Students Return to studies

Thursday, October 1, 2020

As students return for their studies at the University of Portsmouth, the council is working with the university and Hampshire Police to minimise the risk of coronavirus in the city.

Around a third of the 20,000 students expected this year are already living in Portsmouth and the surrounding region, with the remaining moving into university halls of residence and private sector accommodation in the city.

Residents have understandable concerns that an influx of students may cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. In light of this, it is important to explain how the council is working in partnership with the university and the police to ensure the safety of students and residents. It is also vital that residents feel they have means through which they can raise concerns.

Students moving in

The university has delayed the start of term to 5 October 2020. Students have been moving into their halls of residence accommodation in a managed way since 12 September to reduce numbers at any one time. This structured move-in is working well and will continue until 11 October. As government guidance has changed, students have been informed about what this means for their living arrangements.

On campus at the university

The university has made significant changes to its campus:

Within buildings there are one-way systems, signage and floor markings to help everyone social distance properly

Except for exempt individuals, masks must be worn inside buildings

All large group teaching has been moved online

Temperature scanning is mandatory inside key buildings, including the university library, and there are hand sanitising stations around the campus

The university has conducted a room-by-room review of ventilation to ensure that no areas are provided with recirculated air

Rooms with inadequate ventilation will not be used

Detailed risk assessments have also been completed for all its buildings and activities

University COVID-19 testing

The university is hosting a Department of Health and Social Care-run testing centre in its Eldon Building car park on Bedford Street. Tests are for any resident exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Appointments are available through the  NHS booking portal.

The university is also funding a separate testing facility for its staff and students who are not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. It is important to stress that this facility is being funded by the University alone. It is right that the university do what it can to monitor and reduce the spread of COVID-19, particularly among students. The testing will enable the university to quickly identify whether infection rates are increasing and respond rapidly. We believe that this testing facility will help the city-wide fight against any rising infection rate.

The university plans to test around 10% of the university population every two weeks. Anyone testing positive will automatically enter the NHS’s ‘test and trace’ scheme and be required to follow the same quarantine procedures as everyone else.

Individual responsibility off-campus

Like everyone else, students are expected to take personal responsibility for their own and others’ safety and the vast majority do this. The university’s role – as well that of its partners – is to support students to act responsibly and to take any necessary steps against those who do not.

There are regular communications with students asking them to follow government rules and outlining the potential consequences if they do not. These include fines from the police, as well as university penalties for misconduct ranging from temporary suspension to permanent exclusion. Hampshire Police has been granted greater enforcement powers to break up social gatherings, issue fines and ensure face coverings are worn where required. Whilst the police’s approach remains to support students and the public in following the regulations, officers will continue to engage, explain, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce.

The council, the Police, Public Health officials, the university and the Students’ Union are also in regular communication, sharing information and identifying any issues that need to be addressed.

If residents have concerns, what do they do?

If residents are concerned about a social gathering or other disturbance, they should first report a breach of COVID regulations on the Hampshire Police website or by calling 101. Please do not use 999 except for emergencies.

Resident complaints about student behaviour can be made to the University’s Student and Neighbour Liaison Service which can be contacted on 023 9284 3214 or on student-neighbourliaison@port.ac.uk.

Any resident who wishes to report a noise disturbance should do so via the council website or by calling 023 9283 4092.

Working together to support the city

Portsmouth City Council, the University of Portsmouth and Hampshire Police are working in partnership to ensure a joined-up approach to do everything possible to ensure the safety of our whole community.

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