We also mark this occasion by thanking all the outgoing members of Údarás na hOllscoile. We thank them for their valued and valuable time and wisdom. In particular, we thank the outgoing Cathaoirleach, Catherine McGuinness, for her commitment and deftness as Cathaoirleach of Údarás na hOllscoile since her appointment in 2013 and for her careful and sage counsel to me and many colleagues. Having served two terms as Cathaoirleach, we wish her the best for the future and look forward to keeping in touch with her. Go mba fada buan í.

Anois teacht an earraigh / Now comes the spring

Despite all of life’s challenges and anxieties, the advent of spring prompts in us hope, energy and renewal. As we pause this week to prepare for the semester ahead, I reflect on the words of Antaine Raiftearaí, one of the last of Ireland’s wandering bards. Blind from a young age, he travelled his native Mayo, as well as east Galway (where he is reputedly buried near Craughwell), composing and reciting poems of praise and satire for his patrons.

We remember his poem ‘Anois teacht an earraigh’ / ‘Now comes the spring’, which speaks to the optimism of this time, the potential for reconnecting and for growth. Within the opening lines, as he speaks of the stretching of the days and raising his sails in a new season, may we also find hope and energy for the weeks ahead.

Anois teacht an earraigh

beidh an lá dúl chun síneadh,

Is tar éis na féile Bríde

ardóidh mé mo sheol.

 ***

Now comes the spring,

The days will get longer,

And after St Brigid’s Day

I will raise my sail.

We may not be able to currently raise our sails beyond 5 kilometres, but we can raise our sights. Our education – as leading out – and our research – as finding out – have imagination as part of their equipment to extend our landscape. Education, research – and imagination – are needed now more than ever. At this time of noticeable renewal in the natural world, we hang on to the memories of good things past and, hopefully, can imagine and re-imagine in our mind’s eye a good and better future. An lá – agus muid féin – ag dul chun síneadh.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway 

January 2021

Student & Staff Update from University President prior to the beginning of Semester 2

26/01/2021

A chara,

I hope that you and your family are safe and well.

Exams have now ended for most of our students, and we encourage them all to take this time to refresh before the start of Semester 2, another challenging semester ahead. Our staff in Schools and Colleges are busy marking exams and assessments, uploading results, undertaking research and planning for the semester ahead. We thank you for your continuing commitment in challenging times.

This is a short update on the Covid situation here in Galway.

 Growing pressure on our hospitals

We continue to work closely with our colleagues in the Saolta Hospital Group and in public health regionally and nationally. We can be in no doubt of the severity of the Covid-19 crisis in our health system at this time.

Last week, the CEO of the Saolta hospital group, Tony Canavan, spoke to RTÉ Radio about the current situation in hospitals in Galway and the North West. He spoke about a ‘rapid surge’ putting our hospitals under extreme pressure. You can listen to that interview here.

Tony revealed some sobering statistics on the crisis in Galway, including:

  • Record figures for Covid-19 hospitalisations and ICU
  • 130+ Covid-19 hospitalisations in Galway University Hospital
  • 380+ staff on Covid-19 leave, representing 10% of the workforce
  • Particularly worrying spread of the virus in Tuam, Galway city and Oranmore

Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health West, also spoke to RTÉ Radio expressing concern at the ongoing rise in cases in Galway, from 140 cases in the week before Christmas to approximately 2,500 cases last week. Individual behaviours cause the spread of this virus in our community and we must all take a personal role in fighting the pandemic. You can listen to that interview here.

Throughout this pandemic, our healthcare workers have put in a huge effort to give Covid-19 patients the best care possible. These healthcare heroes are our people. In a broader sense, they are our parents, relatives, neighbours and friends. In a very specific university sense, many of them are NUI Galway staff and students who have been called upon to assist in the hospitals at this particularly challenging time. We thank them for their continuing efforts in the public interest.

Now, we need to stand in solidarity with our healthcare workers. In the words of Dr Breda Smyth and Tony Canavan, it is really important that we all reduce our contacts and ‘do what needs to be done’ to stop the spread of the virus in our community.

Planning for Semester 2

In that context, and as we plan for Semester 2, the Government has announced the continuation of current Level 5 measures and public health advice in that regard until Friday, 5 March. Therefore, only essential on-site activities should continue on campus until then. These essential on-site activities include all research activities, under the restrictions and guidelines which have operated since their re-opening during the summer.

In an effort to minimise the risk of congregating, given the current high level of community transmission, for Semester 2, the majority of teaching and learning will continue online/remotely, with some additional considerations as listed below.

For laboratory-, practical- and skills-based teaching and learning:

  • With the exceptions outlined below, all undergraduate teaching will be delivered online for the month of February. Where possible, for some modules, the timetable will be adjusted to accommodate on-campus delivery of laboratory-, practical- and skills-based teaching and learning later in the semester.
  • Laboratory-, practical- and skills-based teaching sessions and/or projects for Final Year students and for Postgraduate students in the College of Science and Engineering will proceed on campus, as originally planned, where it is possible to do so within capacity constraints and the public health guidelines
  • Given the need to liaise closely with the healthcare settings with which we co-operate, students in the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences will continue to be advised by their School/Programme Directors as to local restrictions and arrangements
  • Practical tuition in our Shannon College of Hotel Management will continue under the restrictions and guidelines in place in that regard since the beginning of Semester 1

For now, the Library will continue with Click-and-Collect and Scan-and-Deliver services only.

We will continue to review these arrangements, including access to the Library and other common spaces, in the light of case numbers in the community and public health advice in that regard.

In particular, we will continue to review and communicate to you our plans in the context of the evolution of the virus and Government decisions for the period after 5 March.  

Prioritising health and safety, we all very much regret having to change our plans for the beginning of Semester 2. We are very conscious of the continuing impact of these restrictions on the student experience and will continue to seek ways to meaningfully support our students in the context of public health advice.

Please continue to monitor the NUI Galway Alerts page for regular updates, for information on student and staff supports, for important contacts and for online events at this time.

In the meantime and at all times, we urge everyone to continue to observe the public health advice and the Government Level 5 guidelines.

  • Stay at home insofar as possible, limiting exercise to your immediate locality.
  • Reduce your contacts to the very minimum – every contact counts at this most worrying of times.
  • Act quickly on the first sign of symptoms – phone your GP or the Student Health Unit and follow their advice.
  • Self-isolate or restrict your movements if required to do so – see the latest video from the HSE
  • Adhere to the tried and tested methods of reducing virus spread – wash your hands, wear your face mask, maintain social distance and observe good respiratory etiquette.

A single moment of failure … could not determine my epitaph’

Last Wednesday marked the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States. I have just finished reading his 2007 memoir Promises to Keep

In it (pp. 235-236), he reflects on the year 1988. Prior to then, he had been a man in a hurry. One of the youngest ever Senators elected to the US Senate (he was elected at 29 and was at the required age of 30 when he took up his seat), he began his run for the Democratic nomination for President at the age of 46. Had he been elected then he would have been the second-youngest person elected president, after John F. Kennedy. That year, 1988, he had under a controversy withdrawn from the Democratic primaries and was subsequently diagnosed and operated on for a life-threatening aneurism.

Returning to the Senate after this year like no other in his life, ‘my sense of urgency was not so acute. The last year had taught me one big lesson: The only things that are truly urgent are matters of life and death. I was no less committed or passionate, but I no longer felt I had to win every moment to succeed… Most important I understood that a single moment of failure – even one so public and so wounding as the end of my presidential campaign – could not determine my epitaph’.

Last Wednesday, more than three decades later, Joe Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States with his Vice-President, Kamala Harris. In this time like no other, a lesson for us all.

As expressed by the extraordinary inaugural poet, the US’s National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, in her extraordinary poem, The Hill We Climb:

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?...

 

When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

 

Student & Staff Update from University President as Week 2 of exams commence

18/01/2021

A chara,

I hope you are keeping safe and well.

Today marks the beginning of Week 2 of Exams. We hope that the first week went well and we wish our students every success as they continue with these important assessments. Don’t forget to review the exam tips and guidelines on the Examinations Office website and the supports available to you at this time on the Alerts webpage.

Today is also Blue Monday – the third Monday of January – which is regarded as the gloomiest day of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of bills. This year, we have extra reason to feel anxious. We know that the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic is alarming and stressful. It has been tough going for us all, and a particularly sad and challenging time for those whose health – or the health of loved ones – is directly impacted.

We want to encourage you to focus on your wellbeing at this fragile time and to reach out and use the many supports that are available to you. We will be lighting up the Quadrangle blue this evening in solidarity with everyone who is struggling with the challenges of life at this time. We hope this will serve as a symbol of light in these dark days.

Covid-19 – a national and personal crisis

Cases of Covid-19 remain stubbornly high across the country and news headlines continue to bring worrying statistics about the number of hospitalisations and deaths. Indeed, the past fortnight has seen as many cases of the virus than in the entire period preceding it. We can see the impact on our hospitals here in Galway, where many of our staff and students are assisting with the pressures caused by increased numbers of patients and gaps in personnel. We are very grateful to them for their continued care for our community.

While many of us may not have been directly impacted by Covid-19 earlier this year, sadly, this is no longer the case. More and more of us are seeing the impact of the virus on our own health, and in our families and communities. To those students and staff who are suffering at this time – with illness, anxiety, isolation and bereavement – we are here for you. Please ask your friends and colleagues in the university for support to help you through this difficult time. If you are aware of a classmate or colleague who has been distant in recent weeks, now is the time to check in with them to see how they’re doing.

Keeping Yourself and Others Safe

At this critical time, we ask all of our people to continue to observe the public health advice and Government guidelines.

  • Stay at home insofar as possible, limiting exercise to your immediate locality.
  • Reduce your contacts to the very minimum – every contact counts at this most worrying of times.
  • Act quickly on the first sign of symptoms – phone your GP or the Student Health Unit and follow their advice.
  • Adhere to the tried and tested methods of reducing virus spread – wash your hands, wear your face mask, maintain social distance and observe good respiratory etiquette.

Student and Staff Supports

NUIG 50808 - Crisis Textline: If you are experiencing a crisis of any kind, there is no need to suffer in silence. NUIG 50808 is a free and confidential 24/7 text response service available to all NUI Galway students or staff members experiencing a personal crisis, such as in your relationships or finances, through loneliness, bereavement, job loss, assault, high anxiety or low mood. By simply texting 'NUIG' to 50808 you will receive a reply within 5 minutes from a highly trained and motivated volunteer who will provide a warm listening ear and help you to find local supports and services. Your family and friends can also avail of this service by texting ‘Hello’ to 50808.

