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Call for universities to disclose crime data to prospective undergraduates


Information on crimes against students at universities should be made available to prospective undergraduates, according to the man behind a campus guide that has ranked them all in terms of safety for the first time.

The Complete University Guide, released today, lists 103 institutions in terms of burglary, robbery and violent crimes including sex crimes - offences it says are most likely to affect students.

Dr Bernard Kingston, the guide's founder, said it uses police crime statistics for crimes affecting all victims in council wards within three miles of a university's main campus because no specific statistics for crimes against students are available.

“Our new methodology allows potential students to assess the risks for individual institutions with much greater precision, at least for England and Wales,” he said.

“In the absence of data for crimes affecting university students specifically, either on or off campuses, they offer the best available guide.

“But it would be reassuring for university applicants and their parents if such information was readily available from the universities.

“It is clearly a matter of considerable concern when considering where to study as an undergraduate.”

The guide claims an estimated one-third of students become victims of crime, mainly theft and burglary, and about 20% of student robberies occur in the first six weeks of the academic year.

The Universities of Buckingham, Aberystwyth and Durham topped the list with the lowest overall crime rate.

Universities in London dominated the bottom end, filling the worst 18 places, with London Metropolitan, King's College and South Bank University making up the bottom three.

Outside London, Manchester Metropolitan, Leeds and Manchester had the highest crime rates.

Previously the guide focused on cities with two or more universities, but expanded this year to include them all for England and Wales.

Dr Kingston said: “Quality of tuition and the prospects for employment after graduation are key elements in choosing a university course, but it is important not to overlook other aspects of the environment in which the student will be living for three or more years.

“Our university cities do not exist in isolation from the communities within which they are located and, regrettably, crime is a constant presence.”

Buckingham is an independent university with just 1,000 students based on its campus in the Home Counties town.

Professor Terence Kealey, its vice chancellor, said it had invested heavily in security, with entry to all building by electronic security pass only.

“The main issues would be people coming in from outside the university, either to steal from students' rooms or go to the bar and have a fight, something like that,” he said.

“But we have tight security now, no one can get into any building without a pass.”

Rebecca Davies, Aberystwyth University's pro-vice chancellor for student and staff services, said: “The inclusive and safe environment in Aberystwyth recently received national recognition with Aberystwyth becoming the first Welsh town to have been awarded Purple Flag status for its nightlife and providing evening visitors with an 'entertaining, diverse, and safe night out'.

“This recognises what a wonderful environment we have in Aberystwyth, which is vital for our outstanding success in student satisfaction and in our business and community relationships.”

London Metropolitan, which has three centres in the Holloway, Moorgate and Aldgate areas of the city, disputed the figures.

"The Complete University Guide only based its analysis on the crime rates around the three-mile radius of the Aldgate hub; however, 50% of our students are located at our Holloway hub with the other half of students based at Aldgate and at Moorgate," a spokeswoman said.

"The analysis should have been based on the Holloway Road area, the university's official address since 2010, and not the Aldgate hub."

She added that the university works closely with the police and has no on-site accommodation, so the majority of students are only present during the day.

Half of its students are drawn from within seven miles of its three sites and so "already have experience and knowledge of living within these areas".

"Qualitative data from our 2011 National Student Survey, which was filled out by over 2,000 final year students, revealed that they did not cite personal safety around London Met as a concern, and that they felt safe and secure at the institution," she added.