A report today highlights how local authorities, communities and universities are working together to integrate students into the areas where they are living. The report from Universities UK also hopes to stimulate initiatives to ensure the benefits students bring to university towns and cities are nurtured.Universities UK says the aim of the research leading to today’s report was to be a ‘stepping-stone’ to more effectively managing and integrating students into local communities at a time when there are growing concentration of students in places across the country because more people now go on to higher education. It wanted to look at good practice as an alternative to legislation or regulatory intervention.
The research was carried out last year into the perceptions of a range of stakeholders and included analysis of existing literature and secondary sources as well as survey questionnaires to all higher education institutions, all houses in multiple occupation, lobby groups and selected local authorities.
The report lists benefits including increased local investment, lifelong learning opportunities and spin-off companies as well as increased sporting, cultural and arts events and facilities. But it recognises that having large numbers of students can cause problems and to avoid disputes becoming entrenched, the report urges the establishment of effective communication channels.
Professor Drummond Bone, President of Universities UK, said the research showed there was much innovative and proactive work being done by all sides. HEIs, local authorities and communities were increasingly working together to address some of the challenges that arising from the impact of concentrations of students on local communities.
“This debate has moved on considerably in recent years. The research shows that inaction and a lack of dialogue in the past have led to friction in some communities. But rather than ducking the question, universities have become much more proactive about the issues raised by the accommodation of students and are now developing clearly-defined strategies to work with established communities,” he said.
Universities UK is hosting a conference tomorrow to look at ways to engage students and Higher Education Institutions with their communities. The agenda will look at areas of best practice in working with local communities and will provide an opportunity to tackle the myths around the “town and gown divide”.