The conduct of students at Northern Ireland's two universities came under scrutiny today after it emerged that nearly 200 have been disciplined for anti-social behaviour in the few weeks since the start of term.
A staggering total of 195 QUB and University of Ulster students — up to 40 every week — have been handed written or given verbal warnings and/or fined up to £100 as a punishment for house parties, boozing or shouting on the streets, urinating in public and abusing the PSNI and the community safety wardens brought in to keep the peace.
Queen’s new term began on September 29 and the UU a week earlier. The majority of the cases relate to students living in Belfast.
Community safety wardens have been patrolling the university area of Belfast since January 2006, with the innovative scheme reducing anti-social behaviour in the south of the city by more than 40% in its first six months.
Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph reveal that 76 students have been disciplined by Queen’s University since its new term started.
Forty-five students were given advice and a warning and the remaining 31 cases went to a disciplinary hearing. The outcomes include 20 fines and four written warnings.
An additional 39 students are awaiting disciplinary action following investigations.
The total number of Queen’s students disciplined during |the whole of the 2007/08 academic year was 404 students — including 74 students being fined.
At the University of Ulster a total of 119 students have been disciplined since August — with the vast majority of the complaints since term began on September 22.
In the Belfast area, 48 UU students received verbal warnings, 13 have been given written warnings and five fines were issued.
In the Coleraine area 18 written warnings have been given out. And in Derry there have been 25 verbal warnings and 10 written warnings.
David Farrell, a member of the Holyland Regeneration Association in south Belfast, said: “We get our best sleep between about 8pm and 1.30am when the students are out for the night.
“Then it may be as late as 5am before it is quiet again.
“However, I must compliment the current Students’ Union at Queen’s because they are doing a lot of positive work and are being very proactive.”
South Belfast SDLP MLA Carmel Hanna said: “The figures are high over quite a short period of time. However, I welcome them because it is important to show that students who do behave badly will receive warnings or fines.
Mike Gaston, Community Affairs Officer at Queen’s University, said: “The university has a disciplinary code in place. Students should be aware that all complaints are fully investigated.”
Una Calvert, community relations officer at the UU, said: “We investigate every single complaint. The system is robust and fair. Students can bring student representatives with them to the hearing and they can also appeal.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Employment and Learning said: “The universities are autonomous bodies and are responsible for their own policies and procedures including those around student misbehaviour.
“Where a student has broken the law, it is a matter for the PSNI and the courts.
“The Department for Employment and Learning continues to support the two universities and the steps they have taken to combat the problem of student anti-social behaviour.”