Updated: Sep 30
University of Bristol’s new vice-chancellor, Prof. Evelyn Welch, recently met residents’ groups at two meetings held to discuss the university’s impact on local communities in the Cotham, Redland and Clifton areas.
Welch, who says she’s been listening to community views since taking the helm at UoB in September, received what amounted to a full briefing on the effects of noisy late-night student parties, bins and poorly sorted household waste being left on streets after rubbish collections, and the pressures of large student populations concentrated in small areas.
The meetings also heard about the problems of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) that in some cases don’t have the proper licences or planning permission, but which are not facing enforcement action because city council services are too stretched to cope.
Welch, who was previously at King’s College, London, said problems around student accommodation were mostly new to her, because as a much bigger city, London seemed to absorb new students almost effortlessly.
In Bristol, by contrast, questions about how many students the city can accommodate—and how they should be housed—have become live issues, in large part due to the rapid expansion of UoB over the last decade.
The meetings were held on 20 March and 3 April at a university lecture room in Woodlands Road. Invitations were sent to committee members of a dozen or so residents’ associations across the area. (I attended both meetings. I coordinate an email conversation on student matters between most of these groups and am one of their representatives at the Bristol Student Community Partnership.)
Welch was joined at the meetings by ex-policeman Steve Smith, who became UoB’s community liaison officer a year ago and has won praise from residents for energetically enforcing the university’s rules on student conduct in the community. Residents also welcomed the fact that Welch herself has engaged directly with the community to a much greater extent than her predecessors.
Ahead of the second meeting, Smith circulated a university response to written questions submitted by one of the groups. It can be seen here (view or download the file "UoB Reply to RA questions").