Coronavirus: What will university be like for freshers this year?

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Freshers weekImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Students will be expected to maintain social distancing outside of their flatmate "bubble"

With A-levels results day out of the way, students across the UK will have a better idea of their future plans.

But what will the university experience be like for "freshers" at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives?

Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include "bubbles" among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.

Public Health Wales said it had been advising universities.

Plans at Swansea are understood to be broadly in line with most other Welsh universities.

With the vast majority of first-year students staying in halls of residence at the university, its head of residential services has had a busy summer.

Media caption,

University freshers are set for a very different experience in a post-lockdown world

"We're adopting the same principle that the Welsh Government has advised in terms of family household composition," said Ceri Jones, who looks after the university's accommodation for 4,000 students.

"When the new students arrive, we'll be classifying them and their flatmates as 'family households' or 'student bubbles' so the students will be able to interact with their flatmates.

"However, outside of their accommodation they'll need to adhere to social distancing regulations."

As a result, Mr Jones said students would be banned from visiting any other flats, having anyone stay overnight, and hosting or attending parties or gatherings.

Image caption,
Ceri Jones looks after the university's accommodation for 4,000 students

"Over time that may change as the guidance evolves," he added.

"Ultimately the students, as young adults, have a responsibility to look after their welfare, not just themselves but also their flatmates and people on their various courses they're undertaking."

With many travellers to the UK facing a 14-day quarantine period, the university also said it had created "quarantine accommodation" within its existing halls of residence.

The accommodation is designed to temporarily house students from overseas nations not included in UK travel corridors.

But the university said it could also "potentially" look to place UK students there, if they are returning from areas of the country where enhanced restrictions are in place.

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Students will have a responsibility to let the university know if they may have been exposed to coronavirus, says Asad Rahman

"If students are coming from an area that has been locked down, we'd be looking for students to get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can put support measures in place," said Asad Rahman, head of student welfare at the university.

"It's all about encouraging them to do so and taking responsibility and making sure that they're safe and everyone else on campus is safe."

Despite concern that the pandemic may lead to an increase in students deferring their course until next year, Swansea University said that had not been the case.

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Swansea Students' Union president Ffion Davies says students have not been put off attending university

"We haven't had many communications regarding students deferring," said Ffion Davies, president of Swansea Students' Union.

"Although it's going to be different, it's not going to be bad - we're doing everything we can to ensure the student experience is maintained."

The idea to keep all events on campus is also to help keep the wider community safe, Ms Davies explained.

"We want our local community in Swansea to feel safe, so bringing students onto campus ensures we can do freshers as safely as possible."

Ms Davies said there were plans to rely on outside spaces more next term for socially distanced events.

What else could students see at Swansea University when they arrive for the new term?


Image caption,
Students will become a "family bubble" with flatmates
  • Social distancing rules won't apply for those living in the same flat, normally a group of eight
  • If one person in the bubble develops symptoms, then the whole flat will have to lockdown together


  • Any breaches of social distancing rules outside a bubble can be reported, and those caught frequently flouting the rules face suspension or even expulsion


  • Many lectures will be held online, with face-to-face learning consisting of just small, socially distanced study groups

Freshers week

  • All freshers week events will be held on campus
  • The students' union said it was looking to bring in shipping containers kitted out with tables and chairs to offer students the opportunity to enjoy something resembling a make-shift night club booth - although only with those friends they already live with

What if there's a positive case?

  • Any flat where there are suspicions of a case will be quarantined
  • In this eventuality, students will not be allowed to leave their flat but will have food, laundry and essential living needs taken care of by the university
  • Academic and mental health support will be provided to help students through quarantine
  • In the event of a positive test, it will be referred to public health teams and contact tracers