Universities told to check fire safety after Grenfell Tower blaze

Several student accommodation blocks have been discovered with flammable cladding

June 29, 2017
Grenfell Tower fire
Source: Alamy
Grenfell Tower fire

UK universities have been asked to review the fire safety of their buildings amid concerns that several student accommodation blocks have been fitted with the same flammable cladding reportedly used on Grenfell Tower.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England said that it has requested updates from university leaders.

“We know that all providers take student safety extremely seriously and are already carrying out the necessary checks. However, as part of government-wide work already underway to check the safety of buildings, we are requesting that all higher and further education institutions report on how they are reviewing the fire safety of their buildings,” a government spokesman said.

The National Union of Students has also written to student housing providers outlining measures that it expects them to take to ensure fire safety, according to a tweet from national president Malia Bouattia.

This included ensuring that fire risk assessments are up to date; student accommodation has automatic fire alarm systems covering all areas of the premises; and staff are properly trained to undertake proactive and reactive fire safety management.

Meanwhile, NUS Scotland called on the Scottish government, universities and accommodation providers to ensure that all university and student accommodation buildings have the “highest safety standards”, after Edinburgh Napier University announced that about a quarter of the exterior walls on one of its halls of residence featured the same cladding reportedly used on Grenfell Tower.

The news comes after ministers confirmed that school buildings over four stories high will be subjected to cladding checks.

The requests were made in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in London on 14 June, which is feared to have killed at least 80 people.

In a statement, Edinburgh Napier University said that work has begun to remove and replace the cladding on Banfield halls of residence as a precautionary measure, but added that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it was safe to continue to use the building as normal following an inspection.

The work is expected to take about six to eight weeks, meaning that students moving into the halls for the 2017-18 academic year on 1 September will not be affected.

Other university buildings have also been discovered with Grenfell-style cladding, following checks requested by government.

A number of Nottingham Trent University students were asked to leave their accommodation after it was found that their blocks had been fitted with the same flammable cladding.

Student accommodation in Newcastle and at Bournemouth University’s International College has also used the same cladding.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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