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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Shaping an Exclusive Community: Students’ perceptions of safety in an age of insecurity

Roberts, Nicola (2020) Shaping an Exclusive Community: Students’ perceptions of safety in an age of insecurity. In: Second Annual FES Research Conference: Society Shaping, 15 June 2020, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


We live in a society characterised by risk, insecurity and uncertainty (Bannister and Flint, 2017; Sibley, 1995; Young, 1998). This affects individuals’ perceptions of safety and subsequent behaviours, including demands for enhanced security (Loader and Walker, 2007). More research on students’ perceptions of safety on university campuses has been carried out in the US than in the UK. The dearth of research in the UK is concerning for two reasons. Firstly, students comprise diverse populations. Existing research shows that perceptions of feeling un/safe are not the same for all. Secondly, research shows that as students move away from the campus and into the city, they are less likely to say they never felt unsafe (Roberts et al., under review). This is particularly salient for city campuses where the boundaries between the campus and the city bleed into one another. To research students’ perceptions of safety in these context/s, in 2019/20, a university-wide online survey was sent to all students studying on the city campuses generating 550 useable responses in SPSS for analysis. The majority of students perceived their university campuses as safe, however, just over one-fifth of students said there were places on-campus where they feel unsafe. Key factors emerged from the thematic analysis of the open responses in NVivo about why they feel unsafe. These factors, which were primarily given by vulnerable students, were grouped into three broad and over-lapping categories: ‘dangerous others’, poor lighting/darkness, lack of surveillance/security. This gave rise to particular places on-campus, such as car-parks, underpasses, buildings and areas around particular buildings, which were deemed unsafe. Students subsequently avoided these areas and/or adopted protective strategies when in such areas. This impacted upon students’ academic study, but most of all, their mental health. Key strategies, recommended by students, to enhance their safety on-campus were: raising awareness about Campus Security, and increasing the quantity and visibility of both security staff and security measures. The paper specifically addresses the conference theme because the findings raise important questions for universities – staff and students, and the wider community, about an exclusive community of students that might be shaped if the recommendations are implemented.

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More Information

Depositing User: Nicola Roberts


Item ID: 12132

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Nicola Roberts: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2020 09:09
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2020 15:56


Author: Nicola Roberts ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences


Social Sciences > Criminology

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