Demonstrators from Falmouth in Cornwall have been vigorously campaigning against plans to increase local student numbers they say will have a detrimental impact in the area if followed through.
Protesters have said they are concerned about the cap being lifted, particularly Falmouth University’s proposals to “significantly increase” numbers over the next four years “without making provision for accommodation.”
A Falmouth University spokesperson, however, has insisted its accommodation plans “more than accommodate” the growth in students numbers and, in fact, “hand back homes” currently used for multiple occupation.
The combined campuses of Falmouth and University of Exeter at Penryn have a student population of over 6,300. Plans, claim the protesters, aim to increase this to around 7,500 this autumn, as part of expansion proposals to lift the cap on student numbers on the campus in Penryn.
The university, though, has only built rooms for about a third of the current student population, add the protesters, as fears mount the current population of 33,000 is at risk of being ‘squeezed out’ in a town where housing is already in high demand.
Falmouth University, though, has said this claim does not take into account the fact that 17 per cent of its student population is from Cornwall.
The Save Our Falmouth group has, therefore, been set up by locals who say they have “growing concerns” over the “short-sighted” development of both the towns of Falmouth and Penryn.
The group has said: “Concerns, at the moment, focus on the rapid expansion of the university which has created a shortage of accommodation for both students and locals, pricing many residents out of the area.”
In a statement following a protest on 4 June, the group said: “We have sent a strong message out that the university can no longer ignore. University open day visitors walked by and more locals than ever are aware of our movement. Thanks to locals, students, and university staff who risked repercussions for attending. The universities are starting to see they are accountable for their actions.”
Acknowledging how the universities are now holding a public consultation event this week, the group added: “The battle is not over, but we have made an impact.”
A spokesperson from Falmouth University told the Independent the institution is “committed” to working with the community as part of its mission to grow Cornwall’s economy and improve access to higher education for young people.
The spokesperson added: “There are two major public consultation events taking place in June and we are looking forward to discussing our future plans with as many people as possible.
“No decision regarding any growth in student numbers has been taken without the involvement of the students’ union.”
The Independent has contacted both the students’ union and Save Our Falmouth for further comment.
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