A RESIDENTS’ group has called for an independent audit of the numbers of students living in private homes in Oxford.

Figures presented by both Oxford universities are misleading and cannot be trusted, claims the Divinity Road Area Residents’ Association (DRARA), which says that thousands more students live in city homes than previously admitted.

The call for an independent assessment comes after the news that Oxford City Council is to investigate a residents’ dossier challenging Oxford University and Brookes University figures.

Under planning rules, Oxford University would not be allowed to occupy its £500m Radcliffe Observatory Quarter and Oxford Brookes would be unable to open its £150m new Gipsy Lane campus if more than 3,000 of their students respectively live outside university-provided housing.

Residents evidence suggest the figure is nearer 10,000.

DRARA chairman Elizabeth Mills said: “We request that an independent body from outside Oxford is asked to conduct a thorough audit of student numbers in Oxford, detailing where they live in term time. This body should also propose how these figures should be monitored.

“Meanwhile, we would like to urge the council and the universities to reduce the numbers of students coming into Oxford, or ensure appropriate accommodation is provided across the city.”

She said residents’ groups had repeatedly urged the city council to take steps to ensure universities provide reliable figures on where students live in term time.

Oxford University spokesman Matt Pickles said: “There are a number of different measures that can be used to calculate the number of students living out of college or university accommodation, and to avoid confusion we agreed a methodology with the city council in the last year.

“Using data collected from the 40 independent halls and colleges that provide the bulk of student accommodation and term-time addresses given by students, we calculated the figure of 2,688 and the city council agreed with this.”

Oxford Brookes put its figure at 3,493. Dr Anne Gwinnett, director of corporate affairs, said: “Address details are taken directly from our student records.”

Colin Cook, council board member for city development, said: “What we want is the correct ball park figure. We have written to the universities to ask them to comment.”