Student tells LBC 'freshers still want the full university experience' as parties continue

21 September 2020, 15:10 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 15:20

By Maddie Goodfellow

A new student at the University of Birmingham has told us some freshers are still planning parties, despite the national and local coronavirus restrictions in place.

The student - who wanted to stay anonymous - told LBC students are still planning on getting the "full uni experience"

"Obviously people are going to be worries about the virus going around and whatnot but who am I to deny people," he said.

"It's first year, everyone is going to want to party, everyone is going to want that, come on.

"It's first year, you can't expect us to just sit in our rooms bored."

Boris Johnson has urged students to "wash your hands, cover your face, make space and don't socially gather in groups of more than six, now and when term starts."

The Department of Education has issued guidance for universities, which may impose fines and disciplinary action on students who are found breaching social-distancing rules. 

Birmingham is currently under local lockdown, with households banned from mixing under new measures announced following a spike in coronavirus cases.

The student continued: "Of course it's wrong, of course we shouldn't be doing it, but you only get this chance once and when you get into second year and their year it's going to be harder, we're not going to have as much time. First year is the time.

"In my block, there is 250 plus people in it, and everyone is saying we'll have parties, apartment parties.

"We know security will be strict on it but we will find a way to do it."

In a statement, the University of Birmingham said: “Where we receive reports of inappropriate behaviour or conduct, these will be taken seriously and investigated.

"Where necessary, the University will take appropriate and proportionate action against anyone found to be compromising the safety and wellbeing of others, in accordance with our regulations.”

Earlier this month, scientists from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned social interactions and accommodation are likely to be a "high-risk environment" for transmission to occur - and asymptomatic cases among students may make it harder to detect.

Universities should consider providing dedicated accommodation facilities to enable students who test positive to effectively isolate and minimise the risk of an outbreak, the scientists said.

The Sage paper said: "There is a significant risk that HE (higher education) could amplify local and national transmission, and this requires national oversight.

"A critical risk is a large number of infected students seeding outbreaks across the UK, influencing national transmission."

A recent poll found that more than half of people living in university towns and cities fear the return of students will lead to coronavirus spikes and restrictions in their area.

Tens of thousands of students are due back on campus in the coming days, and earlier this month Government scientific advisers warned it is "highly likely" there will be significant coronavirus outbreaks linked to universities.

A new poll has now suggested 57 per cent of people fear local restrictions will result, with nearly half (48 per cent) indicating they will blame the Government.

The Survation poll, carried out for the University and College Union (UCU), also found half of respondents believe universities should cancel all face-to-face teaching, with 57 per cent expressing a lack of confidence in local Test and Trace systems to control outbreaks.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We have already seen universities put in place a range of protective measures, such as limiting travel into campus, staggering class times over extended days, and reinforcing hand hygiene.

"Our updated HE guidance includes advice on what a provider should do in the event of a local lockdown, track and trace procedures, the creation of new households in student accommodation and reflects the latest social gathering restrictions.

"Opening universities is a part of the Prime Minister's cautious roadmap, and it is important that we continue to open education settings wherever it is safe to do so.

"We support face-to-face teaching only where possible and if safety guidelines are followed, but know that high-quality online teaching can also be delivered if necessary."