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London students face worst risk of robbery and violent crime

Universities in the Greater London area exposed to the highest rates of crimes that are most relevant to students – burglary, robbery and violent crime – with London Metropolitan University faring worst and Kingston best, according to the latest ranking of institutions in England and Wales.

Outside London, students at Manchester’s universities are exposed to the highest crime rates, together with the University of Leeds.

The University of Buckingham, the UK’s longest-established private university, emerged with the lowest cumulative exposure to crime, followed by the universities of Aberystwyth and Durham.

The ranking of the best – and worst – universities in England and Wales in terms of exposure to crimes relevant to students was published on 19 June by The Complete University Guide.

Dr Bernard Kingston, founder of the Guide, said the issue “is clearly a matter of considerable concern when considering where to study as an undergraduate”.

But Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said the UK, despite these figures, “is still one of the safest places to study in the world”. However, he warned that institutions need to continue to ensure adequate safety briefings, “especially for those who might not otherwise know where to turn for help”.

Compiled from official police data, the ranking of all universities in England and Wales paints a picture of the crime risk across 103 universities.

Official data for crimes affecting students are not available, so the Guide has selected three crimes as most relevant to students – burglary, robbery and violent crime. The ranking is based on the cumulative rate of all three crimes.

The data are for all offences in the three categories recorded by the police in council wards falling wholly or largely within a three-mile (4.8 kilometre) radius of the university’s main campus. The ranking is essentially a guide to exposure to risk if you are a student at one university or another.

Kingston said: “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 that although burglary, robbery and violent crime are the three most commonly perpetrated crimes against students, the figures relate to all victims, not just students, because there is an absence of data for crimes affecting students specifically, either on or off campuses.

He said it would be reassuring for university applicants and their parents if such information were readily available from universities.

A 2002 study of student safety in the East Midlands, published by the Home Office, showed that one in three students became victims of crime, mainly theft, burglary and criminal damage.

About 20% of student robberies occur in the first six weeks of the academic year, according to the Guide.

Birmingham’s universities – Aston, University College Birmingham and Birmingham – had the highest number of robberies. Aberystwyth, Trinity St David and Durham had the lowest.

Glyndwr University in Wales, followed by Portsmouth and Bristol, were worst for violent crime – which is defined as common assault, grievous bodily harm and sexual offences – while the University of Gloucestershire and University of Wales, Newport, were the safest.

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.”

But Dominic Scott said: “Most students already know that they need to think very carefully about the sort of location in which they wish to study – the bright lights of exciting but sometimes less-safe large cities, or somewhere campus-based or ‘quieter’.

“But it does show, once again, how important it is for all students – and especially international students – to have adequate insurance for every eventuality especially as so many crimes, especially robberies, appear to take place in the first weeks or months of study.”

The Complete University Guide offers a number of top tips to help students keep their possessions safe and secure.

These include:

  • Do carry a personal alarm – many men see these as female accessories and somehow not macho. But figures show that male students stand a much higher risk of been attacked in the street.
  • Always leave a club or pub with a friend or a group of friends.
  • Avoid using your phone in isolated places. Remember that texting can distract you from what is happening around you. When you are out and about switch your mobile to vibrate mode rather than a ring tone.

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