/

We're pushing for universities to collect and publish crime statistics so students and parents can make more informed choices.

8 January 2020

Statistics on campus crime are only patchily recorded by many UK universities and just a handful make the information available to would-be students, research by the Complete University Guide has shown.

Out of 143 Freedom of Information Act requests sent to universities profiled by CUG, only four said they shared the results of their data collection in the public domain.

The responses show that 31 universities (23% of respondents) don't centrally collect information for crime on campus. One London university told CUG: “The university is a higher education institution. We do not record ‘crimes’.”

Of the others, 77 (57%) collected data centrally, while 30 of these also sought to monitor offences affecting students off campus.

Those universities that collected data generally shared it among their senior management teams, thereby influencing decisions on prevention programmes and dealing with the effect of crimes on their students.

There was evidence too of innovative responses, with clusters of universities, especially in larger cities, working closely with their police authorities.

A smaller group of 25 (18% of respondents) monitored incidents on campus but didn't record crimes or report to senior managers to the same extent.

A handful of universities (four) collected data on a decentralised basis, spread across school or college level.

The FOI requests made by CUG requested information on the process used by universities to monitor crime on campus. Only six out of the 143 universities failed to reply within the prescribed period for responses.

The following table summarises the responses to CUG's questions: Does the university collect data for crimes committed on campus? Does the university collect data for crimes affecting students off-campus?

On and off campus

On campus only

No data collected

Not centrally collected

Monitored by security but not comprehensive

30

47

31

4

25

The responses suggest there's already a firm basis for a national, standardised system for crime reporting covering more than half of UK institutions, already codified and with the potential to be made accessible to prospective students.

Dr Bernard Kingston, CUG Chairman, said: “The Office for Students has a direct responsibility for student welfare, safeguarding, and protection. It should consider ensuring the level of key relevant crimes in and around campuses and student accommodation are easily available to prospective students so that their decisions can be made with full information.”

“When the Complete University Guide has held discussions with universities, there has been a clear view that crime data would not be actively published for fear of reputational damage. However, the same argument could be made for many other types of information about universities, where data are published as part of the institution’s duty of public accountability.”

CUG's survey of student-relevant crime in England and Wales is heavily used by prospective students and their parents and advisers, particularly from overseas where student safety is considered an important factor. It compares the rates for three crimes – robbery, burglary, and violence and sexual crimes—deemed especially relevant to students.

Notes:

  • In the absence of standardised collection of crime data for students across the UK’s university sector, since 2012 CUG has published data derived from the police-gov.uk annual crime report, selecting three offences that are held to be of special relevance to students, namely burglary, robbery and crimes of violence.
  • Since 2012, CUG has collected data on three specific offences in England that are held to be of relevance to students: burglary, robbery and violence/sexual violence. The data are published by post code of students’ term time residences, but refer to offences in the population as a whole not specifically against students.
  • All UK universities are subject to the 2000 Freedom of Information Act or its equivalent in Scotland, except for the private University of Buckingham. Requests were sent to 143 UK universities listed by CUG in its annual league tables. Out of the 143 requests sent out, only six institutions have to date failed to meet their legal obligation to provide either the requested data or a reason why they could not comply.
  • Since 1990, all universities in the US have been required under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to record and publish crimes committed on and near campus. A failure to comply risks penalties and sanctions (loss of access to federal funds including the student loan programmes).
  • The CUG team has compiled university league tables for more than 20  years. Since 2007, these have been freely available online, enabling users to tailor the tables for their personal use by choosing the criteria directly important to them. CUG is an autonomous division of IDP Connect, the international educational listing company, from which, by mutual agreement, it retains its complete editorial independence. In January 2017, IDP Connect (formerly Hotcourses Group) was acquired by IDP Education, a global leader in international student recruitment with its HQ in Melbourne, Australia. IDP is 50% owned by 38 Australian universities and the remaining 50% shares traded on the Australian Stock Exchange.