Exam Stress Helplines: If you experience unmanageable exam stress, please don’t suffer in silence. Our support staff are available to talk it through and offer help and guidance: 9am-7pm, Monday-Friday during the exam period (11-22 January).

  • Call: (091) 497999
  • Email: examstress@nuigalway.ie
  • International calls/texts: +353 89 4623763
  • Video calls: available by appointment

Online Student Services: Our Student Services – like Counselling, Accommodation and Welfare, the Student Health Unit and the Chaplaincy – continue to offer remote services at this time, via phone, email and MS Teams. See you can avail of the support of these caring professionals in the Important Contacts section of the Alerts page.

Employee Assistance Service: Our HR team would like to remind you of the range of wellbeing supports available to staff through our Employee Assistance Service. You can find more details about services like counselling, mental health support, and parenting, financial and legal advice on the Employee Wellbeing website.

NUI Galway Staff Blue Monday Webinars: Spectrum, our Employee Assistance Service (EAS) provider, have created a series of staff webinars for Blue Monday, which will go live on the Spectrum Wellbeing platform on Wednesday 20 January at 12.30pm. Visit the site to discover how to stay connected, hold onto hope and build resilience at this difficult time. If you are a first-time user of EAP, please sign up as a new user at https://NUIG.spectrum.life/login?org=0VohvkYk.

Solidarity with survivors

Last week saw the publication of the Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission. Amidst the current challenges of all else, this moment cannot go unmarked.

I struggle for words in the light of the anger and anguish so well-expressed by those so profoundly affected by that dark aspect of our history and its continuing effects. We are grateful to those many of our colleagues who, over the past week and earlier, found those words. More so, we are grateful to those survivors for their stories – the evidence – of their unimaginable experiences. They have for a long-time been trying to have their voices heard. I, for one, feel inadequate in the light of their testimony.

Institutions of society – our society – contributed to, more so, committed violations of human rights against the most vulnerable among us. As President Michael D Higgins has commented, last week’s report is “not a conclusion, but an indication of the further work that is required to bring to light a fuller understanding of what occurred”. That bringing to light, that fuller understanding, is our clear and present responsibility as a society and as a university. Our openness, our respect, our values, will be tested here.

As a university, as their university, we had and have a role in shaping society. As a place of research, we seek, preserve and disseminate truth where it may be found. As a place of reflection, we hold a mirror to our society and to ourselves. As a place of education, we should also build a bridge to a better society where we can, hopefully, be better and do better together. 

This is not therefore a conclusion. And, struggling for words, there has been here an appropriate inversion of power. The dignity and the words, and in many cases, the siren-call silences of those most affected has been power-full. We cede the space, this ground, to them. How we respond, how we atone, how we are a different place as a consequence, should be their choice. We look forward to working with them, to listening and to reflecting and to acting with them. A part of us and not apart from us, this time is theirs.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

 

Student & Staff Update from University President as Semester 1 exams commence

11/01/2021

A chara,

Happy New Year! I hope you are keeping safe and well.

In these extraordinary times, the mission of our university continues, albeit in changed and challenging circumstances. Today marks another significant milestone in our academic calendar as most of our students embark on their Semester 1 exams. These assessments, through necessity, will be held online over the next two weeks, supported once more by the commitment and agility of our students and our academic and support services staff.

I want to share my sincere best wishes to all students in their coming exams. The past semester has been like no other and I hope that you will have the opportunity to demonstrate all that you have learned since September. We are mindful that the exams are being undertaken in challenging circumstances and hope that you get the chance to shine that your work and knowledge deserves.

I also want to share my sincere gratitude to those staff and students who have worked hard to plan and prepare for this exam session and those who continue to provide essential supports and services to our students – be they administrative, technical or pastoral – to help them adapt to the online exam environment.

Staying Safe

Our healthcare system continues to be under extreme pressure nationally and locally. More and more members of our community have been infected by Covid-19. Our hearts go out to them and to our frontline, healthcare workers – many of them our colleagues, family and friends – who continue, now more than ever, now more than expected, to support others, vulnerable and in need of help. Thank you.

For all of us, our number one priority continues to be to protect ourselves and others by adhering to public health advice and Government guidelines. These make a difference and are clearly laid out in the Level 5 measures now in place nationally. Please continue to:

  • Minimise your contacts: We are asked to stay at home insofar as possible, only coming to campus to carry out time-sensitive essential work. Where interactions are essential, please continue to observe social distancing and use face coverings in shared spaces.
  • Observe good hygiene: It is as important as ever to wash our hands thoroughly and regularly and to cover any coughs or sneezes to prevent virus spread.
  • Act quickly on symptoms: Observe your own health – if you experience any of the Covid-19 symptoms call a GP or the Student Health Unit immediately and follow their advice closely.

Semester 1 Exams

We are here for our students and would therefore like to reiterate some information and advice from our colleagues in the Examinations Office reproduced below:

  • Timetable: Know the time and date of your online exams. Click here to view your timetable. If you think there are modules missing from your timetable or that there are additional modules there by mistake, please read the important information in the Semester 1 Exams E-Zine on the Examinations Office website.
  • Exam Preparation:For many of us, exams can be a stressful time. Help reduce the anxiety by putting these simple preparations in place:
    • Examination Station: Set up an appropriate exam station in your home/room – choose somewhere that is as comfortable and free of distractions as possible with good access to power and wifi. Eat and drink before the exam, have a bottle of water close to hand during the exam that can be closed to avoid any spillages.
    • Exam Spaces on Campus: A limited number of spaces are available in the Bailey Allen Hall for students who cannot take online exams from home. These spaces must be booked in advance online and students must bring proof of a scheduled exam at that time.
    • Computer & Software: Ensure you have the correct software required installed on your PC/Laptop e.g. Microsoft Office Word or Excel. Make sure that you have a well-working laptop/PC and that your internet connection is reliable.
    • Test Run & Passwords: Know how and where to access each exam and the procedures involved, like any typing, printing, scanning, etc. If you need to know passwords, make sure you have them to hand. In case you have any issues uploading documents, know who to contact straight away.
    • Know the guidelines! Make sure you know the guidelines and the format of the exam. The most basic of these is to know how long you have to complete the test. If you are allowed any additional materials like calculators, dictionaries, have them ready as well.
    • Disability Support: If you are registered with the Disability Support Service, please ensure that your Module Coordinator is aware of the exam accommodations you are entitled too, and that you have downloaded and tested any additional software you will be using for your online exams.
    • Prevent Disruption: Talk to your family members or housemate and let them know you have an online exam. Ask them to refrain from bandwidth-intensive services and noisy activities during this time. We all know how stressful exams can be – don’t be afraid to ask for special consideration at this time!
    • Look after yourself: Try to get plenty of rest in the lead-up and during the exam period. Keep in touch with friends, family and classmates too.
    • Essential contacts: Know who to contact if you’re having difficulty logging in, taking the exam or uploading the exam. Know their preferred method for you to get in touch with them on the day. Have their contact details close to hand.

Exam Stress Helplines

If you experience unmanageable exam stress, please don’t suffer in silence. Our support staff are available to talk it through and offer help and guidance: 9am-7pm, Monday-Friday during the exam period (11-22 January).

  • Call: (091) 497999
  • Email: examstress@nuigalway.ie
  • International calls/texts: +353 89 4623763
  • Video calls: available by appointment

Semester 2

Looking beyond exams, Semester 2 will commence for most students on 8 February. We continue to plan to commence Semester 2 of this academic year as we concluded Semester 1 – in other words, with the majority of teaching and learning delivered online/remotely, with the exception of essential on-site teaching and learning, i.e. lab-based and practical tuition. We will update you more on our plans and preparations in the weeks ahead.

Stay safe, stay positive, stay connected. We continue to face these challenges together and with our community’s health and safety as our priority.

To end this message and to start a new year

Sometimes, in these challenging times, there is nothing more to say, no more quotable quotes, and being there matters more. So for the moment and in the moment, please find here a message of solidarity as we come into a new year.  

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway‌

Student & Staff Update from University President

05/01/2021

A chairde,

I hope you had a safe and restful break.

While the new year brings hope of vaccination and brighter days ahead, the holiday period has also seen a dramatic rise in the spread of Covid-19. It is a worrying time for us all and we would like to update you on the ongoing impact to our campus community.

Ireland is at Level 5

Covid-19 infection rates across Ireland are at an all-time high and the Government has introduced Level 5 measures nationally until 31 January. This will, yet again, have a significant impact on how we study, work, travel, shop, socialise, exercise and congregate. The Government guidelines state that Higher Education must remain primarily online with exemptions for essential on-site activities.

  • Teaching and Learning: As before, lab-based and practical tuition are categorised as essential on-site activities and, at this stage, we anticipate that these will continue on-campus when Semester 2 commences in February. However, given the dramatic change in the profile of the pandemic in Ireland and the resulting pressures on our health system in particular, we will continue to monitor public health advice and Government guidelines in the weeks ahead and provide you with more details on the planned modes of delivering teaching and learning in Semester 2 to ensure that they continue to be safe and appropriate in this new context.
  • Examinations: Exams and assessments are scheduled for most students (excluding First Year students) between 11-22 January. We continue to work to this schedule. All exams and assessments will be carried out remotely/online. Alternative arrangements will be put in place for the small number of planned on-campus assessments. Please continue to check your university email address and Blackboard message centre for updates on exams and assessments for your programme. We realise this is an important time for our students so please do keep in touch with us, with friends, with other members of your class. We are here to help: you can find a list of Important Contacts for your College, School and Programme on the Alerts page.
  • Library service and study space: The Library has reverted to ‘Click and Collect’ and ‘Scan and Deliver’ services only. The Click and Collect service will be available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-1pm. On-campus study spaces reserved through the Library booking system, including in the Bailey Allen Hall, are no longer available in the short term. This decision was made to protect our students and staff at this particularly worrying time in the pandemic’s evolution. We recognise the importance of study spaces for students and commit to reopening them as soon as public health circumstances allow. Keep up-to-date on Library services at: www.library.nuigalway.ie
  • Research: Essential on-site research activities may resume on campus. Given the gravity of the situation, however, we ask our research community to work from home unless you are carrying out time-sensitive essential work that cannot be done at home. All on-campus safety protocols remain in place.
  • Other university work, including office work, administration and professional support services: Please continue to work from home unless you are carrying out time-sensitive essential work that cannot be done at home.
  • Returning to campus: For those staff engaging in time-sensitive essential activities on campus, we remind you of the University’s Return to Campus protocol, which requests members of staff minimise their time on campus and to limit the number of contacts they have on campus. We also request that you schedule all contacts in adherence with public health advice and Government guidelines and that you maintain a log of those you meet either manually or via the HSE COVID-19 Contact Tracing App. This is particularly important at this time given the pressures on the HSE’s contact tracing system.

