Security at all-time high

November 11, 2005

While London universities plough cash into high-tech protection in the wake of the July attacks, there are fears the terror Bill will criminalise staff and students

Security at London universities is at an all-time high as a result of the 7/7 terror attacks, a Times Higher investigation has shown.

Campuses across the capital are employing private consultants to review security procedures and stage simulated attacks at a cost of thousands of pounds.

The extra vigilance comes as several London universities increase their security budgets by more than a fifth this academic year compared with last year.

Data provided under the Freedom of Information Act show that Middlesex University has raised its security budget by 26 per cent to £996,000.

Westminster University has ploughed 23 per cent more into security this year compared with last, bringing its total security spend to £1.6 million.

Queen Mary, University of London, has boosted its security spend by 20 per cent and in the past year has set up a mini police station on site.

And Greenwich University has invested 29 per cent more in its computer security to stop hackers. It also plans to spend £500,000 on CCTV this year.

The London Business School has increased this year's security budget by 8.7 per cent to £552,000 and has paid external consultants to carry out "simulation exercises".

Others institutions, such as Imperial College London, have commissioned reviews by external security consultants into disaster recovery.

Nick Roalfe, Imperial's assistant director of estates, said: "Before 7/7 we took security very seriously, but after 7/7 the profile of security was raised."

The university will spend £5.5 million on security in the current academic year, which Mr Roalfe said meant that "security spending was at an all-time high".

Bernie Taffs, head of security at the London School of Economics, said that because of the London attacks his institution had decided to pay for his staff to have an extra half-day's training with the Metropolitan Police.

He said: "Our 7/7 response was to send each of our 38 security staff on a course, at the cost of £25 a head. We have also decided to tighten our security by making sure that entrances and exits are always safely locked."

The Times Higher investigation shows some London universities, including Westminster, are considering giving their staff pagers, mobile phones and laptops so that they can be contacted by various means in an emergency.

A spokesman for Westminster said: "One of the things that has become clear is that non-face-to-face communication needs to improve.

"We are looking at giving staff pagers, laptops and mobiles so that they can always be contactable. We also want websites to be viewed more often in case we need to pass on police advice using the site.

"The day after 7/7, for example, police told people not to go into the city to work. We need to know that if we put something on the web, it will be read."

Universities are also cutting down on the risk of theft by issuing smart cards, which, when swiped, can be used as a form of ID and as payment in canteens.

But Mr Taffs warned academics not to neglect their duty to help security services.

He said: "It is surprising how few staff volunteer to wear fluorescent jackets and guide crowds in the case of an emergency. Security is not a job for the security services and police alone." </a>


'Staff working late have been told to lock themselves in'

Academics are being told to work under lock and key at one London university as fears grow for staff safety on campus.

A senior academic at a large London institution has told The Times Higher : "I don't feel safe at times. Members of some departments have been told to lock the doors to their offices if they are working on their own."

The history lecturer, who wishes to remain anonymous, is calling for a security review at her institution amid fears that she and her colleagues are no longer safe on campus.

She said that several colleagues had been stalked and had been confronted by intruders at work.

She believes worrying about security has made her job more difficult. She said: "I regard it as important to maintain an open environment, but nowadays there are more students than ever on campus.

"There are so many people coming and going - we appear to be more vulnerable to intruders than ever.

"A decade ago we recognised the faces of our students, but that is no longer the case.

"One of my colleagues has been physically threatened and another has had to contend with a student who was excluded sitting in one of her lectures.

"We need more security staff on the ground rather than CCTV cameras. We need to bring back the human side to security."




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