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University Health and Safety Rankings – How Safe Are UK Universities?

Category: Health & Safety | Bryan Richards Twitter | Published on: Sep 16, 2016 | Updated: Dec 12, 2016 Read more: Health & Safety

Choosing a university may be one of the biggest decisions made in a young person’s life. But with so many universities vying for the top candidates, making that final choice can be a minefield.

Typically, university rankings are based on a few main factors – they include academic reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, citations per faculty, graduate prospects, student satisfaction, and entry standards. But how often do prospective students and parents alike consider the health and safety reputation of a university on campus?

Since it’s that time of year again when A-Level finishers up and down the UK will be starting out on their university journeys, we took a look at the university campuses with the best health and safety records, and how these compare to the official league tables for the 2016/17 academic year.

HESA University Incident Statistics

The Russel Group is comprised of 24 research-intensive universities, with each campus playing host to at least 10,000 students per year. The statistics below show the number of RIDDOR accidents (i.e. any minor accident, incident or near miss event that could have resulted in injury or ill health) that occurred during the 2014/15 academic year at these universities. All data comes from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

RIDDOR incidents

As you can see, Manchester is considerably higher than others in the group. However, with the university having one of the largest enrolments in the country, at almost 38,000 students, this could be attributed to the fact that there are many more chances of students and staff having an accident. If we look at the proportion of accidents per 1,000 staff and students we see a slightly different story:

incident rate

Whilst Manchester is still relatively high on the rankings, Warwick, Queens Belfast, and Liverpool all seem to have higher staff incident rates proportional to their size. Imperial College London, on the other hand, has the highest proportion of reported student incidents per 1,000 people despite the number of staff incidents being relatively low.

The good news is that the total accident rates per 1,000 at risk have been falling across the country, with a five year low in accidents reported at universities in 2013-14. The stats do show a slight increase last year, but generally the number of reported incidents remains below the HSE average frequency rates.

accident rate over 5 years

How Health and Safety Incidents Compare To The Official League Tables

League tables don’t often incorporate health and safety incidents into their ranking criteria due to the differences in how universities report, however, there does appear to be some loose correlation between the two.

According to the data, University College London has one of lowest reported health and safety incidents in the country, and also regularly comes within the top 10 in the official UK league tables. Kings College – another London-based university – is also one of the safest and top places to study in the country.

Interestingly, Imperial College London has the highest proportion of incidents per 1,000 students but is ranked 4th in the league tables. Warwick also ranks 8th in the league tables, but had one of the highest proportion of accidents in the country during the 2014/15 academic year, with 2.75 incidents per 1,000 staff.

London Crime Rates Highest in the UK

All universities have their own methods for reporting accidents and it can be difficult to judge with any certainty whether one is actually more safe than another using this method. Crime statistics, on other hand, are a clear indicator of how a safe a university environment is.

The graph below shows the combined total burglary, robbery, and violent incidents per university city for the year 2015, with all data coming from police.uk, Ordnance Survey and the Office for National Statistics.

Crime incidents

Whilst the London universities may have the least incidents reported, they drop to the bottom of the rankings when we look into crime statistics – Queen Mary, Imperial College, UCL, LSE and Kings College all have more than double the total number of reported crimes than other UK universities. Glasgow, meanwhile, has the lowest crime in the country and also reports the lowest accident rate, on par with Exeter.

 
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