From halls and lectures to nights out: What uni will look like in September

Hope you’re excited for uni-branded face masks

Coronavirus ruined the end of the 2019/20 academic year. Therefore it should come as no surprise that 20 per cent of students applying for undergraduate places in the UK this year are considering deferring.

However, for those students who are either returning to or starting uni this year, this is what it’s going to look like:


For the most part, university accommodation will be open as usual with increased safety measures implemented next year. However, some universities, including Imperial College London and University College London, have said they are currently not allocating students twin rooms or single rooms in halls that are fully catered or have shared bathrooms. This has been made possible as it is anticipated many students won’t go into halls at all in order to save money whilst their lectures are online.

Goodbye (ish) to scuzzy communal bathrooms

All universities have claimed health and safety in halls will be a top priority, with most saying hand sanitiser stations will be installed in reception and common areas and cleaning regimes will be enhanced with special attention being given to obvious touch points like door handles and communal bathrooms and kitchens. 

Communal areas are likely to be reconfigured in order to support social distancing and one way systems and signage will be put in place in typically crowded areas.

There was talk of universities implementing subject-specific bubbles in halls, however, it doesn’t appear many unis will be implementing this for the majority of students, with the exception of those studying nursing or midwifery.

A large number of universities, including the University of Manchester, Imperial College London and UCL, will be allowing international students to arrive two weeks before the standard arrival date if they are required by the UK government to quarantine on arrival. The Manchester website says: “Students whose permanent domicile is within countries required by the UK government to quarantine on arrival and who have booked University Halls of Residence will be able to arrive two weeks in advance of their accommodation contract start date in September with no additional charge for accommodation prior to the contract start date.”

Thus far, there has been little information provided regarding catered halls at those universities which are still offering them as an option.

In line with current social distancing guidelines, visitors will not be allowed in halls, meaning social gatherings or parties will not be permitted. So basically, your sex life is going to be dead because everyone knows that under no circumstances should you shag your flatmate in Freshers’ Week. No one wants to see their drunken mistake every single morning for the next year in their own kitchen.

Getting to uni

For most, lectures will be online for the foreseeable future, however, there is a possibility of tutorials and seminars in smaller groups happening face to face from September.

So, if you do have any on campus teaching then you have to get to uni, which for most means the bus. Seeing as face coverings are compulsory on public transport its worth investing in a couple of reusable masks rather than relying on the unsustainable flimsy disposable ones your dad bulk bought around the time everyone was buying loo roll like there was no tomorrow.

A number of universities, including the Universities of Exeter and Manchester, have said they will be providing washable masks in welcome packs too. Exeter’s website says: “We are recommending that all colleagues and students wear a face covering when inside University buildings. To support this, we are providing three re-usable face coverings to all colleagues and students on their return to campus.”

However, I’d still advise buying your own because having the university motto across your face in massive letters probably won’t do wonders for your already compromised social life.

This picture would basically be illegal to take now

You also might want to think about buying that bike you’ve been considering since first year or walking more often as according to Stagecoach, “to allow for social distancing buses will have limited capacity. If your bus has a BUS FULL sign please be prepared to wait for the next bus.” Turning up to your tutorial 20 minutes late just isn’t cool anymore.

Being on campus

Much like in halls, the main differences in university buildings will be sanitising stations at approved entrances and exits to buildings, and clear signage which will set out how you’re able to use each building safely. There will also be enhanced cleaning arrangements in place.

Exeter has gone a step further and set up an app, SafeZone, which will register your location so, in the event of an emergency, they’ll be able to keep you updated “should you need to be aware of any vital location-based information.”

Obviously online learning can be incredibly problematic for those students without access to a laptop or computer at home. Many universities now have IT Access schemes to provide laptop loans and help getting online. For example, at the University of Manchester, there is an Emergency Hardship Fund of over £1 million.


In the Government’s three-step plan published on 11 May, it states that reopening venues where the “core purpose is social interaction may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in the numbers of infections”. This means at the moment clubs aren’t even on the agenda. 

However, the plan also says: “Reopening outdoor spaces and activities (subject to continued social distancing) comes earlier in the roadmap because the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower.” 

On July 18, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that from August 1, music venues, theatres and other performance spaces would be allowed to host indoor gigs with socially distanced audiences. What this means is outdoor events and seated gigs will be students’ best options for a night out.

It has also been rumoured that when clubs do finally open, clubbers may be required to use hand sanitiser and have their temperatures checked before entry, while queues outside could be spaced out with markings. How. wild.

The Tab approached a number of different clubs, however, all declined to comment citing the lack of government guidance as their reason for doing so. At least we still have the pub, it’s just a bit unfortunate if your uni is in the North and you have to sit outside in December for your socially distanced pint.

A nice chilly pint


In reality, there aren’t many. Currently, it appears there will be no reduction in tuition fees for the 2020/21 academic year with many unis insisting there are a number of advantages of ‘blended learning’.

The University of Manchester website puts it extremely plainly saying: “Students will be charged the full published tuition fees for 2020 entry.”

The only silver lining is you may be able to save some money on rent. The first way to do this is simply to stay at home. According to the Manchester Website, “to ensure that no-one is excluded or disadvantaged, we can confirm that students will be able to access our welcome and induction programme online and then study wholly online until they are able to join us later in Semester 1 or at the start of Semester 2.”

The second way some students will be able to save money is if their university has made amendments to rents. For example, Imperial College London’s website says: “In recognition that some students may need additional support in 2020/21 – we have made amendments to our rents. These changes mean that 50 per cent of rooms available now fall within the lowest cost categories.”

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