Third-level colleges will not require students and staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to access their campuses when they reopen in September.
However, they will need to show proof of vaccination in order to access indoor college canteens or bars, in line with wider public health rules.
A number of higher education sources confirmed to The Irish Times that students will be urged to take up offers of a vaccination to ensure they can avail of the “full student experience”.
Hundreds of higher education institutions in the US have made vaccination mandatory for students, while some zero-Covid advocates have said it would be “perfectly reasonable” to do the same in Ireland.
Dr Tomás Ryan, a neuroscientist at Trinity and member of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group, said recently it was “not radical” to require students to be vaccinated.
Colleges are planning to collaborate with the HSE to ensure rapid access to testing and vaccination, including on-site provision in some cases.
Under plans announced by third-level colleges last week, students will return to on-site lectures and tutorials next month. However, limits are likely to apply to the number who may attend and the time period allowed.
They said rapid progress in the vaccination programme has given a new level of confidence about maximising the return to higher education.
While each college is drawing up its own arrangements, agreement has been reached on a broad approach to a safe return to campus, taking account of public health advice.
Last year, the vast majority of college lectures took place online but the plan is for a “maximum on-site” presence from September.
Many colleges are planning to continue to stream and record large lectures online following positive feedback from students on being able to play back lectures.
The Irish Universities Association, the Technological Higher Education Association and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland announced the joint approach last week.
Their implementation plan builds on other advice published by the Department of Further and Higher Education last June on the safe reopening of college campuses.