STUDENTS at Manchester Metropolitan University are confined to their rooms, with security officers keeping them inside.
In a statement, Manchester Met said: ‘Our security teams will increase patrols to support the lockdown and we will take disciplinary action against any students found to have breached requirements.’
Joe Byrne, a Manchester Met first-year student, said students have been ‘left completely in the dark’ and ‘practically locked up against our will’.
Another student, Megan Tingey said she was not contacted by the university about the lockdown before police turned up outside her accommodation.
Manchester Met staff said yesterday their concerns over safety were not listened to and that they feel nothing but sympathy for the 1,700 students under lockdown in their halls of residence.
University and College Union (UCU) officer Martyn Moss said: ‘We warned that that not enough was being done to make campuses safe and that the mass return of students would inevitably see institutions become Covid incubators.
‘Instead of heeding our warnings, universities pushed the idea that students could return to open “Covid-secure” campuses.
‘Ministers and universities must not try to use students as scapegoats for a wholly predictable crisis of their own making.’
At least 3,000 students are currently in lockdown at universities around the country.
University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady called the lockdown at Manchester Met ‘the latest catastrophe in a week where wholly predictable and predicted Covid outbreaks have caused havoc’.
She went on: ‘Nearly 2,000 students who are paying to be there are locked in their accommodation, in prison-like conditions.
‘Our union, nearly one month ago now, and Independent SAGE, both warned this would happen.
‘It’s not about people not sticking to rules. Universities are inherently shared places. Despite all warnings, the government and universities encouraged the mass movement of a million students, with no functioning track and trace, no testing when people arrive on campus. This is not sufficient.’
She insisted: ‘The rotten and not-fit-for-purpose funding model that this government has applied to higher education has been completely exposed during Covid and they need to move very urgently to underwrite the sector.’
National Union of Students President Larissa Kennedy said: ‘We must remember this is happening because the government and universities told students to return to campus and this shambolic situation now demands flexibility.
‘Now we’re in the situation the government wants to distract and leave the blame on others. As students we really aren’t interested in them trying to shirk responsibility.
‘The government is trying to push this narrative that students are breaking the rules and all of this, but actually the rules are flawed.’
Labour’s Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the start of university term should be delayed, adding:
‘We do think it is important that students have a choice and if they feel they are going to be safer at home then they should be able to stay at home and conduct their learning remotely.’
Last week, Tory Health Secretary Hancock refused to rule out banning students from returning home, while scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport warned some might have to stay on campus.