Considerations and thought on the security of tertiary institutions

Dec '99 News

The Securing of a University campus is a complex and on-going process that requires clear analysis ,understanding and planning.In the case of any South african university ,there are far more complex issues and pressures of change than at most international universities.Issues such as the socio-political environment,geographical positioning and community involvement cannot be ignored.This article seeks to examine how some of these issues could influence the overall security management of the campuses and seeks to make some suggestions or create pointers for further investigation,in the following areas:management of the process;and planning design.

Management of the process

The successful management of the security plan involves a number of preliminary stages of implementing a long-term security plan. Establishing the management structure is the first step in such a plan, and it is only after the management structure and objectives are established that planning can begin.

In planning the management of a system one has to identify the following:

p Stake holders.

p Potential problems.

p Areas of responsibility in terms of:

• Day-to-day management.

• Overall management.

• Financial management.

Once all these factors have been considered, a meaningful and potentially successful management strategy can be put into place.

Stake holders

In any security solution one has to define the stake holders in the scheme, because without the buy-in of each and every one of these, it becomes almost impossible to ensure the effective management of the solution. I have attempted to list as many of these stake holders as possible and highlight some of the issues around each one.

University management

The major consideration of management is to establish a sustainable, affordable and practical long-term security solution to ensure the continued success of the university. Unfortunately, as with all organisations and more specifically educational ones, opinions of what and who constitutes ‘management’ differ widely.

Individual facilities

The needs of each ‘unit’ within the university may differ widely. Some areas require extremely strict measures of security, while others require easy access and limited restrictions (such as student counselling areas).

Academic staff

Typically, academic staff require different management to non-academic staff. By the nature of their job this collective represents a huge amount of brain power and it is imperative not to ignore the views of this group, and the views will be many and varied. The danger here is that decisions and implementation can be indefinitely delayed.

Non-academic staff

Issues here would involve ease of access, handling staff changes, getting agreement and buy-in and not targeting this group above any of the others.


The co-operation of the major student bodies is essential to the success of the overall plan, but it is also difficult to get consensus from an SRC that changes on an annual basis, and at the end of the day, a student comes to university to study, so as long as the plan is not invasive and ensures that a workable campus is the result, the student bodies should agree to the overall system.

Campus security

These are the people who have to live with the bad decisions made now. Whoever they may be, private or university, they accept ultimate responsibility for the security of the campus and it is up to the university to give them the correct tools to do the job.

The local community

This is a group that is vital in the scheme of things. They have invested in the areas surrounding the university, and they are there to stay. At all costs, they require a safe campus, nobody wants to live next to a high crime area, but they also do not want to live next to a prison, and since it is a university, they feel they have a right to access in terms of walkways etc.

The wider community

To some degree the security plan has an influence and impact on the city as a whole. Disaster management and the management of common law crime needs to be co-ordinated with wider civic bodies, no matter what the level of perceived competence is.

Potential problems

Due to the wide range of stakeholders and the far reaching implications of incorrect decisions, there are a number of potential problems that require investigation and consideration.

Starting at macro level, the role of the university in combating common law crimes necessitates an interface with the SAPS. Due to the history of our country and the levels of competence within the SAPS, this is not an easy interface to manage, but policies and procedures will have to be created.

Looking at the local community and the wider community there is the issue of ‘overlap areas’. These areas are areas which have an impact on university life, but are public domain, and areas that have an influence on public life, but are university domain. An example of this is access paths through campus. An integrated structure would allow for these areas to be secured without undue threat or cost to any party.

Overall, the academic and fluid nature of a university make it difficult to secure. In a commercial venture, to stop the theft of assets one can legally introduce a method of random search. In this environment it is unacceptable. The numbers of people and irregular times make it difficult to control the flow of people. One cannot restrict any group more than another.

On a micro level, each building, department and faculty will have very clear ideas about their requirements in terms of access control and levels of security, so one clear strategy cannot be adopted. As staff change, these needs or perceived needs, change as well.

These are merely some of the potential problems, and they need to be addressed, not only prior to planning, but annually and with all the stakeholders.

Areas of responsibility

Day-to-day management – How much control does one give the micro environment on a daily basis? Does each building have its own control? These are questions that require careful consideration. Each building has a different requirement in terms of both control and information, and many will require some level of control during normal operating hours, but once the costs have been analysed, with the proposed policy of evolved finances, this may all change.

Overall management – To be of use to the university as a whole, there needs to be some form of universal management. This involves the control and information gathering aspects of the system. Without some clear macro policy, any one system could compromise any other system and the university will be compromised.

Financial management – By developing the right systems the financial management of security could fall into the university’s plan of evolved finances. Financial management could very easily become the responsibility of individual faculties and the university as a whole, with each faculty deciding on its level of financial exposure, without compromising the whole plan overall.

Risk analysis

Before any planning can be done, a comprehensive risk analysis needs to take place. This needs to define what risks there are in terms of:

p Potential for serious crime (assault, murder, armed robbery).

p Loss of university assets.

p Loss of ability to function.

p Loss of ability to provide services.

In order to determine these aspects it would be required to do extensive research in the following areas:

p Profile of students and staff.

p Analysis of daily migration and internal movements.

