The barriers, placed in the perimeter of the University of Manchester’s Fallowfield complex, were a “security measure”, the the President and Vice-Chancellor later explained. Outraged students gathered outside to pull the fence down while others cheered on as the barriers fell down.
Speaking to the PA news agency, a maths student said: “We’ve just been really frustrated. It feels like a kick in the balls. There’s no benefit we can see to them being up.
“They’ve said something about it increasing our safety but from what we can see it’s a complete waste of money.”
Another student explained that the fence brought the student community to a “breaking point” following complaints regarding the university’s management of the coronavirus crisis.
He told PA: “I think there was a boiling point when they put up those fences. It was a final breaking point for most students.”
Manchester University students and critics took to Twitter to document the situation with some reporting lack of support from the institution following the death of a student due to lockdown anxiety.
One person said: “Ah yes, a student killed themselves last month because of loneliness due to isolation?
“Let’s just cage the rest of them in, that’ll do that trick. Cheers UoM #ManchesterUniversity”
Another person added: “This was more than just taking down a fence. We hope this will raise awareness to the lack of support students have received over the course of the pandemic.
One Twitter user said: “Manchester University has taken the rightful course of action. It is those ghastly students who have caused cases to spike!
“Thought they were meant to be the educated-beacon of hope this country could trust in the future? No!”
Following the unrest, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor on the university, issued a statement apologising for the “concern and distress caused”.
She 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.