All lectures, seminars and classes for first and foundation year students at Manchester Metropolitan University will be online for the next 14 days after a Covid-19 oubreak.
As reported, the situation has led to around 1,500 students being told not to leave two university halls of residence for two weeks, unless it’s an emergency.
There have been 137 positive cases in a matter of weeks linked to Birley campus on Bonsall Street and Cambridge Hall on Cavendish Street.
Professor Malcolm Press, vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, told the Manchester Evening News online learning would remain in place for a fortnight.
And he said the situation would be reviewed regularly.
The University and College Union (UCU) said the university should move ‘the majority’ of all teaching online ‘immediately’.
In a statement, it said the union has previously called for online learning to be universities’ ‘default position’ in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Prof Press said other year groups would continue to be taught in a ‘blended way’ – a mix of online and face-to-face classes.
But he said the university has the ‘flexibility’ to move to fully online if needed.
“The Government places a high priority on universities staying open and delivering high quality education,” Prof Press said.
“Students tell us that they value the mix of online and face-to-face education and it is important that we do what we can to deliver this in a COVID-secure way.
“It would be unfair to expect students to put their lives on hold.
“We have switched all of our foundation year and first year students to online learning for the next 14 days, and are reviewing the situation regularly.
“Other year groups will continue to learn in a blended way.
“Students are taking one course unit at a time and in small groups, with members of staff always remaining at least two metres from students, with the use of face coverings or visors, as well as other measures in place.”
Many students said they were caught by surprise by the announcement, and that many only found out when they encountered security guards at the gates who said they were not allowed to leave.
Today, friends and families were seen dropping off food for students inside both halls of residences.
Many parents drove miles for hours to reach their loved ones.
The university said today it was developing an additional package of care and financial support to assist students who have been asked to go into 14-day self-isolation.
The support will include the provision of food and other essential items through partnerships with local supermarkets, enhanced health and wellbeing services, and additional financial assistance.
And Manchester’s Director of Public Health, David Regan, said a specific testing programme based on the latest epidemiology would start on Monday.
He said: “This will be communicated to students by close of play Monday.”
Prof Press added: “The physical and emotional wellbeing of our students is paramount. Discussions with Public Health England and Manchester City Council on Friday led to the decision to ask students living in these halls to self-isolate at short notice.
“The reason for this decision was the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, with 127 students testing positive for the virus, and the need to protect our wider community.
“I recognise the impact that this situation is having on our students, particularly given the extremely short period of time we had to inform them of the decision. Many of them are away from home for the first time and still finding their feet.
“Their welfare is our top priority.
“We are urgently preparing a care package which we hope will ensure students will have the essentials they require in halls, plus financial support to assist them through this challenging period.
“We expect students to follow the guidance for self-isolation set out by the Government and Public Health England.”
Staff, he said, would be on hand 24 hours a day.