Published: 06:00, 21 September 2020
| Updated: 10:52, 22 September 2020
Thousands of students have begun to descend upon Canterbury for a term “like no other”.
Students arriving at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the University of Kent (UKC) will be faced with a markedly unusual start to the year - with clubbing events cancelled and most Freshers Week activities taking place online - and stringent social distancing measures in place across campuses.
Concerns have been raised about how the influx of tens of thousands of young people will impact Covid-19 infection rates and the city’s ability to cope with increased demand on testing services.
But university bosses say they are confident steps they have taken will help minimise the spread of the virus.
Students will be required to wear face coverings in all university buildings, including during teaching, while timetabling will limit the numbers of students and staff on campuses at any one time, and room capacity limits will be in place.
Hand sanitiser stations will also be installed across sites, and there will be increased cleaning in university accommodation and on campus.
In a joint letter, UKC’s vice-chancellor Prof Karen Cox, and CCCU’s vice-chancellor Prof Rama Thirunamachandran outlined further measures that have been implemented.
The vice-chancellors wrote: “This is the time of year when we welcome new students to our universities and welcome many more back to continue their studies.
“However this September is like no other, not just for our students, but also for the communities in which they live and study.
“Together with our students’ unions, we remain committed to (the fight against Covid-19) as new and returning students join our community.
“We will remind them of their responsibilities in helping to reduce the transmission of the virus in our city and in acting as our ambassadors in the areas in which they live.
“We also started our Street Marshal scheme earlier than usual to provide additional reassurance to students and to the community and our Good Neighbour campaign will promote the need for appropriate behaviours at all times.”
Students “significantly/deliberately” flouting the government’s Covid-19 guidelines either will face disciplinary action, ranging from a requirement to attend an education programme to expulsion.
“This applies to conduct on or off campus including situations where students display disruptive behaviour in the community,” they continued.
The universities are also working with local health authorities to support the NHS Test and Trace programme while a new coronavirus testing site opened on the UKC campus earlier this month.
“We will also continue to liaise with our local residents’ associations on a regular basis to ensure we understand their concerns and respond appropriately,” they added.
“These are unprecedented and turbulent times, but we are confident the steps we are taking will support the health and wellbeing of our student, staff and local communities as we continue to work together to minimise the impact of Covid-19.”