It's a tale of two cities. While Exeter university has been allowed to expand dramatically, there's growing resentment among locals that they are being left behind.
Exeter used to be a small city with a university, now it’s a university with a small city, UKIP election candidate Duncan Odgers has been telling voters.
Speaking to electors while campaigning in the city he said it was clear there was growing resentment at the way the university now dominated the city and seemed to get a ‘free pass’ on planning, with skyscrapers and student housing taking over the city centre.
He said: “It’s increasingly becoming a tale of two cities, which is perhaps best illustrated by two adjacent building sites: the new multi storey student accommodation at the bottom of Paris Street and the still unfinished bus station.”
The massive student block by the Western Way roundabout replaced one of the city’s oldest pubs, the Honiton Inn, which was demolished to make way for the latest in a series of student accommodation developments.
Local residents in Exeter have been waiting for decades for a replacement for their chilly out-of-date bus station. Planning permission was granted nearly four years ago and it’s still just a boarded up building site.
“The Honiton Inn survived Hitler’s bombs but it couldn’t withstand the influx of foreign and other students,” Duncan said.
“Exeter used to be a small city with a university, now it’s a university with a small city. The university has just been allowed to take over and no one is speaking out.
“It seems to get a free pass on developments that previously would never have been countenanced in our historic city. And where’s the housing for locals?”
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Exeter University Vice Chancellor, Sir Steve Smith, knighted for his services to higher education, could bag himself a whopping £830,000 payout next year in annual pay and bonus package.
There are 23,613 students at the university (2018/19) up from 19,586 just four years ago. Of these nearly a fifth are from outside the EU (the students from the EU are included in the remaining 80%).
It also emerged a few weeks ago that UK intelligence chiefs are concerned about the growing reliance of universities on Chinese students for income, with growing fears about the theft of research and intellectual property.
The warnings from MI5 and GCHQ come as universities have seen an unprecedented rise in Chinese students attending their courses. Numbers have doubled in the last decade.
In that time, it’s estimated that 500 Chinese military scientists have attended lectures and study programmes at UK universities.
Last week, Duncan Odgers was not invited to an election hustings event held at Exeter University.
“Perhaps they were afraid of what I would say,” Duncan said.
UKIP’s manifesto includes a pledge to drop ‘the artificial target of 50% of people going to higher education’ introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour administration.
Duncan added: “Ben Bradshaw likes to boast that during his time the university has expanded and he brought the Met Office here. It’s no coincidence that his majority has also increased.
“Our historic city is being changed out of all recognition and ordinary Exeter folk have been left behind. It’s time for a new direction.”