Despite repeated promises to relieve pressure on Durham City by controlling the number of its students, Durham University has, within a few years, increased this number to 18,707, and plans to take on another 3,000.

Because of its reluctance to use university land to build on, 11,882 (64 per cent) of its students live within the communities of one of the smallest cities in the UK.

About 1,000 former family homes are being used to house some of these. Each group pays typically six times the rent a family would pay to occupy the same property for six months, distorting the housing market and making the city a no-go area for first-time buyers.

Interviewed on Look North last week, the Vice Chancellor Professor Corbridge was asked to comment on the negative aspects of the planned expansion, in particular increased noise (citizens having to suffer more sleep disturbance/deprivation).

However, he seemed prepared only to stress that £400m arrived annually via the university.

This sum is equivalent to the 18,707 students each spending £21.4k annually, but since annual tuition fees and accommodation costs are about £10k and £6k for UK students and double these amounts for overseas students, only a small fraction of the £400m is actually available for spending in the city.

Durham University’s overall ranking is now number seven – a drop of five places since 2004 when Sir Kenneth Calman attributed the university’s success in attaining the number two position to the strength of its Science and Engineering departments (Northern Echo, December 14, 2004).

Durham would be helped if its university tackled the blight of students’ “free-range” wheelie-bins but by ignoring this problem for at least ten years and, more recently, by withdrawing its 24-hour community hotline to deal with anti-social behaviour, the university has simply emphasized the insincerity of its “caring for the city” rhetoric.

MD Chadwick, Durham City