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The past year has been one of daily challenges – and the challenges are still coming, say a pair of university security managers.

They are Oliver Curran, deputy security manager at University College London (UCL); and Bill McMahon, head of security at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). They were speaking this morning at the latest webinar by the ProtectED accreditation scheme; those two unis are among its founder members. The hour’s webinar ranged over the year so far of covid – how security teams have been among the few people on a university campus; and all the management planning that has gone into making campuses covid-secure, planning still going on, looking ahead to the hoped-off re-opening of campuses in September for the new academic year, after the timetabled June ending of covid restrictions in the UK.

While some student parties may have made the news, the men stressed that most students have understood the need for covid safety, and have complied with rules about wearing masks, and not gathering. That uni security teams have at the same time sought to enforce such rules, but tried to have students enforce the rules by themselves, without confrontation, speaks to how higher education security in recent years has changed – from a traditional manned guarding service to a more pastoral, safeguarding, service, that seeks to support students, not only against crime (cyber and physical) but help them through any difficulties, whether financial or in mental health.

Hence ProtectED, set up to accredit institutions that put processes in place to look after student (and staff) welfare in the widest sense. And hence the next ProtectED webinar, on Thursday morning, April 29 about ‘digital poverty and the student experience’.

Ollie and Bill pointed to the value of ProtectED, and of membership of the university chiefs of security association, Aucso – Oliver is the London regional chair – as a way for security managers to share experiences. A previous ProtectED webinar, by Aucso chair, Trevor Jones, head of security at the University of Salford, was featured in the November 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

Andrew Wootton, a director of ProtectED, opened the webinar, and introduced Prof Caroline Davey, of Salford, who interviewed Ollie and Bill. Their talk covered how the last year has been for security managers and officers alike; from ‘clapping for carers’ and – in the case of UCL – delivering chocolates to University College Hospital staff, to work that has at the same time been routine – carrying on checks of buildings and response to alarms and incidents – and heightened due to covid; because so many staff and students have not been allowed on campus, that has meant more unoccupied buildings, and a requirement for Security to check all’s well inside.

More in the May and June print editions of Professional Security magazine.

Photo by Mark Rowe; Rockefeller Building, off Gower Street, central London; part of the UCL estate.

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