Few gain from student ghettos 1

October 10, 2003

Most universities justify their effect on host communities by mentioning the benefits to the local economy (Town and Gown series, THES , August 1-September 12). Loughborough University even has a formula to work out the exact worth of the university's presence in pounds sterling.

Such rationalisation for universities' destabilising effect on local communities would have been unthinkable ten years ago. Assimilation into the economic treadmill is compromising academic institutions' famous ability to offer a reflective commentary on society.

Such a commercial stance, while dominating and displacing their neighbours, is the usual justification for imperialism. Only some people grow rich by creating student ghettos. Others, such as local residents, move out if they can. Some 8,500 families left Headingley in Leeds from 1997 to 2000. Those who cannot move are left to suffer the drunkenness and litter. As Loughborough registrar John Town admitted: "It's true that if people are vomiting in your garden, the economic benefits of the university tend to fade into the background."

As with imperialism everywhere, there is a rush of perfectly decent people to "take advantage of the opportunities" by stripping the assets of the colonised - in this case the host communities and their amenities. Once the assets are stripped, the prohibitive cost of repairs falls to the taxpayer.

In Leeds we have seen areas become so run down under the influence of unregulated landlordism that students themselves migrate to better areas and the cycle of destruction moves on. What is left behind is another "hard-to-let" area.

Sue Buckle
Leeds

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