Stay safe – reduce your contacts, report your symptoms

As we confront this reinvigorated virus, only by adhering to the current public health advice do we do so together and show the sense of solidarity that will see us through. We know that our hospital system locally and nationally in under real pressure now. Therefore, now more than ever, as urged by our public health experts, please stay home and work from home unless you are carrying out essential work which cannot be done from home.

It is critical that we adhere to public health advice to dramatically reduce the spread of the virus. Please be aware of the impact of Level 5 measures on your life and movement, reduce your contacts to the smallest number possible, and observe the well-established public health protocols regarding face coverings, hand washing, social distancing and good respiratory hygiene.

Above all else, make sure that you act quickly on the first sign of symptoms. If you have a:

  • Fever (High temperature, of 38C or above)
  • Cough (this can be any kind of cough, not just dry)
  • Shortness of Breath/Breathing difficulties
  • Loss or change in your sense of Smell or Taste

please call a GP or the Student Health Unit immediately and follow their instructions.

The Student Health Unit re-opened yesterday (Monday, 4 January) and is providing services to students again, but by prior appointment only. Appointments for telephone/video and/or face-to-face consultations (where clinically necessary) are being provided via online booking. Students are not permitted to enter the Student Health Unit without first contacting to arrange a prior appointment.

  • New patients must first register online here
  • Appointment requests can be completed via this online form
  • If you are experiencing symptoms or have a query relating to Covid-19, please read the advice here
  • Repeat prescriptions can be requested via this online form
  • For any URGENT medical issues or concerns, including Covid-19 symptoms, during daytime hours, please phone 091-492604 to speak directly to a member of reception staff
  • The Student Health Unit service operates from 9.15am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday only. For any Urgent/Emergency issues Out-of-Hours (OOH), please phone 091-492604 for details of OOH arrangements.

Crisis Textline

The New Year can be a very challenging time for many, and particularly in the current circumstances. You are not alone. If you experience a crisis of any kind at any time of the day or night, there is no need to suffer in silence – immediate support is available by texting 'NUIG' to 50808. You will receive a reply within 5 minutes from a highly trained and motivated volunteer who will provide a warm listening ear and signposting to local supports and services. Your family and friends can also avail of this service by texting ‘Hello’ to 50808.

At this worrying time…

…we look to each other for courage, comfort and hope. The turn of the year is traditionally a time of renewal and optimism around the world, in particular in the northern hemisphere where we can observe the days getting longer and brighter. These islands always marked the turn of the year with reflection and celebration, going back to pre-Christian times and including the great Celtic and Norse festivals. In Scotland, Hogmanay remains an important festival on the calendar.

In conclusion, I would like to share with you the words of Scottish poet and Makar, Jackie Kay, whose poem featured in Gàidhlig and English in Edinburgh’s wonderful Hogmanay light show last week (www.edinburghshogmanay.com):

A’ tarraing nan ràimh maill ac’ tro na neòil,

’S soraidh slàn air ràdh ri gach halò.

’S gach bliadhn’ ùr ag èigheach às ùr

’S gach bliadhn’ ùr a’ cuir aghaidh ri speur bàn

They pull their slow oars through the clouds;

And every old hello has become a goodbye.

And every new year makes a brand-new cry.

And every new year confronts an empty sky.

Challenging though its opening may be, I wish you all a happy and a healthy 2021.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

December 2020

Student & Staff Update from University President

14/12/2020

Dear colleague,

I hope you are safe and well.

This week is another milestone in an extraordinary year, as we mark Week 12 of Semester 1 – the final week of teaching of 2020. At 5pm on Friday, the University will close for the Christmas break. Back in the early summer, we consciously decided that we would close at this earlier time this year, mindful that our university community would need additional time for pause. Little did we know then how true this would be!

We encourage our community to take all this time available to replenish ourselves, to sustain ourselves conscious of the importance of pacing our efforts for our own health and wellbeing in the short- and longer-term.

Message from the President of Ireland

The university experience is a time of reflection – for students and for staff. In that context, we are privileged that the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, a graduate of our university and a former colleague of ours, has shared his reflections with us at this time. We all know the humanity of President Higgins, which shines through once again in this reflection below, which I encourage you to watch and consider here.

Often at this time of year, we reflect on what happened during the year, those things that worked and those that didn’t, those friends we made and friends we lost. We also reflect on those who can’t be with us, those who have passed away and those from whom we are away. This is particularly poignant this year given our sense of distance from each other, by necessity because of COVID. We hope you take the quiet time that this period brings to reflect on this crossing point in our shared experience as humanity.

It is particularly acute this year for our international students and staff who cannot travel to spend time with family abroad. We are thinking of you this year and hope you find family here too, a welcome that is with you in solidarity at this time.

Planning for a Safe Christmas

Our students and staff have done so much already to limit the spread of COVID in our community. If we are going to minimise the risk of infections spiking over Christmas we must redouble our efforts and keep the numbers of people we meet as low as possible for the next two weeks.

  • Plan ahead for your Christmas gathering and keep numbers to a minimum
  • Reduce your social contacts now to limit infection spread before Christmas — all the more important if you plan to visit a more vulnerable person for Christmas
  • Be aware that outdoor gatherings are safer than indoors so always consider outdoor alternatives to meeting up
  • Keep indoor gatherings small, keep the space well ventilated and keep a physical distance
  • Wear a mask even outdoors if you are in a crowded place

Supports for international students over the holiday break

Our international students have required specific support this year as they settle into a new city and country, away from their support networks. I know it has been a worrying time for many international students as they have observed the spread of the virus in their home countries from afar. We are particularly mindful of their needs at this time.

With the support of our Students’ Union, Chaplaincy and Societies, the International Office has arranged several initiatives to provide our international students with opportunities to engage and feel part of our campus community. During Semester 1 we celebrated Halloween, Diwali and Thanksgiving, and arranged a number of virtual and wellness events including: Time-out Thursdays, Humpday Hoolies, Wellness workshops, SU Charity Challenges and a Strava Running Group.

Cara Connect is a new initiative to connect students in small groups of 5 or 6. To date almost 600 students have signed up and have been matched up with others according to the area of Galway in which they live. Multiple Zoom meetings to assign the groups have been held every evening in recent weeks. Students are given suggestions on possible activities.

Plans for the holiday period

A recent International Office survey confirmed that at least 481 international students intend to remain in Galway over the Christmas period. As the holiday period approaches, a number of initiatives to engage and support students have been put in place:

  1. Secret Santa – opportunity to sign up and give a present and receive one in return, run by Students’ Union
  2. Socs 'n' Clubs Jingle Jangle: a Fortnight of Festive Fun from 7 December: www.nuigalwayevents.ie/jinglejangle
  3. Christmas Get-together: every year theChaplaincy and the International Office organise a Christmas and New Year party for international students remaining in Galway. This year there are plans to facilitate a safe environment for students to meet up on campus – ideally during the period 21-23 December, which would include the distribution of a festive care package. This will offer opportunites for staff who would like to meet with students they have only met virtually thus far.
  4. Holiday Hangout – a Christmas edition of Cara Connect launched last week whereby all students remaining in Galway for the holidays will have an opportunity to be matched up with others in the same situation to ensure no one is left alone.

Supports and services: a communication from the University on what services are available during the holiday period, including details of Counselling, Student Health Unit and Chaplaincy, will be issued to all international students.

The 24/7 emergency mobile phone number held by Louise Kelly, International Student Officer, will continue to be available to international students throughout the holiday period.

If you are an international student: please don’t be shy about reaching out for help and support at this time.

If you are the classmate of an international student: why not reach out to them to see how they are doing? Christmas is traditionally a time for friends and family, and when you’re far away from home a chat and a smile can mean a lot.

If you are a staff member concerned about an international student in your class: please draw their attention to the supports at hand. Thank you for your continued support.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony goes online: 2pm, Wednesday 16 December live on the NUI Galway Facebook page.

Join the University President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh; Students’ Union President, Pádraic Toomey; and Nursing student, Laoise Brehony, as they reflect on the year gone by and share their Christmas wishes before officially lighting up the campus Christmas tree. This will be followed by a video of our virtual staff choir as they perform ‘Gaudete’.

Students’ Union Q&A

Many thanks to the Students’ Union and the many class reps and students who attended the recent online Q&A where I had the opportunity to hear directly from students and help answer their questions and concerns. Over two hours, we covered a wide range of topics, and I would like to thank the participants for the considered way in which they articulated their needs at this time. You can watch back here.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have tried to keep our students well-informed about our university’s response to COVID-19 through weekly email updates, the Alerts web page, video messages and regular surveys. As the pandemic continues to evolve, we will continue to do in the New Year as the focus turns to exams and Semester 2.

In conclusion…

As the year turns and as the days grow longer, we look forward to brighter times ahead. With confidence in our shared commitment to our community and to our university’s important role in the world, we can look forward with renewed hope to greater possibilities for connecting and learning from each other in the New Year.

For now, I would like to share three simple and sincere messages with you all:

Well done! We made it to 2021. You should take pride in your resilience in facing the challenges of this extraordinary year. I hope you discovered strength in yourself along the way and I also hope you learned about the importance of drawing support from others.

Thank you! I would like to thank each one of you for the contribution you have made to keeping our missions of research, teaching, and public engagement alive during this most challenging of years. While many of us missed the buzz of campus life, the level of engagement in remote teaching and learning, webinars, virtual events, online student services, workshops, quizzes, charity challenges and Society get-togethers, shows our strong desire to connect as a university community. Thank you to all those who made it so, who reached out to others throughout the year.

Go raibh maith agaibh, which when parsed in translation, means not only thank you but may you have good – as good a greeting as any for this time of year.

At the end of this calendar year, I would particularly like to thank our colleague, Dr John Caulfield. John has been the architect of these communications and so much else this year, always with enthusiasm and good cheer. Go raibh maith agat, a John. Táimid faoi do chomaoin.

