Edinburgh University’s Pollock Halls have the best accommodation fire safety record in Scotland.
Following Freedom Of Information requests to Scotland’s largest universities, Napier News discovered that the Fire Brigade were only called to Edinburgh University’s Holyrood halls twice in the last academic year.
The site, which houses around 2000 students, has seen dramatic improvements following the introduction of new safety procedures. Previously firemen had been frequent visitors to the halls, attending alarms 104 times during the 2008/09 session and 75 times the following year.
The university changed their systems because of concern about wasting crucial emergency service time with these automated call outs. Now members of the accommodation team investigate any alarm activations before contacting the Fire Brigade.
Over the same period Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Road flats had 15 call outs whilst Glasgow University’s Murano Street Village experienced 174.
Over 1,500 Scottish students have flocked to join the tens of thousands of English protesters in the London ‘Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts’ protest over the proposed university tuition fee rises.
Tuition fees are set to triple for English students and even more for Scottish students attending English Universities.
Liam Burns, President of National Union of Students warns about a potential knock on effect for higher fees in Scotland.
He said: ‘The impact in Scotland will be huge. Increases fees will force Scottish students studying in England into crippling levels of debt and will fuel calls for English students studying in Scotland to pay much higher fees.’
Union leaders had breakfast this morning with former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to discuss concerns about the coalition government’s proposed changes.
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has stated that the fee rises are the ‘right choice for our country’s future’.
He added: ‘Our universities are jewels in our economic crown, and it is clear that if we want to keep our place near the top of the world league tables then we need to reform our system of funding and reject.’
Murray Hope, Senior Vice President of the Heriot Watt University student’s union and National Union of Students executive stresses the importance of a Scottish presence at the London protest today.
‘Today is pivotal for two reasons for Scotland: the battle to keep education free at the point of delivery’, he said.
‘Secondly, the 40% cuts will be pushed onto Scotland to deal with. If you removed health, which has already been ring fenced, education is the most obvious cut. This means bigger class sizes, job losses, course closures, less support, reduced opening hours [and] bursary cuts.’
The protests are set to take place today between 8am and 3pm.
Edinburgh Napier University may lose it’s licence for their student accomodation complex at West Bryson Road.
Local residents have filed a number of petitions to Edinburgh City Council to have the licence revoked, after weeks of what they have described as major and regular disturbances.
The students living at the complex received a letter describing the matter some weeks ago, but concerns have been renewed recently after a fresh out break of anti social behaviour at the weekend.
The petition could potentially mean that the students currently living in the complex, could all be evicted, and students in residence there have become concerned.
Christopher Fulton, a resident in the complex, feels that the prospect of eviction is somewhat extreme: “Freshers week was crazy around here, and the next two or three weeks after where only a small improvement.
“When we got the letter about the residents filing the petition, things settles down a lot.
“I think it would be harsh if West Bryson Road lost it’s licence, seeing as how much everything has calmed down. I understand where the residents are coming from, but at the same time, their complaints aren’t valid anymore.”
James Parker, a photography student also living in the complex believes that Edinburgh Napier has a duty of care towards the students: “I’d be devastated if we were all turfed out.
“There would be a real scramble for accomodation, and that would definitely be stressful. My worry is that if we were all evicted, that Napier would just leave us adrift.
“Some of us paid our rent for the year upfront, what would happen in that case. There’s a lot of questions that would have to be answered.”
Whilst a significant number of the local residents signed the petition, not everyone was on board with the idea. Raymond Gallacher, a civil servant who lives in the building beside the student block, was one such person: “It was absolute carnage around here at the beginning of September, and I can see why my neighbours felt compelled to act. Things have settled down a fair amount, but not completely.”
Mr. Gallacher feels a different approach would prove fruitful: ” I think the onus of responsibilty should be on the university, as I’m sure everyone could expect a building full of first years to run riot for the first few weeks, I remember doing it myself.
“Perhaps some extra security for the first few weeks, or on the spot fines or something. Revoking the licence would be a bit extreme in my view.”
So far a number of students who have been identified as significant trouble makers have been evicted, and in the eyes of Christopher Fulton, this should be both an olive branch to the residents, and a strong warning to the students: “One guy was evicted after three weeks, and another one has gone this weekend. Everyone’s suddenly become very scared now that major action is being taken, and I think that will bring about a major shift in attitude from all us here.”
