Plans of staying safe and getting home in one piece can sometimes feel of secondary importance to the Big Mac meal many-a-student finds themselves craving at 3am. Sticking with a group of friends and knowing your own alcohol limits are effective measures anyone can take in trying to stay safe. However, there are many schemes in place at universities across the UK that are doing great work in giving students a little extra piece of mind. Below is an insight into some of these initiatives, and how they are of help to students.
Safe Taxi Scheme:
Cardiff (my university) is in a big city. This means that it can be quite a trek from town to home, especially when you’ve had a few too many. Dragon Taxi is a local company that is well linked to the University. Taxis can be booked using an app, where you will be sent details of a nearby driver’s name and number plate via the app. This is a great way of ensuring that you are getting home safely and securely with a reputable taxi service. Dragon also offers a Safe Taxi Scheme. Students can call up, give their university student number, and pay the fee to the SU at a later date. This is a 24-hour service and is really effective in providing students with a safety net if an emergency were to arise. Similar initiatives could be successful across other large city uni’s, as well as smaller campus universities.
Volunteers play an integral role in helping fellow students after a night out. Members of the Christian Union at Cardiff are often found in the early hours of a Thursday morning handing out free teas outside the SU. They are also there to give a helping hand in finding a safe way home. Similarly, the University of York run a student volunteer scheme where, after a short training process, volunteers give up their time to wait outside clubs and offer help where it may be needed. They hand out water, sweets, and have even been known to provide flip flops for those who have regretted their choice of high heel! Student volunteers are immensely helpful in offering a friendly face for those that may find themselves separated from friends, or just in need of some comforting. It would be great if more universities could follow suit and recruit volunteers dedicated to this cause. Student volunteers aren’t the only ones who go above and beyond to help. The security and SU staff at the Falmouth campus of Exeter University email those who they helped home, to double check that they are OK the following morning . This idea would work particularly well at other smaller campus universities.
Some universities run a night bus service, especially where the night life is further from university accommodation; the Falmouth campus of Exeter University is a good example of this where a night bus shuttles back to student halls up until 2am (with a £2 fee after midnight). Open Norwich, associated with universities across Norwich, created the SOS Bus scheme. This is an initiative that aims to reduce the amount of unnecessary ambulance call outs in the area; it acts as a first point of call for those who may be a risk to themselves on a night out through illness, injury or distress (9:30pm-3:30am on Friday and Saturday nights). Similarly, Sheffield university run the Women’s minibus; the service runs hourly throughout the night and takes women who feel vulnerable getting home, straight to their door for a £1.50 fee. All of these are incredibly important schemes that prove invaluable to those students who need help and security when at their most vulnerable. Similar schemes could be an area of development for other universities, while existing initiatives could progress further through extending running times, where possible, to aid more people.
The Safezone App, used by a number of UK universities, can be used by staff and students to seek assistance in an emergency situation. Kent is one such university, where app users can receive 24 hour safety reassurance across campus. The app has four main features: an Emergency button, used when an individual is at risk of a potential threat; a First Aid alert; a Help call for if you feel unsafe; and a Check-in system, for if you are working outside normal hours alone. Activating any of these features alerts responders to your location, allowing them to send help. This is a large-scale initiative that would take time to enforce. But once introduced, it would prove a great way of ensuring on-campus student safety through quick and effective responses.
Of course, these are just a handful of the schemes running across UK universities. But this does give a sense of what is out there for students, how the schemes are helping, and what more can be done by other universities to improve student safety. If you are starting university in September, be sure to find out what your university has on offer to help keep you safe on a night out.
Ellie has just finished her second year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.
Note: The Student Night Out instrument of the ProtectED Code of Practice requires universities to have safe transport schemes in place to help keep students safe on a night out.