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Issue 474, 3 December 2001

Help is just a call away

A year after its launch, the neighbourhood helpline set up as part of the University of Leeds' community strategy has proved a success, with over 300 calls taken and the majority of callers happy with the response they received, according to a recent survey.

The helpline is co-ordinated and jointly funded by the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University and Leeds City Council to respond to issues rasied by the high numbers of students in certain areas of Leeds, and ensure their positive contribution to the city.

The helpline is mainly used by long-term residents over the age of 40, and the majority of calls currently relate to refuse and noise. One elderly woman who called to complain about her noisy neighbours said: "It was very helpful, and it was lovely to discuss my problem as it made me feel less isolated."

Other community action includes clean-up initiatives in Hyde Park and Headingley, encouraging recycling and extra rubbish disposal during the period when student housing changes hands. There are also plans to create murals in public spaces, and an environmental education project in local schools.

The University has been looking at other universities, to see if lessons can be learnt from their work on community issues. A conference on students in the community next year will bring together higher education staff to share best practice on issues such as housing, transport, regeneration, student discipline and volunteer work.

The University has funded major research by the school of geography into student demographics in Leeds, and the findings will be made public this month. The project has been mapping student densities from 1993 to 2001, looking at rent levels and seeing how many first and second year students move into private rented accommodation.

Student disciplinary procedures have been updated to include behaviour in the local and wider community, and a range of initiatives are in place to encourage more students to do volunteer work locally. Over 250 students already help out as volunteers in 35 inner city schools, raising pupils' aspirations and academic achievements.

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