How students are kept safe on nights out

Freshers’ week is upon us, which means a week of awkward introductions to new flatmates, intro sessions to courses and of course, parties.

Bring LOTS of fancy dress options.

For those who like a night out, Freshers' is one of the best weeks of the university calendar. However, when you’re away from home for the first time, potentially in a brand new city, sometimes things don't always go to plan.

Luckily, universities, councils and student union’s have lots of ways of ensuring your safety, and there are some things you can do as well, while still having the time of your life.

Safe taxi schemes

When you move to a new town, you may not know which taxi firms are the most reputable and reliable. There’s also quite a lot of unlicensed cabs about, which you should never get into.

That’s why quite a lot of unis and student unions have set up safe taxi schemes which mean you know you’re getting into an approved car. For example Liverpool Hope University has partnered with a firm who you can call, and when you quote “Liverpool Hope University Safe Taxi Scheme” a booking will be made to take you straight back to your halls, to hospital or a police station.

Whether you use one of these schemes or not, always make sure the cab you’re getting into is licensed.

Another good feature of the schemes is that, if for whatever reason you’re unable to pay when they drop you off, most have a late pay scheme where you can give your fare to your halls of residence reception or, in the case of the University of Edinburgh, your students’ association.

It’s worth bearing in mind though that a lot of these pay-later schemes have time limits, and you might not be able to use the taxis if you have an outstanding payment.

Student safety volunteer groups

If you’re lost, you’re separated from your friends or something happens to you on a night out, sometimes all you need is a friendly face.

Groups such as the Nottingham Night Owls provide just that. They’re a group of student volunteers organised by the University of Nottingham’s Students’ Union, who do patrols on certain nights of the week to ensure students get home safely.

Esther, who is a committee member of the Nottingham Night Owls, says their work is important because "there isn’t one student who doesn’t have a crisis story on a night out”.

The volunteers receive training in first aid and are on hand to dish out supplies such as water bottles and food to students who need it. Other students’ unions such as Sussex and Leeds also have similar groups.

Safe buses

These schemes aren’t usually run specifically for students, but can be found in some university town centres. They’re a very useful resource for freshers who find themselves vulnerable on a night out.

Safe buses such as those in the centre of Bournemouth and Plymouth are built to be hubs for party-goers who need some help on their night out. They can be staffed by a team of medical professionals, police and volunteers, who can help with a range of issues: if you’ve had something stolen, you need to find your friends, or you’ve injured yourself in some way. Some even hand out flip flops to those who find their choice of footwear less comfortable when the night draws to a close.

They are often run as a partnership between different organisations. For example, Bournemouth’s SafeBus, which operates every Saturday night, and every Friday in the summer, is a partnership scheme run between BCP Council, Dorset Police and the South West Ambulance Service.

Bournemouth Council Cabinet Member for Tourism, Leisure and Communities, Lewis Allison explained the SafeBus is “staffed by volunteers, a police officer and a paramedic to ensure that the service can provide aid and help to those who may need it.”

What you can do

People and organisations all over your university town will be doing all they can to keep you safe during Freshers’, but there’s a number of things you can do too.

For example, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) run a number of safety schemes for students all year round, but during Freshers’ Week there are 12 streets in the main student residential area of Manchester where the police will be going round and knocking on doors and handing out leaflets with advice on how to keep safe.

This is some of the advice GMP’s Inspector Shoheb Chowdury says they give:

  • Try to stick with your friends but if you end up on your own, let somebody know where you are
  • Try and avoid walking through areas with poor visibility
  • If you do find yourself on your own in the dark, don’t visibly use your mobile phone
  • Don’t get in unlicensed cabs or any that you haven’t pre-booked
Where possible, go home with a friend and keep your phone safe in your pocket.

This isn’t supposed to scare you; university is meant to be fun, as is Freshers’ Week, and following this advice can help ensure that happens.

Quiz: Which of these unconventional university degrees made headlines?
How to resolve (almost) every argument you’ll ever have at uni
Long-distance friendships: When to keep them going and when to take a step back