Social bubbles and temperature scanners: How unis are planning to open in September

Next year is going to be so fun

University is going to look very different this year, but now at least some unis are coming out with concrete plans on how they are going to keep uni open with social distancing measures.

There’s been a lot of discussion around how teaching is going to happen, after Cambridge and Manchester announced their online learning plans. However there has been little talk into how daily life on campus is actually going to change. Will masks have to be worn? How many mates can you see? Is the library going to be open?

The University of Bolton has recently announced the changes they are considering making, including social bubbles, airport style temperature scanners and self service food places.

These are all the social distance changes unis are planning on making to reopen:

Temperature scanners

The University of Bolton is planning on introducing airport style scanners when they reopen in September.

This procedure is something many schools around the globe have adopted as a way to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In Shanghai for example, students face daily temperatures checks and if their temperature is over 37.3 degrees they’re not allowed on campus. Teachers are allowed to approach students with a thermometer gun and record their temperatures.

A scheduling system

With campus universities in particular many will have to consider how students will move around whilst observing social distancing. The University of Bolton is implementing a new system which will be able to limit the amount of students on campus at any one time and will likely be a one way system.


Many unis are considering having students socialise in “bubbles”. New guidelines from UK Universities has suggested students may have to socialise and live with the people on their course. Can you imagine living with a group of English students?

The Vice Chancellor of Staffordshire University, Liz Barnes said she had been discussing the idea with fellow unis and was considering allow bubbles of eight people at her uni. She said: “The more that we can keep them into a small group of regular interaction the better in current circumstances.”

Freshers’ Week online

God this would be so tragic. That first week of drunk night outs and signing up to a bunch of societies you’re never going to again just won’t be the same over Zoom.

Bye bye Freshers

Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice Chancellor of Brunel University and President of Universities UK said they are looking to hold a number of virtual events to celebrate Freshers’ Week.

She said: “We’re working very closely also with our students’ union to arrange a whole load of virtual events to make sure that we can guarantee students have social interaction with one another, irrespective of what the social distancing arrangements are at the time.”

Face masks

Most people are wearing face masks already and come September, most universities are likely planning on asking students to wear masks on campus.

Plastic dividers and self service food places

Plastic dividers are something we’ve been seeing as an option for many restaurants in Europe and Shanghai have started using the method for students to eat lunch at.

A student in Shanghai who is already experiencing these plastic dividers, told The Tab they are “sad, lonely” and “opaque divisors make even seeing your friends impossible.”

Plastic dividers in Shanghai

The University of Bolton is considering using dividers for students and they will also be increasing the number of self service takeaway options.

Online lectures

Cambridge made the move in May to have all face to face lectures online for the whole of the next academic year. And Manchester were the first uni to announce all face to face lectures would be online for the first term.

Exeter is also having online lectures only in term one.

Small seminar groups

Though many unis will likely be moving lectures online, some are hoping to continue small seminar groups. Cambridge is considering using lecture theatres as a way to conduct socially distanced seminars and workshops.

Weekly mini tests

The University of Aberdeen is considering implementing mini tests as a way to keep students engaged in their work .

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