Fencing that was erected around halls at a university in response to England’s new lockdown has been torn down.
Students at the University of Manchester say they had no prior warning of the metal fencing and new security checks that were in place at Fallowfield halls.
One parent of a student at the halls said they are being “penned in like animals”, while another student described the scenes as a “BTEC Alcatraz”.
The university confirmed the fencing has been installed in response to the new four-week lockdown which started today in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
However, picture and video from the Fallowfields halls show the fencing being brought down by dozens of students, which was met which cheers and applause.
Students are not being locked in at halls including Owens Park and Unsworth Park, the University insists, although they must comply with government guidance.
But several students raised concerns about the mental health strain students are already under.
One parent told Manchester Evening News : “What is going on on the Fallowfield campus the students are being penned in like animals,” one concerned parent said.
“No communication from the university. They’ve all had COVID and been isolated for weeks!!”
A video described the scenes as ‘BTEC Alcatraz’ – a reference to the notorious US prison.
A spokesperson for the University of Manchester 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.
“We understand these are challenging times, and we are extremely grateful to all of our students who are following the guidelines and making adjustments to their lives to help keep our community safe.”
Further details given to students via a statement on the University website reveal there will be security checks at night and students may be asked to present ID to get into their halls.
“These entrance areas and security checks will only be fully operational at night time, and when entering your halls of residence you may be asked to present your Student ID and confirm where your accommodation is,” the statement says.
“University residents that will be affected by these enhanced security measures will receive an email from the University giving evidence of residence.
“This can be shown to security to gain access to accommodation. Non-residents will not be permitted entry in line with new Government legislation to prohibit the mixing of households.
“These security measures should not impact the services available to you – your bins will still be collected, couriers and food deliveries will still have access and your laundry services and bike shelters are still accessible too. Your fire assembly points also remain unchanged.
“When coming to and from your halls, please remember to carry your student ID with you and continue to follow the Government guidelines by avoiding travelling outside of Manchester and not mixing with any other household.”
It is inderstood the measures were already planned in response to the lockdown, but the Uni has had problems with large parties on the Fallowfield campus over the Halloween weekend.
The University later issued an updated statement which added: “In recent weeks we have received a number of concerns from staff and students on this site about safety and security; particularly about access by people who are not residents.
“We are therefore introducing new security measures out of hours at key entrance points to our campus, accommodation and main pedestrian routes to help keep our students, our staff and our community safe.
“As now, residents can continue to enter and leave as they please.
“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.”
It comes after Manchester Met University faced criticism over allegations security guards told students at the Birley campus they were not permitted to leave their accommodation following a large coronavirus outbreak.
A number of experts questioned the legality of the ‘local lockdown’ imposed by council and university officials.
MMU later confirmed students were free to leave if they wished but that it was hoped they would ‘do the right thing’ and remain in their flats to contain the spread of the virus.
Students across the country continue to pay fees for tuition and accommodation despite their experience this term.
The latest update from University of Manchester said it was ‘hoped’ that students can return home for Christmas.
It says: “While we understand that some of you may want to be back with your family during this difficult time, moving to another home would risk breaking the law and therefore, we strongly encourage you to limit movement around the country to avoid the risk of spreading the virus.
“We very much hope that you will be able to return to your families for the Christmas break, and are anticipating further Government guidance on this over the coming weeks.
“Also, if you are celebrating Bonfire Night at home tonight, please stay safe and refrain from setting fireworks off anywhere on campus to ensure the safety of yourselves and others.”