Borrowing from the poem of Máirtín Ó Direáin and, in translation, a traditional phrase of encouragement:

In oileán beag i gcéin san iarthar, tá coinnle fós ar lasadh… in Ollscoil na hÉireann Gaillimh.

On a small island away in the West, we are keeping it lit… in NUI Galway.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season. However you celebrate it, I hope you celebrate in a reflective, replenishing way.

Thank you for your commitment, support and, most of all, your kindness in 2020. Go raibh maith agaibh uilig.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

November 2020

Student / Staff Update from University President

30/11/2020

A chairde,

I hope you are safe and well.

We have marked many milestones as a community since March, when we embarked on this pandemic journey together. This week is no exception.

Today, our country emerges from six weeks of Level 5 measures, as some restrictions on business, travel and gatherings are eased. Tomorrow, is the first day of December, when we begin the countdown to what will inevitably be a strange festive season.

Level 3 (with some variations)

For now, the move from Level 5 to Level 3 (with some variations) does not change how we deliver teaching, whereby teaching and research in laboratories, practical-based tuition, clinical placements, skills-based tuition, and simulation-based and practice-based learning will continue in person, adhering to public health guidelines, and other teaching activities will continue online, consistent with public health advice. Research will continue under the current protocols and student supports and services can be contacted through the mix of email, phone and online contacts listed on our Alerts page.

More broadly, we can all welcome the positive impact that the easing of restrictions will have on our personal lives, but the message is clear. For any of us planning to travel for the Christmas break, we need to take precautions now. Nobody wants to endanger family or friends or see a return to Level 5 restrictions in the New Year, so we must do our utmost to keep limiting our contacts and follow the public health advice. Please read about Level 3 (with some variations) here.

Staying Social: The run-up to Christmas is traditionally a frenzy of social gatherings. Sadly, this year, we must forego the parties and continue to socialise responsibly in small groups outdoors or within our household bubbles in adherence with public health advice. There are still lots of virtual events taking place over the coming weeks, and we encourage you to browse the virtual events calendar for opportunities to connect with others.

  • Student’s Union Charity Challenge: The November Kilometre Challenge was a huge success. In December, join hundreds of students and staff in the SU Random Acts of Kindness Challenge by raising money and sharing positivity across our campus and beyond. There will be lots of outdoor events and creative challenges. Sign up here today!
  • SU Secret Santa: Need a pleasant pick-me-up in the run-up to Christmas? Sign up to take part in the SU Secret Santa and you’ll get to give and receive a present! More information on how it works and how to register here.

Extra Study Space: There are now three options for study space on campus, which can all be booked through the Library booking system:

  • The Library: Desk and PC access within a quiet study zone in the main Library building
  • Bailey Allen Hall: Quiet study zone with space for 50 students
  • The Cube: Noise-tolerant study zone with space for 20 students

An Bhialann: An Bhialann is back open for grab-and-go and sit-down service, within socially distant seating spaces. They have a wide range of coffees, treats, healthy snacks, and hot and cold meals.

University Sports Centre: Kingfisher Club will reopen their on-campus sports facilities on Wednesday 2 December from 7am. You can book your pool and gym sessions using the Kingfisher Club app – available free on AppStore and Google Playstore.

Accommodation on Campus: If you need a short-stay overnight stay on campus this side of Christmas, students may book an en suite room on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis in Goldcrest Village for the remainder of Semester 1. To book and for more details, visit: https://campusliving.clr.events/event/128564:goldcrest-village-short-stay-bookings

Parking Refund: While some students and staff have returned to campus for essential activities, many others are only occasionally accessing the campus for important services or not coming on campus at all. As a result, the time spent on campus by most parking permit holders is most likely reduced this year in comparison to other years.

To reflect these changes, the cost of on-campus parking is being reduced for the remainder of the academic year. In doing so, there has been a consideration of the need to balance the potential for subsidised parking, for staff, to be seen as a benefit-in-kind and therefore taxable, the environmental, sustainability impact of driving to campus as well as the relative cost of on-campus parking and nearby on-street parking.  The cost of a parking permit for this academic year 2020/2021 will therefore be reduced by €20, from €55 to €35 for staff and from €50 to €30 for students.

As always, students and staff may choose to use on-street parking or other parking providers near the campus for their trips to campus. With hourly charges of up to €2, however, we believe the reduced parking permit represents good value to our community, even for occasional visits.

For those of you who have already purchased a parking permit, you will be refunded the €20 euro by Apcoa to the card that you used. If you are a staff member that is paying through your salary, your deductions will cease when they reach €35 euro and you will not be charged anything further.

We all look forward to brighter days ahead, to the elimination of COVID-19 from our community and to the safe return of all of our students and staff to campus in time. But in the meantime, we hope this small step will help everyone out at this time.

Planning for Semester 2

Last week, we shared with you our planned approach to Semester 2 teaching and learning, based on Government guidance. Following further engagement across the University sector, I want to reiterate that our priority will be to maximise the student experience by making additional in-person teaching, learning, service and activities available, while continuing to adhere strictly to the evolving public health advice.

As further clarification in this regard, as is the case this semester, we will continue the delivery of teaching and research in laboratories, practical-based tuition, clinical placements, skills-based tuition, and simulation-based and practice-based learning, on-campus in Semester 2 in compliance with public health advice. These are integral components of the optimal education and learning experience of many of our programmes. The normal expectation is that students will attend campus where such teaching/skills sessions are provided on campus. For Semester 2, the current on-campus attendance guidelines will apply, and we will seek to give greater support, space, and guidance for increased student engagement and in-person examinations and assessment, where required, as well as outdoor educational activities, such as field work, again and as always, consistent with public health advice.

In addition to the integral teaching/skills sessions outlined above, in some programmes in Semester 2, supplementary on-campus small class / group learning sessions may be arranged and will be supported, subject to public health advice. On-campus attendance at these supplementary sessions will be optional, and online alternatives to the supplementary sessions will be provided. We will also provide more flexible on-campus accommodation to facilitate attendance.

Giving thanks and sharing your story

Last week, our American staff and students marked Thanksgiving. While this year has given plenty of cause for grievance, we must also remember the moments of grace and gratitude that sustained us during hard times. For my part, I am grateful for the continued support of our staff and students in pulling through together and keeping our missions of teaching and research alive under difficult circumstances. Those positive memories will far outlive the pandemic that changed our lives so much over the past nine months.

COVID-19 Research Update:

  • Innovating lung drug delivery: A new collaboration between researchers at CÚRAM and Aerogen is working on new ways of delivering medication to COVID-19 patients. The work is focused on optimising the Aerogen Solo nebulizer for the delivery of Heparin into the lung of patients with COVID-19 induced Acute Respiratory Failure. The study, which is led by Professor John Laffey (CÚRAM) and Dr Ronan MacLoughlin (Aerogen) aims to commence clinical patient trials in December. Read more
  • New device for rapid COVID testing: Researchers at NUI Galway and the University of Wyoming have been funded €200,000 to develop a hand-held, battery-operated device that will detect the COVID virus using a laser in approximately 15 minutes. The project is being led in Galway by Professor Gerard Wall (Microbiology and CÚRAM), who hopes that the device will be used for rapid on-site tests in airports, workplaces and schools. Read more

Eduroam upgrade

Never has the importance of good network connections been more evident than this year. ISS have updated the University’s Eduroam Wi-Fi service to increase its security and performance. As a result, most existing users of the Eduroam Wi-Fi service will need to update the previously installed Eduroam client on their device (laptops and mobile devices) to continue to get access to the service when on campus. You can find a step-by-step guide here.

Please note that if you installed the Eduroam client for the first time or reinstalled the Eduroam client since the start of September 2020, you already have the latest configuration and don’t need to take any further steps. More info here

Go Purple this Thursday!

International Day of Persons with Disabilities takes place on Thursday 3 December and the Access Centre and our Disability Support Service team would like to raise awareness on the day by encouraging students and staff to ‘go purple’ to show solidarity and raise awareness. The Quadrangle will light up purple on Thursday evening and we want to turn our social media purple for the day too. We ask that students and staff wear something purple on the day and share their photos and selfies online with us by tagging @NUIGAccess on Twitter and Instagram. We will reshare as many as we can.

Our values of respect and openness commit us together to an inclusive learning experience for our students. The IUA hosted a webinar on this theme on Friday, 27 November. A recording of the event, The IUA Future of Ireland Webinar: The Inclusive University, is available here.

Our very own Dr Shivaun Quinlivan, Vice-Dean for Equality Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Business, Public Policy and Law, presented very eloquently and honestly on Inclusive Learning at NUI Galway. Her advocacy for students and for the empowerment of students in learning design was striking and was supported by Courtney McGrath (one of those profiled so powerfully in the IUA & RTE documentary series, My Uni Life). Courtney used a very impactful phrase, that students are ‘experts by experience’ in identifying the challenges and opportunities of their learning environment and therefore should be engaged with and empowered in the discourse and dialogue of its design. One of many profound messages from the webinar and, one hopes, one of many learnings from our current context. Every day’s a school day and as a learning institution we must continue to learn.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Semester 2 Update from University President & Deputy President and Registrar

23 November 2020

A chairde,

We hope you are keeping well. We would like to thank all our university community, staff and students, for the significant efforts made in making the learning experience in the first semester the best it can be in the current circumstances.

We are very mindful of the challenges you have all faced in 2020, and in that regard, we want to give you some certainty for next semester. We are therefore writing to let you know that we expect to continue next semester with the current levels of on-campus activity still in place. You should plan for this scenario and our University supports that have been in place this semester will continue into next semester.

However, we are all aware of the impact of the current restrictions on the health, wellbeing and progression of our students and on our research and teaching mission. We also know that our university community, Schools and Units, colleagues and students, wish for more on-campus, in-person engagement and support, subject to the priorities of health and safety, public health advice and Government guidance.

Therefore, while mindful that such advice and guidance may change, we will facilitate and support staff and students in providing additional in-person on-campus activities as appropriate, in compliance with such public health advice and Government guidance.

For example, where essential, such as in professionally regulated or accredited courses, the maximisation of on-campus delivery of practice-based learning will be supported, in compliance with public health advice and consistent with the needs of our students in meeting their educational requirements. We will also seek to give greater support, space and guidance for increased student engagement and in-person examinations and assessment, where required, as well as outdoor educational activities, such as field work, again and as always, consistent with public health advice.