Next we would need to determine from where the risks came. Typically speaking, students represent as much of a risk, if not more, than any external threat, and thus simply preventing non-authorised access to large areas has little bearing on security. Immediate communities tend to offer little or no threat.

Planning and design

The planning and design of an overall security system is both ongoing and complex. One should seek for the ideal solution without thinking of the constraints of specific technologies, but rather design what you want and find the technology to match.

Means of protection

When trying to prevent loss of property or protect human life there are a number of means of protection:

Physical barriers – This means walls and fences. These come in levels from electrified, to monitored to unmonitored. In the case of a tertiary institution a number of problems would exist for the wide ranging use of physical barriers:

p The majority of the threat is internal.

p Unless monitored, fences are simply destroyed. If a fence covers a common access route for staff or students, it is a matter of days before it is permanently compromised.

p Entry to a fenced area needs to be monitored closely.

p Fencing large sections of a campus contradicts the principle of freedom, embraced by most universities.

p The local community feel excluded from the university and inconvenienced and thus become less tolerant.

This does not mean that there is no place for fences on a campus. Residences can be secured like large houses, and areas of major concern can be fenced, but the fence is not the security solution, it is an aid to it.

Control – To control the flow of people can be viewed in conjunction with fencing or it can simply mean the management of people flow into areas, and the record keeping and management of flow into specific buildings. The disadvantages of this are mainly related to convenience and speed of access when dealing with large numbers of people.

Observe – People can be watched by technology or people. This would form part of both a preventative and reactionary strategy.

Secure – This is the ‘lock and chain’ scenario. Limit access to assets or limit their movement. Once again there is a convenience factor.

Monitor and alarm – This is a reactive measure that controls exceptions and calls for reactions only when an incident arises. This causes the least level of inconvenience, but can be expensive and difficult to manage.

All of the above require some form of reaction. The levels of each type of solution would determine the reaction required and the resources needed.

Design onsiderations

After looking at all the requirements, a design brief can be constructed which will probably look like this:

p The system must be both integrated and diverse, allowing for macro and micro management.

p All systems need to be compatible but divisible.

p All systems must protect assets, but not restrict authorised access to them.

p The flow of people must be controlled but not restricted.

p There must be protection of people without intrusion.

p There must be human response, but minimal costs.

p All of this must be cost effective in a measurable sense and must be able to be implemented over a period of time.

p Any system must integrate with the community as a whole and cover the overlap areas.

The above requirements, along with many others and with the overall management policy, must then be converted to a practical conclusion. Although the requirements appear contradictory, they are achievable by the implementation of technology and human resources in the correct ratios.

Once all of the above considerations have been assessed one can start building a meaningful security plan that would be practical, sustainable, expandable and measurable.

For details contact Shaun Shelly, Managing Director of SEME Security Technologies SA on tel: (021) 706 5775, fax: (021) 706 0713 or e-mail: or visit

Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Gallagher to resell Invixium
Issue 3 2021 , News
Gallagher and Invixium recently announce a global agreement in which Gallagher will distribute Invixium products for access control.

Innovation drives secure eSignature solutions for Africa
Issue 3 2021 , News
Impression Signatures and Striata recognised the need for secure, efficient and easily manageable eSignature solutions and have partnered to ensure easy access to safe, efficient eSignature solutions.

Roy Alves appointed as national sales manager for J2
Issue 3 2021, J2 Software , News
As part of its global expansion strategy, cybersecurity firm J2 has appointed Roy Alves as its national sales manager to enable African businesses to identify and address their cyber capacity needs.

Video security primer released
Issue 3 2021 , News
The right video management system can make an organisation smarter and more efficient, as well as more secure according to Eagle Eye Networks’ new guide on evaluating cloud video surveillance systems.

ACDC expands in Longmeadow
Issue 3 2021 , News
ACDC Dynamics and ACDC Express are hosting a customer day in Longmeadow, Edenvale on 28 and 29 May 2021.

Urban branches bring the human connection back into the suburbs
Issue 3 2021, Fidelity Services Group , News
Advances in technology and evolving crime patterns have changed the face of the security industry, introducing a highly systems-driven approach to provide communities with the necessary support and technology innovation.

Integrated video telematics solution
Issue 3 2021 , News
Webfleet Solutions, part of Bridgestone, launched Webfleet Video into the market. With Webfleet Solutions and Lytx integrated on one platform, users can access and manage both their vehicles and their ...

From the editor's desk: Privacy is your responsibility
Issue 3 2021, Technews Publishing , News
We have a look at the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) in this issue, which is set to become a reality as of 1 July. We didn’t have space for much information, but more on the topic will ...

iPulse to distribute Hitachi’s VeinID products
Issue 3 2021, iPulse Systems , News, Access Control & Identity Management
Hitachi Europe, a pioneer of finger vein biometric technology and iPulse Systems have announced a partnership to allow iPulse to distribute Hitachi’s VeinID products and solutions in Africa.

iPulse expands on all fronts
Issue 3 2021, iPulse Systems , News
iPulse Systems has expanded significantly in the past two months, bringing on board three new employees and moving offices to much larger premises, located in the same office park.