Manchester Uni students 'fenced in' as lockdown security barriers put up around halls

5 November 2020, 16:35 | Updated: 5 November 2020, 20:39

Fencing has been put up around many blocks and communal areas at Manchester Uni
Fencing has been put up around many blocks and communal areas at Manchester Uni. Picture: Ewan Massey

By Ewan Somerville

Students at the University of Manchester have complained of feeling “locked in” after fencing was put up around their halls of residence ahead of the second national lockdown.

Workers were filmed erecting large stretches of barriers around communal areas and blocks on the Fallowfield campus, home to thousands of mostly first-year students, as England’s new shutdown began on Thursday.

The university said it was designed to make entry and exit points clearer as it stepped up security patrols and Covid-19 health messages.

Many were left wondering whether or not they could leave and accused managers of failing to give any prior warning or explanation before it appeared.

Megan Richards, 18, a first-year Manchester student told LBC: “The uni did not email us beforehand. We feel it is inhumane and unnecessary to practically lock us into our own campus.

“The fencing has been put around our whole Fallowfield campus. The policy is fair enough but the lack of communication is appalling.”

A first-year geography student living there told LBC: “The fencing started being put up this morning without any communication to the students living here. The fencing is covering all of the blocks.”

The 18-year-old added: “I’m angry about the lack of communication. We don’t know why the fencing is up, where we can and can’t go, how we get in and out of campus. I’m concerned for people’s mental health.”

Under the lockdown rules, people in England must stay at home but can leave for shopping necessities, exercise, caring duties, education and work reasons, and other essential purposes.

A Manchester University spokesperson said: “In response to the national four-week lockdown we are introducing new security measures at key entrance points to our campus, accommodation and main pedestrian routes to help keep our students, our staff and our community safe.

“A security presence will be increased in these areas and fencing displaying important Covid-19 health messages will be installed.

"This fencing is designed to help highlight main entrance areas, where security staff will ensure that only students who live in that accommodation can access safely and help avoid the mixing of households."

They added: "Regrettably the fencing began to be installed ahead of the message being seen by halls students. We apologise for any worry that this has caused and would like to reiterate that all students who live on site can continue to come and go freely."

Students said they had been offered no support, echoing concerns from the National Union of Students (NUS) that morale in halls is low.

Thousands of students have been confined to their university residences for much of the autumn term so far to self-isolate, as coronavirus cases have swept 119 campuses.

Manchester’s two universities have moved most teaching online after recording hundreds of Covid-19 cases. The Government has urged institutions to keep in-person teaching during the lockdown, set to end on 2 December, to boost mental health.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan urged students not to “rush home” before the four-week lockdown came into force, but the NUS warned a “mass exodus” was expected.