We are also conscious that many students may not be in a position to attend in-person activities in the context of COVID-19, so where, in Semester 2, additional attendance in-person is arranged in light of public health advice, this will be optional, and we will support staff so that students will be able to complete modules wholly online for next semester too should they wish to. We will also be providing for more flexible on-campus accommodation to facilitate attendance.

Even as we plan for next semester, it is worth reflecting on the last few months. It is a source of pride to us and to the credit of you, that we have adapted our behaviours, and adapted our work practices so significantly. We urge you to take the time to reflect and be proud of the contributions you have made to our community in the fight against this deadly virus. We appreciate very much your continued best efforts in this regard and look forward to working with you and supporting you as we, together, navigate this extraordinary year.

Kind regards,

Ciarán and Pól.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh

Deputy President and Registrar, NUI Galway

Student / Staff Update from University President

16/11/2020

A chairde,

Week 8 of our semester, and we are now half-way through the period of Level 5 measures. Case numbers have fallen across the country but we must all continue to be vigilant to ensure that the spread and reproduction rate of the virus continues to decrease.

Many of us are understandably looking ahead to the Christmas and New Year break and the chance to recuperate and reconnect with friends and family. But we must also continue to live in the now and focus on our person health and wellbeing to get us through the remainder of the semester.

You are also, no doubt, wondering what Semester 2 will bring and how research, teaching and learning will be supported in the new year. We are keen to give as much clarity as we can and had intended to do so by now. Our sense based on feedback from students and colleagues is that the current semester provides a good basis on which to plan for the next.

However, the University Presidents are meeting An Taoiseach and the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on Thursday and, as a sector, we have been asked through the Irish Universities Association (IUA) to defer any announcement regarding the remainder of the academic year until after that. We will update you in this regard after that meeting. We are very very keen to signal plans for Semester 2 to allow for certainty and planning and do not anticipate delaying an announcement in that regard much further beyond our meeting on Thursday.

Calling on Students to Share their Experience

As we continue to plan for Semester 2, we want to make sure that our students’ needs are at the heart of that planning. The Student Experience Survey enables students to tell us, and others in the University, directly about how they have experienced teaching and about their wellbeing since September. We want to know about their current concerns and situation, as well as their preferences for teaching and support this academic year.

The survey is an official NUI Galway survey run by the Dean of Students, Students’ Union, Student Services, and researchers at NUI Galway, and the findings will be reported directly to the University Management Team, the Executive Deans of NUI Galway Colleges as well as the Academic Planning Group for 2020/21.

Please encourage your students to take part in the survey, which can be found here.

Checking in with each other

It is so important that we all support and sustain each other over the coming weeks. For our staff, I encourage line managers to reach out regularly to their colleagues to see how they are getting on. A regular chat can help alleviate much of the anxiety and isolation of working remotely. For our students, I encourage all of you who have taken on leadership roles – as class reps, club captains, society auditors, mentors and CÉIM volunteers – to reach out to your fellow students and see how they are coping at this time.

Our Student Supports and Services and our Employee Wellbeing Supports are available remotely and there is no reason for anyone to deal with anxiety or isolation on their own.

One great way to connect with others is through attending virtual events. We maintain an up-to-date list of virtual events for students and staff on the Alerts page, which includes webinars, workshops and get-togethers. There is something to suit all interests. Visit the Virtual Events page here.

At one stage during the pandemic, as a society, we were encouraged in a particular week to curtail by half our physical contacts to limit the spread of the virus. Why not, this week, consider increasing your virtual contacts to limit the effect of the virus: make that call, send that email, have that virtual conversation with a colleague, classmate or friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Socially distanced doesn’t mean we have to be distant from each other.

Seamus Heaney always has good lines to keep in mind. In his poem Miracle (2010), he starts:

Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in —

Let’s be the ones to carry each other in – and through – these challenging times.

Regards, Ciarán

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh
NUI Galway President

Staff / Student Email Update from University President

09/11/2020

Over the last number of weeks and continuing over the weeks ahead, I am ‘on tour’ virtually, meeting colleagues in Colleges and Units to thank all those contributing to our university mission in such challenging times. I have been encouraged by the level of continued resolve and ambition of colleagues as we navigate our way through difficult waters for us, students and staff, and for society more generally. In particular, I sense a desire to keep our eye on and over the horizon. Very often, these days, people say that surviving is thriving. There is also a sense, however, that this too will pass – as it will – and that we need to constantly equip ourselves for our full sail in brighter days ahead.

As we continue to observe Level 5 restrictions, these measures have had a big impact on all of our lives. However, we can be rightly proud of our collective resolve and effort in reducing the spread of the virus.  We have a long way to go. However, the positive trend in case numbers shows a great communal spirit, where personal sacrifices are accepted for the good of our society and the protection of our most vulnerable citizens.

Here, I would like to single out our students for praise. Our colleagues in the Student Health Unit have reported a huge reduction in the number of COVID-19 consultations and test referrals in the past two weeks. I have also heard of students calling in a socially-distanced way to their elderly and vulnerable neighbours, introducing themselves, giving their phone number and offering to help them if needed.  These acts of kindness don’t generally get headlines but they are nonetheless profound.

We commend our students for their significant contribution to keeping the virus at bay, and for their humanity and fortitude, as we all redouble our efforts to adhere to the public health advice at this critical time.

Extra Study Space

As the demand for study space continues to grow during the semester, we know that our students want additional and more flexible spaces to suit their needs.

  • Library PC Access: You can now reserve a PC in the Library using their online booking system. This is in addition to the Library’s seat booking system and their Click and Collect and Scan and Deliver services. All Library services are listed here.
  • Bailey Allen Hall: Additional study space for 50 students is now bookable in the Bailey Allen Hall, 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. This facility is noise tolerant, meaning that students can work collaboratively via MS Teams, Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate through their laptops. Invigilators have been appointed to look after the space and ensure social distancing. Students can reserve their two-hour slot in advance via the Library booking system.

Governing Authority Elections

Our University community is a large and diverse one. As we mark the 175th anniversary of our university, we look forward to the many opportunities we have to serve our students, our society and our planet. However, we also recognise the great challenges we face, in particular at this critical time, when the pandemic has impacted so much on every aspect of our university mission, including our finances.

Together, we have established our values, by which we will judge our actions as we continue to evolve. We have also devised a shared vision for the years ahead through our strategic plan. Ensuring the success of both will need good decision-making and, critically, strong governance.

Last week we launched a call for nominations to the next Governing Authority, which will oversee inter alia the strategic direction of the University, the overall management of its resources, and the approval of its policies and procedures. Our Údarás na hOllscoile plays a particularly important role in ensuring proper governance, accountability and oversight in our university as well as setting the tone at the top for discourse and leadership. It is an opportunity for colleagues to play a critical role in giving voice – diverse and distinctive voice – to the aspirations of our university community. We encourage colleagues to put themselves forward to be elected to Údarás by a vote of our staff and/or our alumni. If you wish to put your name forward for a staff or student position, please do so via the following link by 30 November: www.nuigalway.ie/governing_authority_elections-2021

COVID-19 Research Update:

  • Anti-COVID wipes: Aquila Bioscience, a medical technology company from NUI Galway, has successfully proven that its breakthrough Pathogen Capturing Technology safely removes 99.99% of coronavirus from human skin. Their wipes are the first of their kind and will pave the way for safer methods of decontamination that do not cause harm to humans or the environment. Read more here.
  • Remote Speech & Language sessions: Staff and students in Speech and Language Therapy students have embarked on a new telehealth clinical placement offering approximately 30 online appointments daily in English and Irish. This clinical placement, using the HSE online platform Attend Anywhere, is run in collaboration with therapists from the HSE West, HSE Donegal and Voices for Down Syndrome Galway. Read more here.

Staying well in mind and body

The past nine months have shown to us the importance of keeping safe and healthy, and taking time to care for our personal wellbeing. As the days grow shorter, this must be an even greater priority. In that context, I am pleased to share the following initiatives to help students and staff boost their mental and physical health:

  • Students’ Union Charity Challenge: Over the next six months, the Students’ Union are hosting monthly challenges for students and staff to help raise funds for Galway Autism Partnership, Galway Rape Crisis Centre and Helplink Mental Health. This month is the Kilometre Challenge, where participants commit to completing a target number of kilometres throughout the month by walking, running or on wheels. Hundreds of our students have been spotted walking the campus and city, and it’s a great way to stay healthy and social in a safe environment. See how to get involved here.
  • Free Live Streaming Fitness Classes with Kingfisher: Kingfisher NUI Galway is offering all students and staff free access to all their Live Streaming Classes until 20 December. They offer a wide range of classes from BodyAttack, HIIT Cardio, HIIT Strength and BodyBalance. Their classes are aimed at all levels of fitness and require no equipment. Take part in their wide range of live classes from the comfort of your own home by downloading the free Kingfisher app now from the Google Playstore or iTunes.
  • NUI Galway Staff Singers Christmas Carol: The staff choir is coming together virtually to create a Choral Christmas Card this year. All levels are welcome and the piece to be performed is easily learned by ear. You can get access to rehearsal recordings with choir director, Michel Durham, as well as scores, lyrics, line tapes and recording instructions by emailing nuigalwaystaffchoir@nuigalway.ie. This reminds us that we will have Christmas this year: a different Christmas perhaps but nonetheless one which, we hope, in Patrick Kavanagh’s words of Advent ‘will charm back the luxury of a child's soul’. Perhaps even more so in these challenging times, we can find ‘the newness that was in every stale thing when we looked at it as children’. And we can all still sing!

Go raibh maith agaibh uilig.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

 

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

October 2020

Staff / Student Email Update from University President, 28 October

I hope you are well, and that you had a restful weekend.

We are now in Week 5 of this extraordinary semester. We have weathered many challenges together in the past month, transitioning much of our teaching and learning online, and adapting student supports and services for virtual delivery.

Earlier today, Údarás na hOllscoile – our Governing Authority – received an update on our university community’s response to COVID-19. They wholeheartedly commended the work that we have been doing to sustain our research and innovation, teaching and learning, supports and services under the most challenging of circumstances. On their behalf, I would like to share their – and my – appreciation and to thank most sincerely all of our staff and students for their agility and their ongoing commitment to sustaining our university mission, recognising the continuing challenges faced by colleagues in this regard.

