Student 'yobs' drive out locals

June 30, 2006

'Studentification' is creating ghettos and killing communities, Jessica Shepherd writes

MPs have told university heads that student ghettos are driving their constituents "up the wall".

Politicians and chairs of residents associations told vice-chancellors that they felt helpless faced with burgeoning student communities that encroached into the suburbs of their towns and cities.

They accused universities of passing the buck for students' antisocial behaviour and suggested they work more closely with the police to address the issue.

John Denham, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, told the meeting at the House of Commons this week: "There has been a lack of willingness by universities to work with the police. I'm looking for a very strong commitment that that is going to change. Behaviour from yobs on a council estate becomes something different when it is done by students.

"I don't hear anything about the need to apply the same very hard-edged policing strategy with student behaviour that we apply when it comes to other behaviour.

"And when universities say, 'It is probably not our students', it drives us up the wall."

Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire, said universities were quick to deny that the young people causing trouble were students.

"Then how come the trouble is particularly bad in freshers' week and is reduced in the summer holidays?" she asked.

"The tipping point is when people say they are part of a campus, not a market town any more."

Maya Fletcher, from residents association Nottingham Action Group, told the meeting that the problem lay with landlords who bought entire neighbourhoods to rent to students.

She said: "The residents don't want to live surrounded by students. We are watching our community disintegrate."

A study published in January describes how students are turning residential areas into ghettos of "squalor and dereliction".

It says "studentification" could even trigger school closures as boisterous undergraduates drove out families with their parties and late-night drinking.

It highlights Leeds, Nottingham, Loughborough and Belfast as particular trouble hot spots.

Darren Smith of Brighton University, the author of the study, told the MPs and vice-chancellors: "Studentification is becoming an international phenomenon.

"In Australia, Canada and Ireland, students also cluster in particular areas, and universities are increasingly seeking to enable purpose-built communities to accommodate students.

"In some contexts, this has led to the emergence of student 'ghettos' where students can be isolated from locals and not fully immersed in the local community."

But Universities UK, the lobby group for vice-chancellors that hosted the meeting, was quick to point out the positive impact students had on communities.

Diana Green, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said the presence of students sparked regeneration and improved transport links.

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