There’s no denying that today’s universities are aware of the key responsibility they have in respect to student safety on campus. For example, The University of Northampton has just announced that it is going to pay £774,027 over three academic years for six police officers to patrol its new Waterside Campus amid fears over central funding cuts in the local area. But when it comes to ensuring the safety of students in 2018, what are institutions’ current concerns and what technology is being used on campus to improve security?
Mike Davies is Senior Consultant at Blackstone Consultancy, providers of bespoke, discreet and exceptionally vigilant security arrangements to individuals and companies. He believes that a safe school environment is critical to the education process, and that universities need to incorporate security and multi-disciplinary approaches within their campuses to deter criminal behaviour, such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). In addition, he thinks that institutions should look at their existing security systems to conduct the required vulnerability assessment, and then determine whether the facilities, processes and policies meet industry standards and guidance as part of an overall security strategy.
Discussing the idea of security strategy further, he said: “As well as protecting the campus, protecting the individual is equally important. Open and easy access to reporting processes and confidence in the reporting system are imperative post-event, but the individual can ensure that they minimise danger to themselves by carrying out actions such as keeping belongings safe, keeping accommodation secure and reporting any strange sights while on campus.
“Blackstone Consultancy would recommend that universities pass on this information to students as part of their overall security strategy, to empower students with the knowledge of how to safely enjoy their university experience.”
Jason Boyce is Strategic Business Development Manager at Gallagher Security (Europe) Ltd, providers of security solutions to education providers across the UK. He thinks that universities definitely recognise security as a key priority for two main reasons – firstly because they are ranked on how safe they are, and secondly because of the current threat landscape in the UK.
Summarising his thoughts, he said: “Many universities have a counter-terror policy and invacuation process, which ensures that security is a key priority.
“Security concerns are different for all universities. For instance, those based in the heart of a city, such as King’s College London, need to take into account the threat of terrorism after previous attacks have taken place outside a campus.”
The safety of students and staff should be paramount to institutions. As Andy Wray, General Manager SME at leading security and life safety systems provider STANLEY Security explains, a university’s reputation could be damaged by incidents on campus. Commenting further, he said: “Overall, universities recognise security as being important but many institutions are constrained by budgets and have to use disparate ‘cost-effective’ security systems that have been built-up over a number of years.
“These are rapidly becoming out of date and offer limited scope for future integration, which is important as it allows one single front-end which makes for simple system management.”
Andy Wray also believes that most campuses have some way to go with their security solutions because of legacy systems that are already in place. Furthermore, he thinks that future-proofing is key when it comes to the design of campus new builds, adding “Retrospectively installing integrated systems then comes at a significant cost and institutions end up paying twice.”
So, what technology is available to universities who are looking to improve security on campus and what solutions do our experts think are particularly effective?
Jason Boyce has seen access control systems also act as the student ID card, in addition to offering admission to accommodation and libraries. Elaborating further on the benefits of this, he said: “Security staff can also be given mobile readers so that they can carry out spot checks to ensure anyone using someone else’s ID card can be removed.”
Similarly, he has seen mobile phones utilised as access cards in order to provide an extra layer of security through dual factor authentication. He added: “The access credential on the mobile phone can also be used to allocate lockers, book rooms, control lights and so on.”
Andy Wray has started to see a range of new technology being used on campus, from body-worn cameras that are able to live stream, to campus lockdown systems that can be activated from a smart device or pager, and even cashless vending.
Commenting further, he said: “Where we are seeing a major change is in the integration of all these disciplines; primarily access control, CCTV, door entry and intercoms, and fire.
“Furthermore, the use of Cloud-based solutions is becoming increasingly popular as often existing IT systems are unable to host these security systems locally and it would be cost-prohibitive to upgrade the network.”