Third level students in Ireland have been in the spotlight due to the reporting in the media of large gatherings of students in a number of cities apparently flouting COVID-19 guidelines. Up to a thousand people were reported as gathering around the Spanish Arch area of Galway as well as there being numerous house parties in the area.
Student fitness to practise has more traditionally focused on areas such as, for example, clinical work placements to ensure students have the skills and knowledge to undertake and complete a placement and having a healthy mind and body to enable practise in a chosen profession. However, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, there is sudden national focus on student conduct.
Each University and College will have its own processes, procedures and Codes of Conduct in relation to how it manages student fitness to practise. While it is likely that the same types of issues will be investigated by all Universities and Colleges, it will be the way in which each University and College implements its processes and procedures that will be of interest to students.
In the same way that it could never have been foreseen that the outcomes of the Leaving Certificate would become the subject of litigation, it is unprecedented that the same type of conduct occurring in different Universities and Colleges would be the subject of high level public scrutiny.
In this context, the procedures and processes of each University and College will be to the forefront. Given the significance of the outcome of the procedures for students, the issues of natural justice will apply. Not unlike the issues of the Leaving Certificate results, it may be that the Courts will see litigation arising from decisions made by the Universities and Colleges in relation to student conduct.
Written by Eimear Burke, Ciara Hanratty and Ellie Kavanagh
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