Two years ago we reported on plans being put forward by Falmouth and Exeter Universities to expand their campus in order to provide room for more students. We also wrote of how this was affecting and going to affect the relationship between the universities and Falmouth and Penryn residents who have now responded.


The FHS, short for Falmouth Hates Students, said in a statement that:

‘The Nazis at Falmouth University have had their way for too long, wrecking the lovely town of Falmouth with too many students and overdevelopment, and not accepting their own responsibility to house students on-site’.

Furthermore they stated that, as a result of this, they would try to make Falmouth, ‘a no-go zone for students’.

In light of this we asked students of both Exeter and Falmouth Universities what they thought.

The most interesting theme of the responses was an understanding as to why the local residents were retaliating against the students. The universities of Falmouth and Exeter have been unable to cap the number of students coming into their campuses, which has resulted in a severe case of overcrowding.

Still, a parallel argument ran that the actions of Falmouth Hates Students were completely unfounded and unnecessary, with each student stating their dislike of the physical violence taking place.

Abbey Adams — Falmouth Student studying Dance

‘I think it is bad how many more students Falmouth has taken on and how they are trying to find houses for everyone. People are having classes in the evenings and stuff now, just to fit everyone in. It’s probably a money thing but I do see why locals are angry because the uni students are too’.

Andrew Clayton — Exeter Student and Local Resident

‘I think there will be a really bad infrastructure problem if the unis keep expanding. I think there are always what they call “town vs gown” tensions. The unis have grown a lot very fast and students, like most young people, are guilty of being nuisances sometimes. Maybe because Falmouth and the surrounding areas are quite small, that’s been exaggerated’. 

He adds:

‘I think it’s pretty pathetic. The people behind it definitely don’t represent how the majority of Falmouth residents feel about students. All they’re trying to do is aggravate and deepen divisions … on a social level, I think people will have to learn to get along’.

Guy Gardner — Exeter Student      

‘I think the reasons why they’re angry have elements of validity to them. I can understand why many locals are frustrated with the increase in property prices and what probably feels like a takeover of their culture. But the notion of making Falmouth uninhabitable for students seems both immoral and illogical. their acts of terrorising students are hardly going to create a pleasant climate’.

Abbey

‘I’ve been on the receiving end of stuff in Cornwall such as folk telling me I’m not welcome and that I need to go back to where I came from. This random man come up to me in the street and said I should go back to Scotland’.

Richard Cunningham — Former Student

‘I had never heard of the FHS group until they sent this hateful, expletive-laden letter to the local newspaper. I think that their campaign of vandalism and violence is completely reprehensible. While there are understandable tensions between the town and the university management, nothing will be solved by threatening the security of innocent scholars’.

Bryony Iles — Falmouth Student

‘Personally I think it’s silly, and a tad extreme. They are overreacting, and there must be a calmer way to discuss and talk through the problems that the locals are having with the students. This violence and threats aren’t the way forward, something more constructive needs to be put in place to keep everyone happy’.

Given the situation that has arisen in the Town and Gown dynamic between Falmouth and Exeter Universities and the local residents of Falmouth, it is clear that this has created a town vs gown environment. This has been a situation of the universities’ own making, evident by the students’ responses concerning evening lectures and overcrowding, which has necessitated the requisition of property not just from the local area but from the local residents.

The university then is certainly not blameless in the creation of the current state of affairs; but neither is the Falmouth Hates Students group right to resort to violent action. The decision to make Falmouth a ‘No-go zone’ and to target student and staff property, is to admit not only to planning but enacting multiple criminal offences on students who, through no fault of their own, have been drawn into an acidic domestic crossfire simply for attending university.

As a result, it is important that justice is administered to those who have assaulted, pestered or damaged student property. Yet, it is also crucial that the university itself recognises that better administration and control of the flow of students onto its campuses could have prevented this situation from arising in the first place.

The key issues now for the universities and the local residents are how to prevent further violent action from being enacted in the short term, and how to prevent such tensions from becoming commonplace in the long term. It is clear that the solution to this town vs gown crisis cannot come from one side or the other but must come from both before more students get harassed and before any, crucially, get hurt.