Universities in Greater Manchester have banded together to issue a joint warning for freshers – as 100,000 students begin to descend on the region.
Freshers’ Week is typically populated with large-scale events taking place in nightclubs and bars, but local universities are urging students to buck the trend this year and avoid mass gatherings when the new term begins.
Most Welcome Week events are being moved online, with some first-term lectures and seminars conducted remotely until at least Christmas.
Students are set to arrive in Greater Manchester at a tumultuous time, with restrictions tightening over the past few days.
Bolton currently has the highest rate of COVID cases in the country, whilst many neighbouring areas continue to suffer a rise in positive test results.
It is feared that an influx of young people – whom Health Secretary Matt Hancock partially blamed for a new spike in coronavirus cases – attending parties during Freshers’ Week could push boroughs to the brink.
Vice-chancellors and National Union of Students officers from the Universities of Bolton, Manchester, Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal Northern College of Music have come together to urge students that they must adhere to the rules.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the five universities said: “This is a special time in the university calendar, where we welcome new students to campus for the first time as well as welcoming many more back.
“This September, though, is like no other, not just for our students, but also for the communities in which they live and study.
“Across our universities, staff and students have worked tirelessly in the fight against Covid-19 – many on the front line in healthcare, volunteering, or at the sharp end of research to treat those suffering with the virus or to protect those at risk.
“This commitment to fighting Covid-19 continues as we bring students back on to campus and surrounding areas in our cities.
“As new and returning students join our community, we remind them of their responsibilities in minimising the transmission of the virus in our city region and in acting as ambassadors for our universities in the areas where they live and socialise.”
All universities have pledged to “use sanctions for students who do not adhere to rules on safe behaviours.”