Tensions escalate between students and residents as overpopulation leads to usurpation

 

Town and Gown, the interrelationship between a populous of people and an academic institution situated nearby. First coined at Oxford University this phrase has come to define the relationship between universities and nearby areas. The relationship, so often productive and profitable for both sides, frequently however, causes tension and trouble.

More recently tension has arisen in Cornwall, specifically in the area of Penryn and Falmouth. Above Penryn sits the Tremough Campus of Exeter and Falmouth University. Built in 2002 and opened in 2005 this campus was less of a coagulation of students, more of a community of them living comfortably alongside the communities of Penryn and Falmouth. Eleven years later and the peace has been broken.

In today’s Britain there are no limits on how many students a university campus can take. Great, more students, more ideas, more degrees. Or is it? What makes the Tremough Campus so popular is its community aspect that attracts a year on year increase in the number of students who wish to study there. However, the campus is geographically limited, meaning it has to expand. The question is where?

This campus has three options: it can either expand down the hill and break a promise sworn in 2002, or it can utilise the resources of the local town and use the existing space but run the risk of ruining its relationship with the community? The third option is to limit the number of students and therefore its profit margin. So what option are Exeter and Falmouth University choosing? Options one and two; profit always did win over popularity.  Welcome to the 21st century Falmouth.

The Penryn and Falmouth Town Council are understandably riled by this decision. Not only is the university buying up homes that would otherwise be bought by residents of Falmouth but it is also acquiring homes that would otherwise be available to second and third year students, hence taking away business from landlords too. Let us not forget also that one of the sites up for purchase and planning is the Jehovah’s Witness Church just over the road from the university.

It doesn’t matter how much money Exeter is putting into this area of Cornwall, they are tearing the community apart. People are moving away from Falmouth because of the number of houses being purchased for student use. Shops too are closing down in Falmouth. Talking to one resident who has been here thirteen years, they said that before Exeter and Falmouth arrived there were 20 per cent more shops in Falmouth’s buzzing high street. The taxi drivers, whose income depends on the large number of students, are being drowned out by the subsidised bus service. From personal experience, a taxi driver allowed me to pay for a fourteen pound trip even though I only had ten pounds. Accepting a loss that significant should show the rest of the United Kingdom what is being done to the local economy in Falmouth by the universities.

However, the students of both universities too are angered by the aggressive actions. At the recent Annual General Meeting of the FXU, the students union for both Falmouth and Exeter Universities, a motion was passed enabling both the student union and the Penryn and Falmouth Town Council to oppose the building of apartments fit for 1,500 students next to B&Q — another slice of the surrounding area that the university promised not to build on.

This problem though, is not just an issue in Cornwall, it is national. All over the country there is a continual tightrope walk between the universities, the tightrope walkers, and the wire, the communities they’re treading on. I highlight this case in particular as it appears that, very soon, the tightrope walker will fall off.