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University of Bristol collected £28,000 from students last year in noise complaint fines

‘It feels like a money-printing machine and frankly, theft’

The University of Bristol fined students £28,000 last year for excessive noise, an investigation by The Bristol Tab can reveal.

In response to a freedom of information request to the university, it emerged that in the academic year 2022/23, Bristol Uni issued 112 fines which accumulated to £28,000. Of these, 35 were overturned on appeal.

In comparison, in the academic year 2021/22 a total of seven fines were issued, marking a 16-fold increase.

As part of a collaboration between the University of Bristol, Bristol City Council Neighbourhood Enforcement Team, and Avon and Somerset police, the university funds an operation known as Operation Beech which gives the uni the power to fine students up to £5,000 per household for noise or antisocial behaviour.

Operation Beech aims to provide an immediate police response to any noise that local residents claim to be caused by Bristol University students between the hours of 8pm and 2am on Wednesdays, Fridays, or Saturdays.

Once reported, students face a three-point system: A first warning, followed by a final warning, and, ultimately, a sanction- a fine of £250 per student involved.

In extreme cases where loud music is involved, the council have the power to confiscate music equipment.

Because this operation only targets University of Bristol students, those from the University of the West of England who live with Bristol Uni students are not liable to a fine.

The Bristol Tab spoke to students who were fined £250 each for noise-related offences.

Henry*, a third-year History student, said: “Every student can tell that noise is being inconsistently reported. Some people are having parties until 6am making considerable noise in the garden and on the streets, while other people will have the police called at 10pm on a weekend for a pres where the doors are shut and there aren’t a lot of people.

“This inconsistency means the university cannot claim to be treating students equally for the same actions.

“You get called into a meeting where there is clearly a predetermined outcome. I don’t think I’ve had many interactions in my whole life where someone is so evidently not listening to what you are saying.

“You get called into a meeting where there is clearly a predetermined outcome. I don’t think I’ve had many interactions in my whole life where someone is so evidently not listening to what you are saying.

“You are not given a fair trial. It’s not even their word against yours, it is literally just their word and that is final.”

Sasha*, a second-year Biology student, feels the fine they were issued was unjustified: “The police came round and thought they were at the wrong house.

“They said they couldn’t hear anything. However, because residents had called the police, the police had to tell the university regardless of what they found. This seemed really unfair as the police said they didn’t want to fine us.

“I struggle with money, and I am on a full bursary. I sent the Community Liaison Office a big appeal explaining my situation and they completely dismissed it.

“There should be more warning. It’s quite easy as a student to feel like people don’t care about you.”

Amelie*, a third-year English student, was fined for a daytime gathering despite Bristol Council not issuing noise fines for non-student residents during the day: “We are literally only being punished because we are students. It shows a lack of respect from the university.

“I would reject giving money to an office that shows such disrespect for students and for normal processes of fairness.

“The fine is dressed up as a last resort for the most extreme cases, but evidently in most cases, it’s the option they go for.

“Funding for the Community Liaison Office should come from the exorbitant prices that we already pay. The fact that money from the fines go to funding the CLO presents a very fucking clear incentive for them to fine as many people as they can.

“It feels like a money-printing machine and frankly, theft.”

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: “Fines collected by the Community Liaison Officer are directed to initiatives aimed at addressing student misconduct in the community and promoting community cohesion.

“This has included funding the design and publication of educational materials … and the funding of initiatives that promote harmonious relations between the student population and more permanent residents- for example, the sponsoring of community events such as the Chandos Festival and High Kingsdown Brunch.”

A proportion of fines also go to “temporary funding for additional resources within the Community Liaison Office.”

The university did not confirm exactly how much of the money collected went to each of these causes.

According to the University of Bristol’s website, residents are required to first introduce themselves to their student neighbours and exchange numbers should there be signs of excessive noise.

A formal complaint to the university should be a last resort for those affected by anti-social behaviour.

The Bristol Tab, however, understands that evidence of exchanging numbers and friendly introductions from students to neighbours have often been rejected by the CLO.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “The University is committed to being a good neighbour and encouraging high standards of conduct by all members of its community. We expect our students to be respectful of their neighbours and understanding of their right to a peaceful and tidy home environment.

“All reported allegations of student misconduct are examined on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the Student Disciplinary Regulations and the University’s local rules and regulations for student behaviour in the community. The University will formally sanction students with a range of penalties where there are clear, reasonable, and proven grounds for doing so, including instances of excessive noise in the community.”

* Names have been changed for anonymity

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