Students could soon be living in a ‘bubble’ with people from the same degree course as part of Staffordshire University’s pandemic recovery plans.
The move will limit social mixing in halls of residence, although they will still be able to meet up with other undergraduates on campus.
The new arrangements are due to kick into action from September and will mean fewer people being able to stay in the 1,200 university-owned bedrooms.
All lectures will also be delivered online only for the first semester. But smaller group work and practical sessions will be offered face-to-face, providing students can keep two metres apart.
Vice-chancellor Liz Barnes said: “The bubble around accommodation has been discussed across a number of universities, about how best we can bring groups of students together.
“The more that we can keep them in a small group of regular interaction, the better in current circumstances.”
But she said they weren’t looking to ‘police it heavily’, so it’s unclear if any students holding parties or inviting others into their rooms would face disciplinary action.
The aim is to allocate shared accommodation to students on ‘similar courses’ if possible, although it won’t be a requirement.
A flat or corridor that normally caters for 12 students would have a maximum of eight. In university houses, there would be four students instead of six in order to reduce the risks of catching the coronavirus.
Ian Munton, director of library and student services, said: “It’s how we create an environment that really works for our students in the most unreal of years.”
He stressed that those who normally commute from their family home wouldn’t have to stay in the bubbles.
“We expect the ‘welcome week’ to be a six to eight-week programme instead. There will be a mixture of virtual and socially distanced activities,” he added. “Our restaurants and bars will, at the very least, offer takeaway services.
“Things will flex and change during the academic year.”
Some students have remained living on campus during the lockdown, but no physical classes have been held since March.
The reopening plans have been revealed just as a University and College Union (UCU) survey has given an insight into the concerns of people due to start degree courses across the country in September.
Its findings include:
- 71 per cent of those quizzed said they would support moving the start of their first year at university to a later time if it meant more face-to-face rather than online teaching;
- 23 per were worried the university they are hoping to attend could go bust because of the knock-on effects of the coronavirus crisis;
- 49 per cent were worried about cuts that could have an impact on their education.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “It is hardly surprising that students are anxious about what the future holds for universities and for their education.
“Given the impact this uncertainty is having on students, it is now critical that Government agrees to provide increased financial backing to the sector. Students need to be confident that they will get a high-quality education, despite the hugely damaging impact of the pandemic.”