Over the past five years, a team of academics and professional service staff at the University of Salford (UK) have researched and developed a new social enterprise — ProtectED. By accrediting universities against its integrated code of practice, ProtectED aims to improve student safety, security and wellbeing in higher education.

The idea for a university accreditation scheme originated during a conversation between Salford’s Head of Security, Trevor Jones, and security assessor Brian Nuttall of K7 Compliance – they observed that higher education institutions are subject to little regulation in terms of student safety and security. This is significant, given that students are an at-risk group of (typically) young people. In 2014, Trevor and Brian brought their thoughts to the Design Against Crime Solution Centre at the University of Salford, a group of academics that develop solutions to societal challenges through the application of social science research and innovative ‘design thinking’. They began working together to frame, explore and address this problem, running focus groups with university security managers, police higher education liaison officers and students’ union sabbatical officers, as well as surveying some 10,000 students.

Five years on, the result is ProtectED — the ‘gold standard’ for assessing work done by universities to look after their students’ safety, security and wellbeing. ProtectED accreditation is designed to assess the extent to which universities provide the services and structures that enable students to avoid problems and focus on their success.

Due to the sensitive nature of the problems that ProtectED seeks to address, it would be inappropriate for commercial profit to be made from this. Indeed, it was clear that this would be a barrier to entry for many institutions.

ProtectED is a not-for-profit social enterprise that is supported by membership subscription. This funds ProtectED accreditation of member universities and wider standards improvement activities. ProtectED is successfully attracting institutions to take up membership — universities that share our goals for improving the student experience. Our first three member universities — the University of Salford, The University of Central Lancashire and Coventry University — were welcomed as ProtectED Founder Members by ProtectED patron Baroness Ruth Henig at House of Lords receptions. As early adopters of the innovative scheme, the first twelve universities to join ProtectED will be classed as Founder Member institutions.

Roll-out and further development of ProtectED is supported by an Advisory Board of expert stakeholders, which include, among others, the Security Industry Authority (SIA), British Council and Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO). Being a social enterprise continues to enable ProtectED to engage with key organisations in both the public and private sector.