Protecting investment: securing the university campus
Last year, the number of students entering UK universities exceeded 500,000 for the first time. As facilities expand to cope with higher demand, James Somerville-Smith from Honeywell asks how security systems can keep up.
The expansion of university campuses and services has greatly benefited the educational community by creating more places for students to attend top teaching facilities across the country. This brings great advantage to university institutions, but at the same time makes them responsible for a growing academic community.
According to The Complete University Guide, the majority of crimes committed on and around university campuses are violent crime and burglary. Since many universities are spread across big cities, it has become more of a challenge for these institutions to keep their students and staff safe.
One of the biggest changes in the way universities are structured is the appearance of flexible learning spaces. Growing numbers and different ways of studying means many university facilities are now open to the campus community 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While the majority of these facilities are protected via access cards, the relaxed university culture could mean existing security measures aren’t taken seriously, or are ignored altogether. Students may share their access cards or numerical lock combinations with their friends, making it hard for security services to monitor exactly who is accessing a building or service.
As student numbers swell, universities also compete to provide the latest and most compelling learning tools. Universities are investing in learning technology and IT on an unprecedented scale, so that modern teaching rooms come equipped with PCs, projectors, and smart-boards as standard. Media and design courses and extra-curricular societies are also a popular choice for students, meaning many campuses are equipped with radio and TV stations, as well as expensive editing suites and loan equipment.
Many of these tools are easy to pick up and take away, so the relaxed attitude to access security also puts valuable investment at risk. As a result of all these developments, many universities are now turning to advanced video surveillance solutions to keep their campuses safe and secure.
London South Bank University is one of London’s largest and oldest universities. Founded in 1892, the university has more than 25,000 students and its campus and buildings occupy 125,000 square metres. As with many university services, LSBU’s security system had grown on an ad hoc basis over many years.
As new parts were added and taken away during expansion efforts, the campus was left with incompatible legacy systems and a severely outdated security control room. Concerned about the safety of their students and staff, LSBU appointed VSG Group as the manned guarding provider for their campus. In collaboration with independent security consultants Cornerstone GRG LTD, VSG Group developed a new security management system for LSBU that would provide a safer and more secure environment for staff and students.
LSBU’s new security system was underpinned by Honeywell’s Pro-Watch® security management software suite, which provided CCTV and alarm monitoring. As a first step, the plan integrated the LSBU campus’ existing analogue cameras and Honeywell Galaxy® intruder alarm panels into a new IP network. Honeywell hybrid Fusion H.264 network videos recorders were installed around the campus, linking the new and existing installations to the LSBU’s IT infrastructure. This new surveillance system pushed the performance of the legacy cameras to their limits and eliminated the issue of long cable runs. Honeywell high definition HD4 cameras are now being installed as part of an ongoing upgrade process, to ensure the system is improved further over the long term.
As well as improving CCTV performance, the VSG Group also proposed taking over the monitoring of the LSBU campus during out of hour periods through a virtual control room environment. The existing Honeywell Galaxy panels on campus were upgraded to allow network communications across the site, and further away to the VSG Group’s alarm receiving centre in Northampton. The on-site control room was drastically modernised, and now includes a dedicated Security Office where staff and students can report problems and seek advice.
As well as improving performance, this upgrade has provided a logical connection point for LSBU’s community and security team. Since the new security system was installed, incidents of theft have dropped on campus, while arrest rates have increased. The benefits of higher quality surveillance images and a centralised security presence have been invaluable for LSBU in ensuring their campus is a safe environment to learn.
In Battersea, the Royal College of Art has also undergone significant security upgrades to better serve its community and protect its assets. The RCA attracts exceptionally talented postgraduate students from around the world, and due to the diverse culture and ages of its community, supporting differing learning styles and lifestyles is one of the university’s top priorities. Access to university buildings is therefore provided from the early morning until midnight, seven days a week. The RCA was concerned about protecting their students during these extended working hours, as well as students’ work and intellectual property. For any artistic community, damage to or theft of multimedia facilities or physical copies of work can have a severe impact on studies and wellbeing.
The RCA asked Red Alert, a Kent based Security Installation company, to design and implement a new security system that addressed these concerns. In common areas, Honeywell HD4 Indoor/Outdoor cameras were installed to provide crisper and more detailed images. Honeywell HD IP PTZ cameras were installed to monitor the RCA’s perimeter and grounds, including its car parks, storage areas, and quiet access points. These pan-tilt-zoom cameras allowed detailed surveillance of hard to monitor areas, ensuring complete safety around the clock. Introducing this IP technology to the RCA campus ensured the system would remain flexible in the future, allowing for additional installations and staying cost effective. As another top priority for the RCA, the new system was also deliberately user-friendly and suitable for all staff to operate. The installation allowed easier and smoother security management for the whole site from one location, with a single user interface.
As the demands placed on universities continue to grow, it is crucial that significant investment is set aside for security services. The high turnover of people and technology in larger areas can seem impossible to monitor, making it crucial that security systems are built to adapt to the university’s changing needs. Improving video surveillance systems provides an excellent alternative to securing expanding campuses and facilities.