The University of Sheffield have forked out nearly £100,000 in the last year for two police officers to work on campus, it has been revealed.
Sheffield is one of twenty seven universities across the country paying police a combined £3 million in exchange for police protection, with campuses a prime target for thieves and drug dealers.
Forge Press has learned that Sheffield Students’ Union approved the decision with the Security Services team, who say the officers will work on issues identified by them, report directly to them, and will help strengthen the University’s link with South Yorkshire Police.
Since last January, the University has paid £95,000 for the services of the “dedicated” PC Dickinson and PC Bakewell.
Students compensate for cuts?
But many will be left wondering if their tuition fees are being spent on a taxpayer-funded resource, with police budgets having reportedly shrunk by 19 per cent, leading to around 20,000 fewer officers, since 2010.
Sheffield Heeley MP and shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said it is “yet another example of the police…being unable to protect the public in the most basic sense”.
Northampton University will pay the police £775,000 over the next three years
A fifth of all higher education institutions have paid more than £2 million to 17 police forces over the last three years, with another £1.2 million set to enter the police purse in the current academic year.
A freedom of information request made by The Times found Northampton University at the top of the spending list, set to pay £775,000 over the next three years for a sergeant and five constables to roam its new campus.
Sheffield joined Liverpool, De Montfort, Worcester and Durham universities in beginning to pay the police in the last year. Durham which, like Sheffield, is a Russell Group university, has set aside £35,000 for each of the next three years to pay police officers.
Criminals capitalise on gadgets
Students are said to be ‘easy targets’ for criminals, often carrying around valuable hardware including laptops, mobile phones and tablets. Drug dealers also target university campuses – although fellow student drug dealers often prove more popular and less risky for students.
Richard Yates, Head of Security at the University of Sheffield, told Forge Press: “The University of Sheffield welcomed two dedicated police officers, who are fully funded by the University, last January.
“This was a proactive step taken by the University to enhance the safety of our students and staff and provide increased visibility and reassurance to ensure our community feels safe.”
“It is astonishing that the government continues to ignore what is staring them in the face — we do not have enough police officers.”
Louise Haigh said: “This is yet another example of the police, who have been shrunk to their lowest ever level, being unable to protect the public in the most basic sense.
”Time and again we are seeing communities contributing to the cost of policing, which inevitably creates a two-tier system leaving those areas that can afford to pay with the public services we all should benefit from and our more deprived areas going without.”
Universities on the brink of collapse
It comes as the UK’s leading Russell Group universities face a funding crisis over a fall in students from the European Union. A 9 per cent slump in EU postgraduates is particularly worrying as they form a lucrative source of income and research capability for Sheffield and many others in the group.
“They have powers that extend beyond those of our Security Services and have been valuable in ensuring crime can be investigated promptly”
Bodies representing more than 150 higher education institutions across Britain have written to MPs warning that a no-deal Brexit threatens “an academic, cultural and scientific setback from which it would take decades to recover”.
Combined with frenzied borrowing, a decline in the population of 18 year-olds, and potentially revolutionary changes to tuition fees being discussed by the government, some universities are on the brink of collapse.
A controversial move
John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The universities involved obviously see and value the need for campuses to be properly policed and this of course is only right.
“It is, however, astonishing that the government continues to ignore what is staring them in the face — the fact that we do not have enough police officers.”
Mr Yates continued: “Our decision to employ these police officers was made in liaison with our Students’ Union and we have received positive feedback from students.
“As they are police officers, they have powers that extend beyond those of our Security Services and have been valuable in ensuring crime can be investigated promptly through strengthened links with South Yorkshire Police. They also play a vital role in patrolling our campus and supporting crime reduction initiatives such as Crime Reduction and Safety Fortnight.”
The Students’ Union has been contacted for comment.