Connecting Virtually

At this time, the need for human connection has never been greater felt. We can all welcome the announcement by our colleagues in ISS that NUI Galway staff and students now have more comprehensive access to the Zoom video conferencing platform. While I am sure that most of you are familiar with Zoom from webinars run outside the University and video calls with family and friends, we can now all use Zoom to host University calls, lectures, webinars and events. MS Teams and Blackboard Collaborate will continue to be important tools for working, learning, collaborating and meeting online.

  • Accessing Zoom: You can access your NUI Galway Zoom account through the apps in your Office 365 account or directly from the NUI Galway Zoom Login Page. To login to Zoom, please enter your Campus Account credentials, similar to your Office 365 login. More information and support is available from the ISS Zoom Webpage.

COVID Incident Response Plan

We are pleased to share with you here, the University’s COVID-19 Incident Response Plan (open in Google Chrome or Internet Explorer), which outlines the steps that will be undertaken if the University is made aware of positive cases of the virus in our community. This is a comprehensive document with detailed information on the response structures in place and the processes to be followed. I would like acknowledge the work of our Chief Operating Officer, John Gill, as well as his colleagues Alan Lambe and Anne Whelan who took great care in crafting the plan, with expert input from colleagues, including in the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and our Local Director of Public Health.

We will be organising briefing sessions in the coming days to engage staff in the response plan and the steps to follow should you become aware of COVID-19 cases in your Schools and Units.

COVID Testing

The most important thing we can do to help protect ourselves and our community is to act quickly on symptoms. If you experience a high temperature (38°C or higher), a cough, shortness of breath or a change in your sense of taste or smell, you should phone the Student Health Unit or your own GP to organise a free test as soon as possible.

Thousands of Irish people get tested every day, and the vast majority are negative. The test is free, quick and easy and, whatever the result, getting tested helps us all stay safe and healthy.

But don’t just take my word for it!

Earlier this year, many of our students and staff volunteered in the Galway COVID-19 testing centre. In this video, seven Speech and Language Therapy students share their experience of volunteering and describe what to expect when you go for a test.

COVID-19 Research

  • Remote Working Survey: Results from the recent Remote Working Survey run in collaboration between NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission show that 94% of respondents are in favour of working remotely for some or all of the time. Find out more about the results here.
  • Hand Hygiene Toolkit: Research in the School of Medicine has produced a toolkit to help staff in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to identify and address barriers to hand hygiene compliance. The project was led by Dr Paul O’Connor with support from researchers in Ireland and abroad, and the input of ICU staff in our local hospitals. Read more here.
  • The Power of Nature: The NEAR Health Project led by Dr Caitríona Carlin (School of Natural Sciences) has demonstrated the need for nature-based activities to improve our health. It highlights the power of engaging with the natural and marine environment to boost our physical and mental wellbeing. Find out more about their toolkit here.

Budget 2021

Earlier this month, Minister Simon Harris announced additional financial support for the higher education sector in Budget 2021. Among the announcements were a €50 million financial support fund for students, an increase of €20 million for the SUSI budget, increases in postgraduate grants and increased funding for the PATH 2 programme to support disadvantaged students in accessing education. All of these initiatives will help break down barriers to higher education and support current and incoming students to fulfil their potential. In particular, we support and welcome additional supports for students in need and strongly advocate for enhanced investment in SUSI grants and increased access. We know that investment in education is critical for a vital, vibrant society. In particular, the evidence suggests that education at all levels is one of the primary catalysts of equality and social change. It is therefore important that we continue to support students in need in those manifold areas where their needs are most.

In addition, the Minister announced €29 million in additional research funding, which will help Ireland’s universities to bring expertise and innovation to the world’s most pressing issues. We look forward to working with the Minister to ensure that these welcome investments have real impact for our students, society and planet.

As we travel through this most challenging of semesters, I hope you stay safe and well over the coming weeks.

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Level 5 Measures - student and staff update, 20 October

As you are aware, last night the Government announced a set of new ‘Level 5’ measures in the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. They will come into effect from midnight tomorrow, Wednesday 21 October, and will be applied nationwide to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Level 5 measures designate higher and further education as essential insofar as on-site presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely.

Like all sectors of society, the Level 5 measures impact our university community. This is hard, but for all of you doing your very best to abide by the restrictions and advice – it makes a difference: keep doing what you’re doing, we’re very proud of you. Abiding by public health advice, we’ll get through this together. 

University President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, introduces some of the impact of Level 5 measures on our campuses.

Watch here.

Level 5 measures: The impact on our University

Based on the detailed advice to our sector in this regard, as before, we will continue with essential on-site activities, including:

  • Scientific research and development services
  • Educational activities where on-site presence is required, such as lab-based and practical tuition

Scheduled access to the Library will continue. We are mindful of the need for other on-site study space and will continue to provide such spaces, while avoiding congregation risk consistent with Level 5 measures.

The measures allow for the provision of necessary on-site support to meet the mental health and welfare needs of students. We are very mindful of the importance of these services at this time and we will work to make them available in adherence with public health advice.

Under Level 5, physical attendance at workplaces is only permitted for those providing and supporting the essential on-site activities outlined, where this cannot be delivered or supported remotely.

Travel to and from campus for essential on-site activities in adherence with public safety guidelines is permitted under Level 5 measures.

Campus accommodation will remain open to students and staff but with no visitors permitted. In line with Level 5, from Wednesday midnight students are asked to exercise within 5 kilometres of their accommodation and not visit other households.

Student Accommodation

We know that this is a challenging time for our students and their families, many of which include staff members. The introduction of enhanced measures at the start of the academic year greatly impacted our plans for blended teaching on all programmes and created difficulties for students, in particular those who had already booked accommodation in Galway and no longer needed it.

While the University is refunding students who no longer require on-campus accommodation at this time, we know that many students in privately rented accommodation off campus are faced with uncertainty. Last week, I joined with the Students’ Union to call on Galway’s landlords and student accommodation providers to follow the University and Menlo Park in refunding those students who no longer require accommodation in the city.

Our students contribute so much to the success and vibrancy of Galway. As we face the COVID-19 emergency together, we ask property owners to show care and compassion to our students in the face of unique challenges.

Supporting our Students

  • Are you living away from home? We need to ascertain how many of our students are still in accommodation in Galway in order to provide adequate supports and services to them. If you have decided to stay in Galway city, which is not your home address, we ask that you please complete our online form so that we can continue to communicate with you and provide support accordingly.
  • NUIG 50808 – Crisis Textline: If you are experiencing a crisis of any kind, there is no need to suffer in silence. NUIG 50808 is a free and confidential 24/7 text response service available to all NUI Galway students or staff members experiencing a personal crisis, such as in your relationships or finances, through loneliness, job loss, assault, high anxiety or low mood. By simply texting 'NUIG' to 50808 you will receive a reply within 5 minutes from a highly trained and motivated volunteer who will provide a warm listening ear and help you to find local supports and services.
  • Skills Week: This week is Skills Week and a number of virtual events and supports are available throughout the week to help you develop your skills and CV. Check out the full list here.
  • Got a question? We are continuing to update the Alerts page with up-to-date information on students’ questions, on topics from ID cards to study spaces. If you have a question that is specific to your programme, please email your programme coordinator directly. You’ll find a list of programme coordinators on www.nuigalway.ie/alert. For all other topics, if you can’t find the information on the Alerts page, let us know by filling in this form.

Virtual Conferrings

Thank you to those students who shared ideas on how to make our virtual conferring ceremonies more meaningful at this time. Our Conferring Office will begin issuing invitations to graduands this week with instructions on how to take part, how to submit photos and how to book robes in advance (should you wish to have them on the day). We are also exploring opportunities to connect graduands with their classmates on the day.

We understand how special graduation day is for our students and the importance you place on the coming together of friends and family to mark your achievement. We also understand how important it is for our students to be conferred with their degrees, so that they can progress with their career and further studies, in Galway, Ireland and around the world.

For obvious reasons, we cannot come together in person right now, but when it is safe to do so, we look forward to hosting a meaningful series of events for our graduates to meet up on campus. In the meantime, we look forward to celebrating your milestone as best we can as an online community.

Have your say on our Sustainability Strategy

This is the final week to give your feedback on the University’s draft Sustainability Strategy. Sustainability is one of our core values, and we want to ensure that as our university and society emerges and recovers from the COVID-19 crisis that we do so in ways that sustain our people, our university mission, our communities, our environment and our planet. You can read the draft Sustainability Strategy here and share your feedback through our online form or email it directly to sustainability@nuigalway.ie.

Today sustainability takes on a broader meaning. Sustaining our semester. Sustaining our research, which defines us as a university. Sustaining our university in its 175th year. Most importantly, sustaining ourselves, each other, our families and our community. Giving each other sustenance. Stay safe and well.

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Staff / Student Email Update from University President, 12 October

As we continue to adjust to new ways to study and work, I want to update you on recent developments in teaching and learning, and encourage you to keep up-to-date with how we are delivering important student services at this time.

Acting quickly on symptoms, contacts and positive tests

Our response to COVID-19 is in our own hands and the responsibility of us all, each and every one of us. Somebody else can’t do it for you. Be sure you know:

What do I do if… 

I experience symptoms:  

  • If you have any of the following COVID-19 symptoms - high temperature (38°C or higher), a cough, difficulty breathing, a change or loss of your sense of smell or taste – you must act quickly. Stay at home or isolate on campus. Phone the Student Health Unit on (091) 492604 or fill out their online screening form or phone your local GP. Describe your symptoms and follow the doctor’s instructions.  

I receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis:  

  • The most important thing is to follow public health advice. You will need to self-isolate and your close contacts will need to get tested and restrict their movements.
  • Students should also contact the University confidentially (either by emailing COVID-19@nuigalway.ie or by phoning or emailing a lecturer or administrator). This will enable the University to offer support and to take any follow-up actions necessary to protect our university community.
  • Staff should also inform HR, or their line manager, by phone or email.

I discover my classmate has had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis: 

  • If you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you need to get tested for COVID-19 and restrict your movements for 14 days – even if your test comes back negative. See the difference between a ‘close’ and ‘casual’ contact on the HSE website

I discover my housemate has had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis: 

  • You are considered a close contact. You need to get tested for COVID-19 and restrict your movements for 14 days – even if your test comes back negative.

Learning resources

As we continue to expand the use of online learning technologies at this time, I want to raise your awareness of two recent developments in this area.

