Students feel unsafe at night

March 3, 2006

Overseas students and women feel most threatened on UK campuses, a survey reveals. Anna Fazackerley reports on growing security concerns

Almost a quarter of students feel threatened in their university after dark, according to a Sodexho/ Times Higher survey.

The second UK-wide University Lifestyle Survey , which will be released in full next week, found that 24 per cent of students felt unsafe walking around campus at night. This figure rose to 30 per cent of international students.

The survey found that 38 per cent of students felt unsafe when travelling from the university to their accommodation at night.

The research, based on interviews with more than 2,000 students at 112 institutions, showed that the situation was more alarming for women and international students. Just under half (49 per cent) of all female students said they felt unsafe going to and from their university, as did 42 per cent of students in the UK who were from outside Europe.

The findings, which echo security concerns raised in the first survey two years ago, will prompt questions about whether institutions could do more to protect their students. Universities and student unions are working with police to try to teach students how to protect themselves. But a further investigation by The Times Higher shows that students are often targeted by criminals.

As well as sexual assaults and violent attacks, universities report concerns about muggings and burglaries. In recent months, a second-year student at Manchester University was raped in a popular student district, and a man broke into the basement of a student house to view child pornography.

In Sheffield, two female students and one male were violently assaulted, and four female students were attacked and robbed in two separate incidents.

Last month, an Oxford University student was left with serious facial injuries after a man pushed his face through a van window.

Gemma Currie, Manchester Student Union's welfare officer, said: "The main problem is that men don't look after themselves. More muggings are against men, but they will walk a female friend back to her house then wander home alone. They won't use the safety bus. Crime soars in freshers' week. Some students arrive from little villages, and they don't realise they need to take precautions."

Laura Wilkes, the welfare officer at Nottingham University Student Union, said: "Any student in any big city is vulnerable to crime as they have six laptops in one house and they usually carry the latest mobile phone."

She added: "I work closely with the police, and they hold monthly surgeries in the union. But a few high-profile burglaries can make students think the problem is worse than it really is."

Students in Northern Ireland and Eastern England and the Midlands are most likely to feel afraid at night. In Northern Ireland, 47 per cent of students felt unsafe walking around their university at night. In the East and the Midlands, 42 per cent felt unsafe travelling from the university to their accommodation at night.

A Universities UK spokesperson said: "Universities take the welfare and safety of their students very seriously. Many of our members' student unions run night buses. Wherever possible, universities work with police liaison officers who, in turn, work with students and the unions to ensure their concerns are heard.

"The safety of students and university areas is the responsibility of a number of local stakeholders such as councils and police."

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