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Manchester apologises for fencing in students


Angry students attack wire barriers before university pledges to remove ‘security measure’

The University of Manchester has been forced into promising to remove fences erected around student halls after angry protests from students and concern from the universities minister.

Students at the University of Manchester tore down sections of fencing around the Fallowfield Halls of Residence on 5 November. In extraordinary scenes detailed on social media, students said they knew nothing of the measures before high barriers were erected around their halls.

Protestors, some letting off flares, later tore down sections of the fences.

Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of UoM, said, “I sincerely apologise for the concern and distress caused by the erecting of a fence around our Fallowfield Halls of Residence today…The fences are being taken down from Friday morning and students are being contacted immediately.”

Rothwell said the fencing was a response to “a number of concerns received over recent weeks from staff and students” about non-students accessing the site, and there was “never any intent” to prevent students coming and going.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said on 5 November that she had contacted Rothwell “to raise concerns about the placing of fencing around student accommodation”.

She added, “I have been assured it will be removed and my department will remain in contact regarding the issue.”

In a twitter post supporting the anti-fence protests, the National Union of Students said, “The complete disregard for students is glaring. What they need is clear communication and proper support from government and institutions—not to be fenced into their shoebox rooms with no mental health support or access to basic necessities.”

The University and College Union also added its voice to the protests, saying the fencing should never have gone up.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said the fence was “illustrative of how higher education operates”.

“A completely out of touch group of managers develop a stupid plan,” she said. “The plan creates chaos and mountains of work for everyone underneath them. They then offer an abysmal apology that gaslights everyone.”