Students have torn down “prison-like” fencing erected around their campus on day one of England’s new lockdown.
Those living at the University of Manchester’s Fallowfield halls of residence awoke to find workers putting up “huge metal barriers”.
They were eventually pulled down as hundreds of students – who said they were not warned about the measure – protested.
The university apologised “for the concern and distress caused”.
‘Like a prison’
Students said the fences, placed between buildings, blocked off some entry and exit points and left them feeling trapped.
First-year Management student Megan, who did not want to give her surname, said: “Morale is really low, we’re really disappointed we didn’t hear about this beforehand and about the fact it went up without any explanation.
“They’re huge metal barriers, they’re connected to one another and there’s literally no gaps.
“There is fencing around the whole outside, we feel like it’s completely unnecessary. It makes it feel like we’re in a prison.”
Fellow first-year, English literature undergraduate Ewan, said the 7ft (2.1m) fencing was a further blow to many who had already spent weeks isolating.
“It’s not like living at home, we don’t have a sofa, we have a kitchen and plastic chairs,” he said.
“There’s no way you can relax there. You’re in a completely different city and you do feel lonely there and trapped.”
Ewan was among those who attended the protest where much of the fencing was torn down.
“People were dragging them down and jumping on them,” he said.
“We walked on the grass that was restricted by the fences. We did a lap of the whole campus.”
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”.
In a statement, President and Vice-Chancellor Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell said the fencing was not meant to cause distress nor prevent students from entering or exiting the site.
It was intended, she said, to address safety and security concerns from students and staff, “particularly about access by people who are not residents”.
“The fences are being taken down from Friday morning and students are being contacted immediately,” she said.
“Alternative security measures, including additional security patrols are being put in place.”