With the University of Dundee planning to cut up almost two hundred jobs, staff are now planning to move forward with strike action.
The Dundee University and College union (DUCU) voted last week in favour of a strike ballot which, if succesful, would lead to lecturers and professors striking. This would mean that some classes and lectures would have to be canceled.
An official statement from the University of Dundee was not given, and the DUCU could not be reached for comment.
David Cubbitt, a student at the University of Dundee who has raised concerns over the potential strikes, said: “I am a hard working student, and this strike may lead to some of my classes being canceled, which I don’t think is fair.” However, he also added that he sympathized with the frustrations of the union: “I am disappointed the university is planning to cut jobs, as I feel many of the board members at the university earn too much money already, and their wages would be a better place to start cuts with!”
The row centres over issues of press censorship and began after independent student newspaper The Journal published an article detailing dissent, and a possible vote of no confidence against the current president Kasia Bylinska, at the Napier Student’s Association.
The article stated that allegations of six counts of unconstitutional behaviour had been made against Ms Bylinska and that eight programme representatives had signed a motion for an emergency meeting to enact a vote of no confidence in the president.
The NSA responded by removing all copies of the publication from the university, which has prompted accusations of press censorship by members of the student body.
Rik Carranza, who ran against Ms Bylinska in last year’s election, said: “This action taken by the NSA is disgusting and shares more in common with censorship in China than creating an equal playing field for election candidates which the elections committee is trying to justify.
“I am a proud member of the student union movement and have been for many years now and let me tell you, I have never seen such a flagrant disregard for freedom of speech in my time in NUS. The NSA has infringed basic human rights and they should not be allowed to continue”, he continued.
Edinburgh Napier University said: ” The University does not condone the decision of the NSA to remove copies of The Journal from its campuses.”
The campaign has earned support from SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville. She said: “Freedom of the press is integral to any democratic society. The Journal is a valued resource in the city, keeping students up to date with student issues and wider current affairs – it is a respected paper and provides valuable experience and employment to…… those interested in the field of journalism. I hope that this current dispute is concluded as soon as possible.”
The protesters are also hoping to gain enough signatures on a petition for an emergency meeting for a vote of no confidence in Kasia Bylinska. This would over-ride the need for programme representatives to lend their support. The petition currently has over 200 signatures after just a few hours of campaigning.
Christopher Pilkington, one of the most active members of the protest and a programme representative for the Business Management with Marketing course, said: The idea of a university – a place that is intended to shape young minds – being actively censored is intolerable.
“We cannot be brought up to accept a censored press, particularly when the organisation doing the censoring is refusing to be held accountable to the students it claims to represent.”
Following the publication last week, all copies of The Journal have been removed from Napier campuses. The NSA have yet to issue a statement regarding the reasons for the removal and have so far declined to comment on the Journalgate protests.
Kenneth Dale-Risk, Law lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University said he did not believe the original Journal article to be defamatory stating that it was “an article of fact.”
Bogus communal maintenance fees are swindling new renters out of money.
Rachel Watson, Graphic Design student from Edinburgh, was duped into giving a man money for what she thought was a fee to maintain the stairwell of her building. On contacting her letting agent to ask how often these payments would be made, Watson was told this was not a legitimate service and not to part with any more money.
As a new tenant within the building, Watson had no reason to doubt the fee and felt pressured by the mans presence at her door.
Watson said: “I’m shocked. He seemed like a polite, elderly gentleman. It’s not the money that’s bothering me, it’s the principle of the matter. It sounded like a legitimate reason.”
Similar scams have been reported to a letting agent in Tollcross since the beginning of term. June McCain of Capital Lettings has expressed her concern for students in the area. She said: “Scammers tend to target student filled areas as they know the tenants change frequently. A similar thing was reported in our flats in Marchmont just last month. Everything from window cleaning to cutting the communal green should be discussed with your landlord or letting agent before signing a tenancy agreement to help avoid these situations.”
Helen Crocker, Manager of Napier Student Accommodation gives the following advice to ensure Napier students are aware of the dangers. She said: “The general rule for anyone is – do not let any stranger into your flat, ask for proof of identity, do not give them any money or sign anything until you have checked everything out. If they are genuine they will not mind you doing this and will come back at a time convenient to you both to discuss further. ”