"Our further and higher education institutions have already moved classes primarily online, with student and staff welfare being of paramount importance. I want to pay tribute to the collective efforts of staff and students in continuing educational programmes in this way.
"We are now in a scenario where Ireland as a whole must move to Level 5 of the government’s plan for living with COVID-19, and that means that all further and higher education institutions should continue to deliver the vast majority of classes online.
"The Level 5 measures announced last night designate higher and further education as essential insofar as onsite presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely. Institutions and providers are best placed to determine where onsite presence is required but essential activities at Level 5 in further and higher education may include:
teaching and research in laboratories, practical and skills-based tuition, workshops (including training of apprentices)
engagement, including small group learning, with learners whose particular needs require additional support over and above that which can be provided online
scheduled access to libraries and other onsite study space for those students who do not otherwise have suitable facilities or home environment to access learning remotely
small group activity to mitigate disadvantage in literacy, numeracy and basic skills provision including the National Youthreach Programme and community and adult education and literacy programmes
skills and experiential learning for disciplines related to essential services such as clinical placements and regulated safety training in the construction sector
on-campus research activities which cannot be undertaken remotely
provision of necessary onsite support to meet the mental health and welfare needs of students
"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.
"All appropriate protective measures will be maintained to support these onsite activities and to avoid congregation. For transport to and from campuses for the above essential purposes walking and cycling is encouraged but public transport can be used where necessary.
"This has been a very difficult time for students and for those working in further and higher education, and I want to acknowledge that. It is clear that programmes will continue to operate primarily online for the remainder of this semester. We will review the position with relevant institutions and stakeholders in the light of experience and the progress of the disease and communicate the position for next semester before the end of the year."