The spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has put considerable stress on the fabric of Ireland, on each of us individually, our families, our community and our country. HECA, the Higher Education Colleges Association, recognises this stress and its 13 representative colleges have taken clear and decisive action to enable the completion of the current academic year for all its students and are completely committed to the support of their students through this unprecedented COVID-19 emergency.
Grounded on the public health advice on March 12th, HECA Colleges have moved their teaching delivery and learner supports to nearly 23,000 students online. All face-to-face exams scheduled for exam halls during April and May have been replaced with online and remote assessment equivalents. Some colleges are moving exam-hall exams to an online format while others are replacing them with alternative assessments, also delivered online or remotely. A wide range of innovative online teaching, learning and assessments, with variations applied as applicable for different disciplines, are already in place across the HECA colleges. Each individual college has communicated its alternative arrangements and schedules to its students and will continue to communicate with students right through to the completion of the last exam.
Our priority during this time is to protect our students, our staff and our Colleges as well as ensuring that students are afforded the best possible supports in an online environment until we can all recalibrate into the new normal of the post COVID-19 crisis. Our support includes academic, to study remotely, wellbeing and, where possible, support in addressing matters of health, accommodation, and employment.
While the operations of colleges were initially challenged by the COVID-19 emergency, the HECA colleges have worked to ensure that their fundamentals of academic quality, parity of standards and student expectations are maintained during this crisis. Our colleges are premised on high quality teaching, learning, assessment, and student support. To ensure the continuation of this, the contingency arrangements of each of our member Colleges were approved by the appropriate institutional governance authorities, including Academic Councils or Boards. This also ensures that these alternative measures are fully consistent with the rigorous Quality Assurance regime overseen by QQI, Quality & Qualifications Ireland, and guided by their recent document on COVID-19
We continue to place high expectations on all our students and require students to ensure academic integrity when undertaking their alternative exams and assignments. In return, students who are unable to engage in the alternative assessment approaches including where a student has genuine, practical difficulty in completing an assessment, are able to defer assessment with no academic or financial cost to the next sitting of that assessment.
We wish all our students, staff and the broader HECA community well during these challenging times. Thank you to all the HECA students for your patience and feedback as we quickly moved to online arrangements and thank you to HECA staff for your ‘can do’ attitude, hard work, congeniality and support of each other. Further appreciation to QQI, the Department of Education, HEA and the wider Higher Education community for their collaboration in this national and global crisis to ensure that our community stays safe, stays operating and maintains quality.
Keep physical distancing measures and keep our wider community safe.