New lockdown: Manchester University fencing costing £11k removed

Image caption,
The fencing was pulled down after hundreds of students - who said they were not warned about the measure - protested

A university that spent £11,000 on fencing has been forced to remove the barriers hours later amid protests.

Students living at the University of Manchester's Fallowfield halls of residence awoke to find workers putting up "huge metal barriers" on Thursday.

It sparked a protest among hundreds of students over the "prison-like" campus fencing, which was later torn down.

The university has announced it will hold an inquiry into the decision to erect the fencing.

Work to remove the fencing began last night and will be completed later.

The university confirmed it had spent £11,000 net to install, inspect and remove the fencing, which had been hired for four weeks in response to security concerns about non-residents accessing the Owens Park site.

Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell, the university's president and vice-chancellor, said: "Firstly, I want to apologise again for the distress caused by putting up the fence yesterday and the very poor communication surrounding this.

"I am determined to find out what went wrong and to learn from it."

The inquiry will be conducted by a former vice-president for teaching, learning and students with the report submitted by the end of the month.

Prof Rothwell said she would meet with student representatives from the halls "as soon as possible".

Image source, Ewan
Image caption,
Students said the fences made them feel as if they had been imprisoned

Prof Rothwell added: "I know the events of yesterday were distressing for many students on a personal level at what is already a very difficult time. I'm sorry for that.

"I also regret that our actions led to protests and unrest at the residences last night.

"The fence has been removed today and, in consultation with students, additional security measures will be put in place to help to keep all of our residents safe."

Students said the fences, placed between buildings, blocked off some entry and exit points and left them feeling trapped.

Third-year drama student Billie Harvey-Munro has criticised the lack of communication over the fencing.

Media caption,
Students said they felt "trapped" and "imprisoned" by the fencing

"There's been no transparency whatsoever. Students weren't warned," said Ms Harvey-Munro, who is part of a campaign group Student Action for a Fair and Educated Response.

"You have a bunch of first-year students who are scared about the current crisis anyway.

"I think it really demonstrates to us how little the university had prioritised students at this time."

The university initially insisted it had written to students informing them about the construction, but has since acknowledged work began "ahead of the message being seen".

Under the new lockdown rules in England, university students have been told not to move back and forward between their permanent and student homes during term time. The government says they should only return home at the end of term.

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