Published: 20:00, 10 October 2015
Canterbury’s population of students has swollen to almost 40,000 having virtually doubled in just a decade, KentOnline can reveal.
As the new term-time influx sees city centre shops, bars and restaurants enjoying a boost, figures show the University of Kent now has 20,000 students registered.
Canterbury Christ Church University has 18,000 on its books, while the University for the Creative Arts, which has a city campus, has just under 1,000.
Just 10 years ago, when the city council last explored student numbers, its research placed the total at about 22,000.
The soaring numbers are now set to prompt a new impact assessment by the local authority.
Financial reports suggest the burgeoning education sector pumps an additional £1.1bn into the regional economy.
It creates jobs, stimulates the retail and night-time economies and establishes a thriving market for city centre lettings, the council’s reports suggest.
Yet for many residents the influx of students has a destructive impact, with late-night disturbance, mounting rubbish and rising house prices among common complaints.
Canterbury City Council’s community committee has agreed to an impact assessment, to be carried out by a specially-formed student community working group.
Terry Westgate, Conservative councillor for St Stephen’s Ward, is a member of the group.
He told the Gazette: “The last review was in 2006 – that was 10 years ago and much has changed.
“The biggest change is the number of students. There’s been a vast increase and it’s bound to have an impact – both good and bad. It has an economic value of course. Canterbury has become a vibrant city and the night-time economy is thriving.
“But is has a negative impact too. You get late-night nuisance. You get concentrations of students in certain residential areas.
“So it’s certainly a challenge.”
The working group will spend between six and nine months compiling a report examining the various effects the student population has on the city’s communities.
It will assess student numbers and potential growth and their economic impact on the city and surrounding district.
The group will also look at student accommodation, assessing household numbers and concentration and its effects on both communities and the housing market. Associated problems such as anti-social behaviour, littering and increasing housing demand will also be examined.
Cllr Westgate said: “We’re certainly not anti-students. It’s important that point is understood.
“We want to get information from as many groups as we can – from residents, students, from the universities, from landlords, from lettings agencies.
“We want to involve as many people as possible.
“From that, hopefully, we can find a solution to some of the problems and design a package to address them.”
The review is set to be started in the coming weeks.