Enraged University of Manchester students tear down fencing in Fallowfield protest

  • Students tear down newly-erected fencing in protest at Fallowfield halls 
  • Students are angry at lack of mental health support 
  • Calls to withhold rent until an agreement is met 

Students living in the Fallowfield halls of residence have torn down fencing put up by the University of Manchester.

The fencing appeared yesterday morning without any prior warning and was set to remain until 2 December when the national lockdown is planned to end.

Following a backlash from students and parents the university has agreed to remove the fencing today.

Studnets protest against the barriers                                                           Photo: Tom Grant

Speaking to the Mancunion, Izzy Smitheman, one of the organisers of the protest, said: “We are still going to protest. It’s not about the fence, it’s about the principle.”

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The university didn’t even warn us until after it was all up, then they sent us an email.

“They’re saying people have been coming in causing crime but there has been none of that that I’ve seen.”

Increased security checks are now taking place, with non-residents no longer allowed on site.

Students have to show a valid university ID to gain entry, as well as wear coloured wristbands indicating which halls they live in.

“I don’t need a further reminder I am basically living in a prison cell,” the student said, describing the accommodation as ‘ugly’ and the rooms as ‘tiny’.

“They have neglected us.”

covid-19, lockdown, Falowfield, University of Manchester
Owens Park halls were fenced off by the university

The student in question has already suffered a 14-day isolation in their flat after one of their flatmates tested positive for Covid-19, and claims the university only delivered food for them on the final day.

“We had to rely on our parents to drop stuff outside our dorm, the university completely disregarded our needs,” he said.

In a statement, professor dame Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor of the university,  said: “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.

“There was never any intent to prevent students from entering or exiting.”

Many cited the lacklustre attempt by the university to provide mental health support, in addition to what some students consider an excessive cost of rent as reasons behind the protest. 

Last month, Fin Kitson, a 19-year-old UoM student who suffered from ‘severe anxiety’, was found dead in in his flat in the Fallowfield campus.

Many, including the boy’s father, pointed to the alleged lack of support during the initial campus lockdown as contributing to his death. 

Marcell Mapp, a UoM student, said: “Students are being locked up like animals and it’s disgusting.”

UoM Rent Strike say they are waiting for the university to acknowledge its demands which include a 40% rent reduction, no-penalty early release clauses and improved standard of support for students. 

The group is calling on students to withhold rent until an agreement is reached.