  • LinkedIn Learning: Since last week, all students and staff now have access to the LinkedIn Learning platform, where you can find over 16,000 courses in a wide range of subjects, including; technical, business, software, leadership, mindfulness, and creative courses. Learn new skills and develop your passions at your own pace, by selecting only the courses and videos most relevant to your teaching and learning journey. Access the NUI Galway LinkedIn Learning platform through the apps in your Office 365 account or directly from the NUI Galway LinkedIn Learning Login Page. More information and support is available from the ISS LinkedIn Learning Webpage and the ISS LinkedIn Learning SharePoint site.
  • Recording of teaching sessions: To help archive teaching sessions and to share them with students who can’t participate live, many of our synchronous teaching sessions will be recorded or live-streamed by lecturers. Depending on how the teaching session is delivered this may include the recording of audio or video of the lecturers, as well as the students who are involved in the session. It is important that you know when a teaching session is being recorded and how the University protects the privacy of those who participate in them. Please check out the new Data Protection section in the Student FAQs on our Alerts page, or read the following notice.

Virtual events

Students should look out for these important virtual events next week. Put a reminder in your calendar today:

  • NUI Galway Graduate Jobs Fair 2020 – Monday 12 October: Now is an important time to plan for your future, beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The Graduate Jobs Fair is our Career Development Centre’s flagship event and provides students with the opportunity to connect with over 90 employers. They represent many sectors of industry and commerce and are looking to recruit NUI Galway graduates from all disciplines. Find out more about the fair and how to prepare in this short video. Book your place on Careers Connect to get the registration information for the platform and start creating your online profile for the event.
  • Career Drop-Ins: The Career Development Centre is also running virtual ‘First Year Drop-Ins’ on Tuesdays in October to give anyone who is unsure of their course an opportunity to meet with one of the team and discuss your options and get advice and support. See how to register on Careers Connect.
  • ALIVE Workshop - Getting started with Community Volunteering Wednesday – Wednesday 14 October: Volunteering is an excellent way to experience new things, meet new people, give back to the community and boost your CV. A panel of speakers will offer tips on how you could benefit from volunteering and community work in Galway, across Ireland and overseas. To sign up to attend via Zoom, please click here.
  • Wellbeing Week: A number of virtual events take place this week to encourage us to make deliberate actions to focus on being well and staying healthy. Look out for the week-long schedule here.

Virtual conferring

Due to the ongoing limits on congregation on campus (and across the country), our Winter Conferring ceremonies will take place virtually. Our Conferring team will be in contact with graduands shortly with information on dates and how to take part.

Graduation is a huge milestone in our students’ lives, made all the more significant by the challenges they faced in completing the final semester of their studies. We are disappointed that we cannot celebrate with our new graduates on campus, but we look forward to marking their achievement online and sharing in the good wishes from friends and family. To see what a virtual conferring ceremony looks like, take a look back at our School of Medicine Conferring in April and our Summer Virtual Conferring in June.

These earlier virtual conferrings had a sense of novelty about them. We are thinking about ways in which we can make more meaningful virtual conferrings in the age of COVID-19. We would welcome your suggestions: please email president@nuigalway.ie.

Student Contacts & FAQs

As many of us continue to study and work remotely, it is more important than ever for our students to stay connected and informed.

  • Programme Contacts: If you have a question about your programme (course), you should raise it directly with your Programme Coordinator. If you don’t know who that is, check out our list of Programme Coordinators on the Alerts page.
  • Student Service Contacts: Despite many on-campus locations being closed, we continue to maintain important services and supports for our students at this time. For a list of student services and how to contact them, check out the Alerts page listing.
  • Student FAQs: Thanks to those students who submitted questions last week. We’re adding answers to those questions, and more, on the Student FAQs section of the Alerts page.

COVID-19 research update

Research activities continue in laboratories and facilities across campus and our research community has shown time and again how they are making a positive impact on the world around us.

  • COVID-19 Rapid Response Research: Five NUI Galway research projects were funded in the latest COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme announced by Minister Simon Harris. This represents an investment of over €480,000 in our expertise in public health, virus detection, biomarkers and aerosol measurement. Congratulations to Dr Alberto Alvarez-Iglesias (Medicine), Professor Carl Scarrott (Mathematics), Professor Charles Spillane (Ryan Institute), Professor Derek O'Keeffe (Medicine) and Professor Gerard O'Connor (Physics) who are leading these projects. You can find out more about the COVID-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme here.
  • Learning from Pandemics: Professor Dan Carey (Moore Institute) chaired a Royal Irish Academy webinar, which explored learnings from a century of pandemics. Among the speakers was Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme and NUI Galway alumnus, Dr Mike Ryan. Watch back on this insightful webinar here.
  • Protecting our Healthcare Heroes: Researchers in Psychology are collaborating with the University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, in The Frontline Worker Support (FLoWS) project to develop guidelines for alleviating psychological distress in frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more here.
  • How to Communicate about Health: Research from NUI Galway has contributed to a global study of attitudes towards Covid-19 public health guidelines that shows that threats of arrest, fines or quarantine do not help encourage people to behave in line with the advice. Find out more here.
  • Aerosol treatment for respiratory disease: NUI Galway, OmniSpirant Limited and Aerogen Limited have been awarded major funding to develop a new aerosol treatment with potential benefits across acute and chronic lung diseases, including COVID-19. Find out more here.
  • Take part in the second phase of the National Remote Working Employee Survey: The survey led by NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission is seeking participants to give their experience of remote working six months after lockdown. Find out more here.

The Power of Respect 

Respect is one of the core values of our university, in its many guises – respect for the wellbeing of our students, staff and community, respect for knowledge, evidence and expertise, respect for the important and positive role our university plays in the world.  

At this critical stage in the fight against COVID-19 in Galway, we ask every member of our university to take personal action and responsibility to adhere to public health advice and stop the spread of this deadly virus in our community. 

Our world is a weary place. We need to be therefore more care-full of ourselves and for each other. Respect is a two-way street: we expect it for ourselves (that’s the easy part) and we should give it to others.

We know our students and staff understand the importance of taking action against the spread of COVID-19. You know how deadly the virus can be, how it can have life-changing impacts on those who are infected, and how a rise in cases puts pressure on our health service and has consequences for our university community, local businesses and travel. Despite the restrictions it places on our lives, you know the sacrifices we make to adhere to public health advice and to show respect to others are worth the effort for the greater good.  

Stay safe and well,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

Staff / Student Email Update from University President, 6 October

Last week was a challenging one for many of us, settling into a new academic year in difficult circumstances. The restrictions on normal life brought about by COVID-19 can make us anxious and weary. I would like to thank most sincerely all of those students and staff who have embraced the safe return to teaching and learning, and the continuation of student services, clubs and societies online, in spite of all of the limitations upon us. It speaks to our resilience as a community, our ingenuity and the respect we share for the important role our university plays in the lives of so many people.

Level 3 restrictions

We urge you as a university community, respecting ourselves and those around us, to read and adhere to the Level 3 restrictions in the National Framework for Living with COVID-19, which are in place nationally for three weeks from midnight, Tuesday, 6 October. What we do matters to us and to others.

University President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, introduces some of the impact of Level 3 measures on our campuses.

 

Research, Teaching and Learning 

Until further notice, only essential on-site activities should continue on campus. These essential on-site activities include:

  • All research activities, under the restrictions and guidelines which have operated since re-opening research facilities during the summer
  • Lab-based and practical tuition under the restrictions and guidelines in place in that regard since the beginning of semester

Considering that current national restrictions (at Level 3 at least) will be now in place until (at least) week 5 in the semester and, sensing the need for as much certainty and stability as possible in this regard, for the remainder of this semester, all other teaching and learning will remain online.

The Library will remain open with library access on a planned and regulated entry basis, avoiding congregation risk. We are also conscious of the need for an increased number of appropriate, socially-distanced student study spaces and are reviewing how we can facilitate more of these spaces appropriately in such a way as to avoid the risk of congregating.

Working on campus

Consistent with national restrictions, until further notice, all colleagues should continue to work from home unless it is essential to attend in person to be effective. If you are required to attend campus, you will be advised by your manager. Access to campus for essential activities (including those outlined above as well as, where necessary and for example, student and research support, lecture preparation and other essential administration and academic work) will be continue to be facilitated as currently.

In that regard and to support these essential activities, local arrangements continue to be put in place consistent with public health advice to facilitate a responsible presence of staff in central services, as well as in Colleges, Schools and Research Institutes.

Campus Accommodation

Our campus accommodation will remain open. However, we understand that students who are not attending lab-based and practical tuition on campus may wish to leave Galway to return home and continue their studies remotely. The University will support students with this decision and will refund the cost of campus accommodation, less facilities charges, for the remainder of the semester, should they choose to leave.

In making decisions about your movements, we advise all students and staff to observe the public health advice as outlined in the National Framework for Living with COVID-19.

Prioritising COVID-19 testing

Students and staff are advised to prioritise COVID-19 testing over any study or work obligations. If you are advised to be tested by your doctor or by a contact tracer, please do so as quickly as possible. Students will be excused from missing lectures to attend to testing.

Any questions?

We have witnessed so much change this year, some of it coming with very little notice. We want to keep our university community up to speed and we will continue to keep students and staff updated through the Alerts page.

  • Questions about your programme: If you have a question that is specific to your programme, please email your programme coordinator directly. You’ll find a list of programme coordinators on www.nuigalway.ie/alert.
  • Other questions from students: Tell us what information you want on the Alerts page. Fill in this form and ask your questions.
  • All-Staff Webinar: Thanks again to all the staff who attended September’s All-Staff Webinar. We received over 50 questions on a range of subjects, and you can find the answers in the Staff FAQs section of the Alerts page, where we continue to update information.

Socialising Safely

Throughout this pandemic, we have seen how the actions of a small minority can have a big impact – both positively and negatively. With such a contagious and often asymptomatic virus, we all have to work together to stay safe and to socialise responsibly, in line with the National Framework for Living with COVID-19.

The urge to socialise with others is a natural one. However, at this unique time in all our lives, we must be cautious and creative in how we interact with others to make sure we follow public health advice. We are reminded of the wise words shared by the Union of Students in Ireland to ‘Keep it Small, Keep it Safe and Keep your Distance’ when mixing with others.    

In light of the restrictions on student gatherings, our Clubs and Societies are being creative in giving students the opportunity to connect online. We encourage students to get involved by visiting www.clubs.nuigalway.ie and www.socs.nuigalway.ie.

