Every year, thousands of prospective students have to make a decision about whether or not to take their cars to university with them. Throughout their time at college and sixth form, many young people become reliant upon this easy, convenient form of transport, but are cars necessary, or even desirable, for students? We spoke to a number of university experts and student newspaper editors about the issue.
The response from our sources was mixed, but they identified a fair few obvious advantages to having access to a car at university. Firstly, it can be really useful for freshers trying to get to know their new home; a car makes exploring an unknown environment much easier, as taking public transport in an unfamiliar city can often be daunting.
Cars are also incredibly convenient, for both day-to-day tasks and longer-term commitments. Being able to drive to the supermarket to pick up food and beer is really handy and, for those who choose to keep part-time jobs at home, it makes regular weekend travel a much more realistic option. In addition, many degrees now offer work experience modules, so being able to drive to these placements is incredibly useful.
The Expert Opinion
James Brown, Transport & Travel Manager, University of Derby:
“Cars allow [students] to go home, easily get around a new area and access potential employment.”
Sidonie Chaffer-Melly, Editor-in-chief, UEA student newspaper:
“One of the advantages of students taking their cars to university is having the freedom to go home – they aren’t restricted by train timetables. It’s also especially helpful if you’re doing a degree where you are on placement and have to travel a lot.”
While there were some great reasons for taking a car to university, our experts also identified a number of drawbacks. Firstly, while there are many cheap cars available to young people at the moment, the other financial considerations quickly add up. When the cost of MOT, tax, petrol, insurance and parking permits – which many universities don’t even offer – are factored in, the final package becomes too pricey for many frugal students.
Those who can secure a regular parking space are often advised not to though; as well as the safety and security issues surrounding overnight parking, an excess of cars can have a negative effect on the nearby community. Increases in traffic can cause problems with the local population, while environmental impact provides another deterrent.
As a result of these issues, many universities now offer alternatives to encourage more students to travel in a more eco-friendly way that reduces both emissions and congestion. Each institution provides different incentives, with cheap public transport, cycle schemes, lift sharing and short term car hire programs now in place. In addition, sites like Liftshare and GoCarShare provide socially-driven, money-saving solutions for students planning journeys.
The Expert Opinion
Ian Murdey, Transport Coordinator, De Montfort University:
“It’s important that we encourage alternative forms of transport and this is something we’ve heavily invested in. Around 15-20% of our students drive to university but, with our desire to reduce our carbon footprint, we now use Facebook and Twitter to communicate other options.”
Christopher Osbeck, Travel Plan Coordinator, University of Aberdeen:
“There are some security risks of having a car remain in the same location day after day. Our campuses are well served by buses that connect [them] with shopping and leisure facilities. We also have a local car club available to students, which allows them to hire cars for relatively short periods of time when they may need one.”
Tess Brumwell-Gaze, former Debate Editor, Leeds University student newspaper:
“There are plenty of disadvantages, like expense, lack of parking and traffic. Universities clearly have the environment in mind and promote transport options like public buses and car-shares, which is promising.”