Canterbury is fortunate in having higher education as a key component of the local economy. Numbers of staff and students at the three universities are as follows:
University of Kent: 3152 staff and 19,275 students, based in Canterbury but with seven different campuses across Europe
Canterbury Christ Church University: nearly 3000 staff, 19,105 students, based in Canterbury but with three different campuses in Kent
University of the Creative Arts, 7000 students based in Farnham in Surrey but with a campus in Canterbury.
Universities can bring many benefits to their local areas. They provide educational and employment opportunities, are a source of research and innovation, and can work with local and regional businesses, as well as playing an important role in civic society. As independent organisations with a non-profit-making educational mission, universities can provide civic leadership, as well as being a source of links with the wider world, both nationally and internationally. They also have a significant impact on the cultural, artistic and social life of the areas in which they are located.
The range of jobs provided by universities is wide. So for example, at the University of Kent, the proportions of staff in different types of jobs in 2013 was as follows: academics 23 per cent, manual workers 23 per cent, hourly paid teachers 23 per cent, secretarial staff 20 per cent, managerial and administrative staff 14 per cent, researchers 5 per cent and technicians 3 per cent. Universities also make a financial contribution to the local economy. Thus, for example, it has been calculated that the University of Kent contributed £0.6 billion (£572 million) to the south east region in 2013 (Kelly and McNicoll, 2011).
The residents of Canterbury value the benefits which the universities bring to the city, in terms of employment, economic benefits and social and cultural richness. However, they are also critical of some of the problems which can emerge in a city with a high ratio of students to residents. These problems include:
- The impact on house prices, as buy-to-let landlords drive up house prices beyond the reach of local people
- The takeover of residential areas by students, so local people feel isolated, community life suffers and children have no local friends to play with
- Night time disturbance, with students partying and making a noise at times when those in full time work are trying to sleep
- Increases in litter and a lack of understanding about re-cycling, by students who do not share local people’s concern about the management of rubbish
- Irresponsible attitudes to car ownership, with parking on verges, doors being slammed at night and cars being driven at speed in residential areas
The Canterbury City Council has responded to the situation by setting up the Student Community Working Group at which these issues can be discussed.