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National HMO Lobby



Discussion Document

1 Constitution Studentification is a term coined to identify the process and the product of concentrated student settlement in university towns in the UK. It may be defined as the substitution of a local community by a student community. Here, # ‘substitute’ means displacement of one community, and replacement by another, # ‘community’ means a group of people with a common ground and continuity through time, # ‘local community’ means one whose ground is their locality, and # ‘student community’ means a community with a vocational ground (here, the vocation or occupation is ‘study’).
1.1 Studentification comprises two sorts of problem. The principal, structural problem is demographic: studentification entails demographic imbalance. Until the last decade, high concentrations of students were unusual. But now, in the new millennium, it is common in university towns for a core of several (or many) streets to be dominated by a student population (see 3.2 below), with three particular characteristics – this population is transient (moving annually, leaving after three years), it is seasonal (resident for two-thirds of the year) and it is young (late teens, early twenties). The demographic pattern varies: Leeds, for instance, is a large city, with a large student population concentrated in a very compact area (though proportionately small in the city as a whole) [the redbrick model]; Loughborough by contrast is a small town with a proportionately very high student population [the smalltown model].
1.2 The secondary, functional problems arise directly and indirectly from the primary problem. At least fifteen ‘symptoms of studentification’ may be identified. On the one hand, these include a rise in a range of problems (especially crime, squalor and a resort economy): some problems are social, and include antisocial behaviour, crime and security costs; some problems are environmental, and include squalor, dereliction and street blight; and some problems are economic, and include distorted retail, fluctuating markets and casualised employment; affecting all these are traffic problems, and overwhelming pressure on public services (policing, cleansing, etc). On the other hand, secondary problems include decline of local social capital (or community spirit), and comprise decimation of numbers, disruption of networks, distraught morale, and loss of services (especially schools).
1.3 Studentification is also an experience, which produces a sense of alienation among residents. This feeling arises from a number of factors. The structural problems (the demographic imbalance) lead to a sense of oppression in public places (the crowding), and by contrast a sense of isolation at home (the loss of networks). The functional problems lead to fear of crime, to a revulsion from the squalor of the environment, and a sense of rejection by the resort economy. Underlying these, residents feel anger at the self-interest of universities & landlords, and despair at their neglect by government.

2 Causes
2.1 Many parties bear responsibility for the development of studentification.
· Students have usually congregated in what are perceived to be ‘student areas’.
· Communities have sometimes panicked and fled areas perceived as being invaded.
· Universities have left the accommodation of their students to an unregulated market.
· Landlords and their agents have exploited the demand for student housing.
· Local government has neglected the management of local housing developments.
· National government has expanded HE, but has failed to provide the resources and powers necessary to manage the accommodation implications.
2.2 By the same token, solutions to the problems of studentification require (a) the recognition of the nature of these problems by all these parties, both the structural and the functional problems, and (b) they require action by each of the parties, both severally and jointly. The action required comprises:
· an overall strategy for student housing in the town concerned,
· policies to implement the strategy (planning, housing, transport, and so on), and
· intervention to enact the policies by relevant agencies.
[See the Lobby's Ten Point Plan.]

3 Course: Stages of Studentification
3.1 Typical stages may be identified in the process of studentification.
(1) The Ivory Tower stage: the university establishes a campus to accommodate its core business (classrooms, libs, labs, offices, etc).
(2) The Cloister stage: the university provides purpose-built accommodation for non-local students, usually close to the Ivory Tower, and cloistered from the host community.
(3) The Settlement stage: student overspill from the Cloister settles in private accommodation in the neighbouring host community.
(4) The Colony stage: expansion of student numbers leads to further pressure from, and domination by, students of the areas already settled around the Cloisters: this is the moment of studentification.
(5) The Evacuation stage: in the aftermath of studentification (already experienced by some communities), evacuation of the Colony (for instance, to new-built ‘Cloisters’) leads to loss of demand, and collapse of the local housing market ('destudentification').
3.2 The tipping-point In a normal balanced community in Britain, one in five of the population are children, and one in five are older people. Evidently, social cohesion is readily maintained where distinct social segments constitute up to a fifth of the population. If this proportion is exceeded, it becomes noticeable – as a young area, or an elderly area, for instance. The same is true of a young adult (student) population: if it remains at (or below) one in five, it is readily accommodated (and indeed has been for many years in many university towns). This is the ‘tipping-point’. When it exceeds this proportion, stresses appear. When students number one in four, this impacts on the character of the area, and challenges social cohesion. If students number one in three, the disproportion is marked, the student community achieves autonomy and becomes the dominant social group (being larger than any other segment), and cohesion is lost. In some cases, imbalance may increase, and students equal (or even outnumber) the rest of the population combined.

4 Consequences: Community Relations Studentification includes a number of effects of demographic imbalance (1.2). In particular, it also generates difficult relationships between the two communities at the sharp end – local residents and students themselves. And different perspectives on those relationships have developed.
4.1 Local Community: residents adopt a range of stances.
· Militants: some residents (especially local youth) develop strong antipathy to students.
· Passivists: the majority of residents maintain a low profile, and respond to circumstances; eventually, pushed by declining amenity, and pulled by rising property prices, many emigrate.
· Idealists: some residents empathise with, support and defend students.
· Realists: some resident activists attempt to analyse studentification as a problem, and to address its causes [this Document expresses a ‘realist’ perspective].
4.2 Students: students also manifest a range of stances (in parallel with residents).
· Colonists: some students assert territorial claims to ‘student areas’.
· Camp-followers: the majority of students follow their predecessors into ‘student areas’, and pursue their own interests, oblivious of their circumstances.
· Idealists: some students identify with the local community, and try ‘to put something back’.
· Realists: some students recognise studentification as a problem.
4.3 The Groundhog Effect: relations between residents and students are complicated by the range of different reactions (and their inter-relations). But on-going dialogue is made almost impossible by the ‘groundhog effect’ of studentification.
· As temporary residents, students are unaware of the past of an area, and have no knowledge that it was ever otherwise.
· Similarly, as temporary residents without a future in the area, many students are unable to engage in long-term strategies.
· Relations between residents and students therefore remain in an eternal present, and have to be renewed every year, with each new cohort of students.
4.4 Incongruous Communities: Despite the aspirations of the Idealists on both sides, residents and students remain distinct communities. The only possible relation between Colonists and Militants is confrontation (like the Belfast Incident of 23 Nov 2004). Camp-followers and Passivists remain largely oblivious of each other. But even Idealists follow parallel paths: in Leeds 6, for instance, there are many local community associations addressing neighbourhood issues (Headingley Network, Far Headingley Village Society, South Headingley Community Association, etc, etc); but nevertheless, students (in good faith) have independently established the ‘LS6 Project’ to do exactly the same.

November 2004, revised February 2005

Note: see the article on 'Studentification' in Wikipedia for many useful links; also the page on Studentification on the College Town Life website. See also, Balanced Communities & Studentification, 2008.


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