Ulster University: Face coverings to be mandatory

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

  • Published
A man wearing a protective face mask walks by a mural of a medical worker in Manchester city centreImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Staff and students at UU will be supplied with both disposable and reusable face coverings

Staff and students at Ulster University (UU) will have to wear face masks in lectures and classes when the new university term begins.

The university told students in an email it was making the move "to protect others and to support a safe university community for all".

Staff and students at UU will be supplied with both disposable and reusable face coverings.

Queen's University had previously made masks mandatory on parts of its campus.

Ulster University is, however, going further in making masks mandatory in lectures and many classes.

On Tuesday night, Education Minister Peter Weir announced post-primary school pupils and teachers will be required to wear face coverings in school corridors and other communal areas.

He said the measure would come into effect on 31 August when schools return full-time.

'Be respectful and mindful'

The UU guidance on masks came in an email to students on arrangements for the 2020/21 academic year, which starts on 21 September.

"Staff and students must wear a face covering on campus in general circulation spaces, social spaces, retail units, lecture theatres and teaching spaces, practical classes, enclosed spaces and any other area in our buildings where maintaining 2m social distancing is not possible," UU said.

"2m social distancing must still be maintained in lecture theatres, teaching spaces and offices.

"We will supply disposable and reusable face coverings for all staff and students, although you may wish to wear your own.

"We recognise that there are circumstances, including medical reasons, that may make it difficult for people to wear a face covering and so we ask our university community to be respectful, and mindful that the reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
This teacher in Belfast wore a visor when her pupils returned to school this week

Some UU staff will also wear visors as well as face coverings depending on what they teach or where they work.

The email to students also gave details of a range of courses where they will be taught in some classes on campus as well as getting some online teaching.

These include degree courses in subjects like Architecture, Drama, Journalism, Engineering and Fine Art where there are many practical classes as well as lectures.

A full range of classes where students will be taught on campus is on the UU website.

However, if students are concerned they cannot attend classes for health or caring reasons they are being advised to contact the university.

UU's libraries and sports facilities have also reopened ahead of the new term.

The university has previously said it plans to have resumed all teaching on campus by the start of the 2021/22 academic year.