Vertical Markets

What, like, students want

by Mark Rowe

In the May and June print issues of Professional Security we featured the annual conference of Aucso, the UK-based association for chiefs of university security. First we reviewed a new, third edition of a guide to resilience for the high education sector; and then an exchange scheme for UK security managers to visit and host a counterpart in North America, and now Australia. In July, we round off by reporting on a group that is arguably the most important of all on a campus, yet easily overlooked or taken for granted in security terms; the students.

Say what you like about young people – they lack initiative, they keep saying ‘like’ – the fact is that on campuses they are customers, and security is one service about several there to keep them safe (and satisfied). The host of the 2019 Aucso conference for university security managers, Caroline Bluck, acting head of security at Aston, the spring 2019 host of Ausco, introduced Amna Atteeq, Aston’s Student Union president. By giving a SU view, she went some way to explaining what can easily (and understandably) be overlooked; what (if anything) do students, like, want from campus security?

It can depend on geography; Aston has a Birmingham city centre campus, with nothing physical to stop anything from crossing the road from the city and walking around the grounds, although buildings have access control. Some universities such as UEA in Norwich are edge of city and will not have the risk of casual passers-by, whether taking a short cut or opportunistic thieves. Some students will live in the city and commute a distance to campus – and the institution has a duty of care, even if the student is studying abroad – while some will live on campus.

Focus groups

And do students get what they want – which matters in these days of students as paying customers, and institutions seeking to market themselves, including as safe places for parents to let their teenagers go. Do students find the security officers, that they see on patrol about campus, approachable? How can Security best put messages across to students, for whom Facebook is no longer in fashion, and who may no longer bother to read email?

Amna began with the point – as if the question of what platform to use to reach students isn’t hard enough – that there’s several sorts of student; the first years are different from those on placement and those in their final year. A security department may know what it’s there to do – besides protecting assets and managing site access, doing CCTV monitoring, looking after the car parking and visitors’ badges – but do students know that? Hence the Aston SU held focus groups, to ask students.

More in the July print magazine.

Picture by Mark Rowe; Aston main building.

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