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London Met shuts research buildings to stem coronavirus

Image: Kiev.Victor, via Shutterstock

London Metropolitan University is closing all buildings in a week's time

London Metropolitan University has become the first in the UK to shut down all research as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.

On 13 March, London Metropolitan University confirmed it will close all its buildings from 5pm on 20 March, including those used for research. All teaching will go online from 23 March and an open day scheduled for 14 March will be replaced by a series of “virtual events” instead.

While several other universities have also stopped holding face-to-face classes, other buildings remain open. At Durham University the library will stay open while the London School of Economics campus will continue to operate.

In a statement, London Metropolitan University said that while it was not aware of any staff or students who have contracted the virus, it recognised it has “an important part to play in limiting the spread of the coronavirus”.

“We know that many members of our community will be concerned at this time, but we are committed to providing our students and staff with the support they need,” the university said.

London Metropolitan University said it was following general Public Health England advice on travel restrictions and hygiene, but the government’s official advice to universities is to remain open. The Office for Students is currently telling universities to stay open and adhere to government advice. On its website, it says: “No higher education provider should close in response to a suspected—or confirmed—Covid-19 case unless advised to do so by Public Health England.”

Education secretary Gavin Williamson urged universities to stay open. At an event held by the Association of School and College Leaders, Williamson told journalists that universities can “make their own decisions” but should follow scientific advice.

“I would urge any educational establishment, whether it be a school, whether it be a childcare or early years setting, whether it be a college or whether it be a university to actually look at what the medical and scientific advice is—and the medical and scientific advice is that we shouldn’t be closing educational settings," he said.

Other universities which have now announced restrictions on face-to-face teaching or opening times include: University College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary’s University of London, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton, and Salford University.