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Universities will be ‘robust' when disciplining students

Police and fire service in attendance in the Holylands on St Patrick's night. Picture by Declan Roughan

THE north's two universities have vowed to be "robust in their disciplining" of students involved in anti-social behaviour.

Ulster University (UU) and Queen's University said they were very disappointed by the public disorder in the Holylands area of south Belfast.

They pointed out that the majority of people in the area on March 17 were not university or college students.

The pair regard St Patrick's Day in the Holylands as one of their biggest "problem days". Drink-fuelled trouble has plagued the area in recent years but had calmed down more recently.

In previous years, the universities warned students they would be expelled within a week, although not one who was disciplined was kicked out. Instead, fines, cautions, suspensions and guidance were handed out to those arrested.

A total of 135 students were disciplined by UU between 2013 and 2015. At Queen's, 104 students were dealt with over the same period.

 

Following St Patrick's Day 2015, £5,210 in fines were issued and five students were suspended by Queen's.

"This societal problem is one which the universities and colleges commit significant time and resources to annually, both in educating, and if necessary, disciplining their students," a joint statement read.

"It was clear, however, that the majority of people in the area yesterday were not university or college students.

"We very much appreciate and value the sustained support from our partners, including the PSNI, residents and Belfast City Council."

In addition, the universities said they required the support of parents in ensuring the consequences of such behaviour on their children's futures were made clear, "not just to university and college students, but also to those of school age who are coming in to the Holyland area".

"The universities and colleges will continue to be robust in their disciplining of what is a minority of students who are engaging in this type of behaviour. Given the breadth of young people involved, we clearly need the full support and action of all stakeholders to effectively deal with this societal challenge going forward."

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