Staying safe in the UK’s top 5 uni towns

Girl walking home aloneImage via Thomas Hawk

At the start of every school year thousands of young people head off to the UK’s biggest cities to start university. It’s an exciting time – but one that brings many potential dangers.

When moving to a new city it’s important to be aware that not all parts of the UK are as safe as each other. This is often overlooked – especially by students moving to a big city from a smaller town – and students are often targeted by criminals for this very reason.

To help you stay out of trouble we’ve made this guide on how to stay safe in the UK’s top five most popular uni towns: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. Here you can learn more about crime in your area and what specific services are available to students.

Comparing crime by city

The Complete University Guide has detailed crime stats for most university sites on the three crimes that affect students most: robbery, burglary and violent/sexual crimes.

The figures represent general crime committed against all people, not just students, around the areas where campuses are based rather than on the campuses themselves. Here’s a look at how the top five most popular uni towns compare.

All crime figures are stated as incidents per 1000 residents.


London at night Image via barnyz

Student population: 306,000
Robbery: 8.2
Burglary: 2.8
Violent/sexual: 25.9
Total: 37

It’s important to note that although London overall has a fairly low crime rate, this is an average taken across all of the city’s campuses, and some areas are a lot more dangerous than others.

For example, the London School of Economics campus (marked on the above map) is situated right next to Soho and the West End, which is a crime hotspot due to its popularity with tourists.

It’s more important in London than any other city to make your travel plans ahead of time. Try to travel with others whenever possible and avoid walking the streets at night in high crime neighbourhoods. Apps like Moovit can help you plan your route ahead of time.

Useful links

Student safety at LSE
Safety information on London suburbs
Student safety advice from the Metropolitan Police
Crime map of London


Birmingham Sheen Image via Bs0u10e0

Student population: 65,000
Robbery: 8.5
Burglary: 2.9
Violent/sexual: 24.7
Total: 35

Birmingham is overall the safest city on this list, but the crime rate is still high compared to smaller towns and cities in the UK. Burglary is a particular problem, with the areas around Aston University sites affected more than any other location outside of London.

Students are at particularly high risk of burglary due to the fact that responsibility for securing the house is often shared, leading to slip ups. It’s important to follow these general rules:

  • Most student burglaries are by unforced entry – be extra vigilant to keep doors and windows locked whilst your out of the house
  • Don’t leave packaging for new expensive items outside in your rubbish
  • Get home contents insurance
  • Use timer switches to make it appear someone is home when you’re all out
  • Sign up to Selly Watch to get real time crime updates in your area
  • Take valuables home during the holidays
  • Ask your landlord to install a burglar alarm

Useful links

Student safety at Aston University
Student safety at University of Birmingham
West Midlands Police student advice centre
Crime map of Birmingham


Leeds Clarence DockImage via Bill Richards

Student population 65,000
Robbery: 13.7
Burglary: 1.9
Violent/sexual: 29.8
Total: 45.4

The rate of robbery in Leeds is the second highest on this list. It’s a common crime in the city because there is a large gap between the rich and the poor – Leeds has the third highest level of income inequality in the UK.

According to West Yorkshire Police one in five victims of Robbery are students. These robberies often happen when students are coming home from a night out and walking in dimly lit remote areas such as through parks and back streets.

Check out this account by Ant Haddley, a music student who was mugged whilst walking through Hyde Park.


Useful links

Student safety at University of Leeds
Student safety tips from West Yorkshire Police
Crime map of Leeds


Manchester city hallImage via Stephen

Student population 50,000
Robbery: 14.05
Burglary: 3.9
Violent/sexual: 30.1
Total: 48.2

Manchester is a big party city and thousands of students descend on the city centre every week. The issue is that many students – especially first years – live some way out of the city centre, meaning a long and sometimes dangerous journey home.

The Greater Manchester Police have teamed up with businesses along Oxford Road – the main route back to University of Manchester halls of residence in Fallowfield – to provide student safe zones. Any student feeling vulnerable or unwell can enter one of these premises and wait there for assistance, or simply for the problem to pass. You can see a map of participating businesses here.

Useful links

Student safety at University of Manchester
How to be safe in your student home
Greater Manchester Police student survival guide
Crime map of Manchester


Liverpool City CentreImage via Miroslav Petrasko

Student population: 50,000
Robbery: 11.6
Burglary: 1.9
Violent/sexual: 37
Total: 50.6

Liverpool has the highest crime rate of any city on our list, with violent/sexual crimes being of particular concern. Violent crime rose by nearly a third in 2015, with sexual crimes rising by 16%.

However, much of the crime in Liverpool is gang-related, so students should not be heavily affected. It goes without saying that you should avoid any criminal activity, but especially stay away from drugs, as this is the easiest way for students to get involved with the wrong crowd.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault in Liverpool then get in touch with SAFE Place Merseyside. They will be able to help with everything from counselling and crime reporting to emergency contraception.

Useful links

Student safety tips from Merseyside Police
Student safety at University of Liverpool
Student safety at Liverpool Hope
Crime map of Liverpool