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Should you take your car to university?

15th August 2013

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Year after year, many young drivers are faced with the same question: when the time comes to move away from home to university, can they and should they take their cars with them?

There are considerable arguments for and against this and we interviewed a selection of experts from universities and student newspapers to find outtheir views on this divisive subject. This is what they had to say:

James Brown, Transport & Travel Manager @ University of Derby:

“From the students’ perspective, many will want to keep their independence. Cars allow them to go home, easily get around a new area and access potential employment. From our perspective, the fewer cars around and the less traffic we generate the better. We don’t want to dictate to students though.”

Ian Murdey, Transport Coordinator @ De Montfort University:

“We’re committed to reducing the carbon footprint of the university. It’s important that we encourage alternative forms of transport and this is something we’ve heavily invested in. For example, we provide free bike locks, inner tubes and puncture repair kits to inspire more of our students to cycle. We’re aware that 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:

“We accommodate but discourage students from taking their cars. Most of our student accommodation is within walking distance of our teaching campusesand there is very little benefit to students of having a car on campus. Indeed, 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 our campuses 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. We do accept that there are occasions when students may need to have access to a car and so provide some limited car parking.” 

Nick Hilton, Editor @ Cherwell, Oxford University student newspaper:

“Almost no-one has a car in Oxford, due to the fact that almost all student accommodation falls within the ‘park-and-ride’ zone, so they'd have nowhere to park. Not to mention that the city centre is walkable from one end to the other and, at worst, student housing is a short cycle ride away.”

Sidonie Chaffer-Melly, Editor-in-chief @ Concrete, 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. Having said that, I think for the majority of students the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages. It's not really cost effective and having to pay for insurance, tax, petrol and parking on top of everything isn't ideal.”

Tess Brumwell-Gaze, Debate Editor @ Leeds Student newspaper:

“If you live a fair distance from campus, it’s understandable that you’d want to drive, but most people live within ten or fifteen minutes of their universities. There are plenty of disadvantages as well, like expense, lack of parking, and traffic to name a few. Universities have to accept that some people will drive, and there are people who need that availability, so they offer permits. Generally though, the policies are good. They clearly have the environment in mind and promote transport options like public buses and car-shares, which is promising.”

As you can clearly see, there are some real benefits to having easy access to such a practical form of transport. For students who keep weekend jobs at home or have to travel to work placement during their time at university, cars are an extremely convenient way to travel. Gaining work experience, or just a bit of extra money for food, textbooks and beer, is always useful.

There are budget options available for students looking to invest in a car but, unfortunately, the extra costs like petrol, insurance, taxand maintenance make the whole package rather expensive. Also, many universities don’t let students park on site or only have a limited number of spaces, usually reserved for those with extenuating circumstances.

Admirably, universities are focused on reducing traffic, pollution and negative environmental impact and seem keen to encourage alternative forms of transport wherever possible. Many have introduced specific schemes to increase the number of students who walk, cycle or use the bus, as well as teaming up with various socially-driven car sharing organisations.

In conclusion, there are obviously both benefits and drawbacks to taking a car to university but, rather than preach to students, universities are keen to promote a wide range of affordable, environmentally friendly options and provide students with genuine alternatives wherever possible.

You can read more about this issue on the ShowPlates Direct blog.

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