College raises security alarm

June 16, 1995

Despite spending Pounds 250,000 on improved security measures in the past six months, Manchester College of Arts and Technology was forced to resort to the High Court last week to remove two "aggressive" individuals from its campus.

Principal Nye Rowlands said that stricter security on university campuses in the Manchester area had displaced troublemakers on to college property, and added that all further education colleges were grappling with rising security and disciplinary problems. This was a direct result of expanded student numbers.

"When the participation rate rises it is inevitable that the needs of students are going to be greater and we risk increasing anti-social behaviour," he said.

Mr Rowlands said that the pair, not Mancat students, had been behaving aggressively and were subject to a court injunction banning them from being within 100 yards of the college. He said he would not hesitate to repeat the procedure should the need arise again but called on the Further Education Funding Council to tackle security issues by offering colleges resources to provide a safe learning environment. "The council wants us to improve our drop-out rates but first we need to calm the college environment," he said.

Mr Rowlands said the college would be spending an additional Pounds 200,000 a year on security including an ID card system, cameras and trained patrols. Students welcomed the moves, he added.

Danny Douglas, National Union of Students FE spokesman, acknowledged that security was a major concern but stressed that tighter security procedures were not necessarily the answer. "Swipe cards which in some cases are being used to monitor students' attendance are unacceptable and we have a mixed response to surveillance cameras," he said. "What we want to avoid is a siege-like mentality."

FE campuses presented very different security risks from universities, said Mr Douglas, because colleges were designed to have closer links with their local communities and attracted different types of people. Their buildings were often accessible to non-students, particularly although not exclusively, in the inner cities. Mr Douglas said that well-trained patrol personnel would go a long way towards solving the problem.

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