We ask all students and staff to do their bit in preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Staying apart from each other is hard work and it’s not natural, but the alternative is too scary to contemplate. Last week, our student Lynn Porter put the importance of social distancing in sharp focus when she told her story of contracting COVID-19 earlier this year. We thank her for sharing her story, and we encourage you to listen to her advice below. 

Taking Care 

Most of us have never experienced times as challenging as these. For most of us, the pandemic is causing worry, stress and anxiety. If you need support, please be aware of contact details for student supports here, while the Employee Assistance Service for staff is available here

Stay safe and well,

Ciarán.

September 2020

Staff/student email updated from University President, 25 September

As the COVID-19 situation has deteriorated nationally, the Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris TD, has this evening announced a set of new and enhanced public health protection measures for higher education. They bring into effect in NUI Galway (and other higher education institutions around the country) similar restrictions to those in place in Dublin-based higher education institutions.

The objective of these measures is to reduce the movement of students, and they will therefore greatly impact our planned resumption of teaching activities this semester.

Only essential on-site activities may continue, including (quoting from the advice issued):

  • “All research activities”
  • “Lab-based and practical tuition”

While there is a provision for limited teaching in small tutorials to continue, the clear intent of the Government’s measures is that this should be a limited number of small groups only and on the basis that the tuition can’t be done online.

In practice, therefore, in terms of teaching, only laboratory-based and practical tuition and related inductions will take place next week on-campus. While the lectures move online, should individual lecturers require access to their offices in order to deliver the material then that access will continue to be granted.  

Library access may continue on a planned and regulated entry basis, again avoiding congregation risk. The James Hardiman Library remains open to users from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. Please note the need to reserve a seat in advance to gain admission, using the Seat Booking system. If you wish to borrow any books, please order these via the Click and Collect service. To request a journal article or book chapter and receive it electronically you can use the Scan and Deliver service. Please see here for further details of services, and if you have any queries, please address these to library@nuigalway.ie.

Society and Club activities on-campus should not take place.

Since this University was established in 1845, very few groups of students and staff will have encountered such extraordinary and challenging circumstances as this year has brought. For our students, you have overcome much adversity since the start of the year to reach this point. For our staff, you have continually innovated and adapted to deliver excellent education and services to our students. This is undoubtedly a blow to those of us who hoped to return to campus next week, but we will continue to support each other through this crisis.

As a community, I know we will continue to adapt our behaviours as required, because we know that our actions can save lives, not just in this University, but in the wider community.

We will provide further updates early next week, but in the interim I urge you all to continue to follow public health advice. Stay safe and be kind to each other.

Le dea-ghuí,

Ciarán.

Staff/student email updated from University President, 14 September

As the start of the new academic year approaches, I would like to update you on some recent developments in our preparation for the return to on-campus teaching and learning.

There is a lot of information to share so these updates will be abridged, highlighting below some important updates and, as always, you can find more information on the Alerts page.

Learning from the constructive feedback given, we will be focussing our communications to make them as timely and relevant as possible over the coming weeks, to keep you informed but not overwhelmed.

Returning to Campus

Public health guidance: With the health and safety of our university community as our priority, we continue to be guided at all times by the best public health advice available to us, as most clearly set out in the Government’s Public Health Guidelines for Higher Education Institutes. These guidelines recommend over 30 specific actions to mitigate the risk of the virus on campus, which are being progressed in our university by eight sub-groups focused on the following themes:

Buildings & Estates

Staff

Communications & Behavioural Change

Student Health & Wellbeing

Health & Safety and Emergency Planning

Student Residences, Accommodation & Catering Facilities

PPE

Technology

You can find out more about the work of these groups and their membership here. As in society, we are mindful that many colleagues and students are anxious about our return to campus. We share this concern and our university community is making every effort to ensure a safe return in unprecedented circumstances. Again, as in society, many of our colleagues have returned to campus to carry out essential work and we continue to monitor and adhere to public health advice. In that regard, we encourage you to continue to be informed and to seek out the most up-to-date, reliable information about our university’s plans.

COVID-19 Access to Campus Protocol: Last week we shared our COVID-19 Access to Campus Protocol on the Alerts page. It sets out in detail how the University aims to keep the level of risk and transmission as low as possible while balancing continuing restrictions proportionately with the need to return to research, teaching and professional support activities. This is a ‘live’ document and the information will change over the weeks ahead as government guidelines and public health advice evolve. We will be drawing on this information in our communications with students, staff and other campus users over the coming weeks.

PPE: Our university has now ordered face coverings for all students and staff and we look forward to distributing these on campus when Semester 1 commences. Face coverings are one of the important control measures in place on campus to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus among our campus community.

Teaching facilities: Our current focus is on the capacity planning, preparation and reopening of teaching spaces on campus. It is impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to reopening our teaching spaces as they come in many shapes, sizes and layouts. Our colleagues in Buildings & Estates have been working hard to ensure that these spaces will be ready, with signage inside and out to help guide their safe access and use. We encourage you to familiarise yourself with these plans.

Teaching timetables: At the end of August, we shared indicative schedules with students showing the anticipated share of on-campus and online teaching and learning for Semester 1 for each programme and year. Our Schools continue to finalise programme timetables for Semester 1, including days, times and venues, and will share them with their students in the run up to Semester 1. These details must be worked out carefully to ensure that capacity and access comply with public health guidelines. We thank you for your continued patience.

What’s newly opened on campus? We are heartened to see the return to activity in more parts our campuses over the past few weeks, including:

  • Library: The James Hardiman Library has reopened to users from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, with new access restrictions and protocols to make sure it is safe for staff and users. You can find further details of services and of the booking process, on the Library website.
  • Sports facilities: The Kingfisher Club has reopened the Sports Centre on campus. Members and non-members can access the swimming pool, group classes, gym and exercise equipment but must book their place in advance. For more information on bookings, opening times, cleaning protocols and safety measures, visit the Kingfisher Club website: https://kingfisherclub.com/welcome-back 
  • Campus accommodation: One noteworthy development is the recent arrival of our international students in advance of the start of Semester 1. These students were greeted at the airport, transferred to Galway and have been supported in campus accommodation to fulfil the 14-day restricted movement requirements for overseas travellers. I would like to thank most sincerely our staff in the campus residences and the International Office for their tremendous work in welcoming, accommodating and supporting our new visitors. It is important to say that as our international students – our students – emerge from their period of restricted movement, they no longer represent a greater risk in terms of COVID-19 transmission than any other person in Ireland. As pointed out in the Government’s Public Health Guidelines for Higher Education Institutes (p. 6), ‘there is no enduring relationship between [COVID-related risk] and geographical origin’.

Virtual events and training

Local COVID-19 Coordinator training: Training will take place online on Wednesday (16 September) for the Local COVID-19 Coordinators in our Schools and Units. See course details here. We are sincerely grateful to these colleagues for stepping up to fulfil this important role.

All-Staff Meeting: To help colleagues prepare for the new academic year, we will be hosting another online All-Staff Meeting next week. It will be focused on the information you need and the questions you have about returning to campus. Look out for event details later this week.

National support for Higher Education

In July, we welcomed the government’s announcement of a package of supports for higher education institutions and students across the country in light of the challenges and disruptions brought by COVID-19. I’m pleased to update you on two particular focuses of these supports, which we believe will be of great benefit to our students.

  • Laptop Loan Scheme: This scheme is intended to provide laptops on a long-term loan to support disadvantaged students who do not have access to their own. The University has received funding for approximately 800 laptops and we expect the devices to be delivered later this month. The University has worked with Access offices nationally to ensure fairness and consistency around eligibility. You can find out more information on the Access Centre website here, where additional information will be made available in the coming weeks.
  • Mental Health Funding: The University has been allocated €313,000 by the HEA to enhance mental health and wellbeing support for students. This funding is intended for the provision of specific student-facing areas and in support of our broader mental health strategy. I am pleased to say that our Student Services team has started the process of recruiting more much-needed counsellors to enhance our supports to our students. This year continues to be a stressful and challenging one for all of us and we welcome this focus on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our campus community.

The Gift of Stones

Jim Crace’s The Gift of Stones (1988) tells of an imagined stone-age village of stonemasons whose work is undermined and whose life is therefore overrun by the new technology of bronze. The story’s protagonist lost an arm at a young age and therefore does not work in stone. Instead, he travels outside the village boundaries – researching if you will – and gains perspective, sees society in a different way, is the first to observe the approach of the new technologies and comes back with sometimes imagined stories of what lies beyond the horizon. When the new possibilities of the Bronze Age have passed the village by, his aptitude for storytelling remains: ‘his new task’, as is all ours now, ‘was to invent a future for us all’..

The book concludes:

He closed his eyes and what he saw was the shingled margin of the sea with horses wild and riderless close by. He tried to place a sail upon the sea, but could not. He tried to fill the air with human sounds. But all he saw were horses in the wind, the tide in loops upon the beach, the spray-wet rocks as stones reflecting all the changes in the sky, and no one there to notice or applaud.

As we prepare for the new academic year, reflecting all the changes in our sky, there are many many colleagues, and students, who have been working hard, very hard and with great diligence and care, to facilitate a safe return to teaching, often unnoticed and without applause. They deserve our respect and our appreciation – and our gratitude – our kindness and our constructive feedback and no throwing of stones. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Le dea-ghuí,

Ciarán.

 

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.

 

University Closure - Student / Staff Update from University President, 12 March

Dear all,

Our mission is to be for the public good and our priority is the wellbeing of our campus community. In light of the announcement by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, today, our campus will therefore be running in a very limited capacity, from 18:00 today (Thursday 12 March) onwards. 

For students, this means that lectures and other learning materials will be available on Blackboard from Monday 23rd March.  For staff, this means that you will be working remotely, and my management team colleagues will contact any staff who may be required to remain on campus from this evening onwards. 

We are working through the details of this evolving health emergency, and I urge you to check www.nuigalway.ie/alert for updates as we finalise our planning. 

At this time, please be conscious of the community of which we are a part. As a priority, support those who need our support. Please also keep in communication with each other: we are all part of our community. I urge you all to take care of each other during this time, and prioritise your wellbeing and that of those close to you.

We wish all our students, staff, alumni, the people whom we love and and the communities in which we live the very best. Beatha agus sláinte chugaibh uilig. 

Kind regards,

Ciarán.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

President, NUI Galway

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