The University of Manchester has reversed a controversial decision to fence off halls of residence after student protests.
The U-turn comes less than 24 hours after barriers were erected around accommodation blocks and green spaces on the Fallowfield campus.
Students had vocally aired anger over not being warned in advance and raised concerns about about mental wellbeing, with around 1,000 people reportedly attending a protest at 8pm this evening which saw many of the fences displaced.
An hour later, a statement was released by UoM President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell apologising for the decision.
The statement read: “I sincerely apologise for the concern and distress caused by the erecting of a fence around our Fallowfield Halls of Residence today.
“This was not our intention – in fact quite the reverse.
“The fencing was intended as a response to a number of concerns received over recent weeks from staff and students on this site about safety and security; particularly about access by people who are not residents.
“There was never any intent to prevent students from entering or exiting the site.
“The fences are being taken down from Friday morning and students are being contacted immediately. Alternative security measures, including additional security patrols are being put in place.
“I apologise once again for the issues caused by this incident.”
Residents had dubbed the campus “HMP Fallowfield” in response to the move, which came on the same day as an inquest began into the death of UoM student Finn Kitson.
Mr Kitson was found dead in his halls of residence on Fallowfield campus on October 8.
One student, who wished to remain anonymous, was heavily critical of the “poorly executed decision, which they described as being locked in “like animals.”
They said: “It’s shameful, they made a huge decision on a whim and didn’t tell one student about it.
“Yet 10 minutes or so after the protests and the social media uproar they suddenly claim they’ll remove them tomorrow and that was never their intention.
“You ID people and check they’re a student; you don’t lock people in like animals.”
The UoM had previously said that the move had been planned prior to the new lockdown, which came into effect today.
Manchester has been dealing with some of the highest coronavirus case rates in the country.
By Callum Parke
All pictures were taken by our anonymous source.