Today light was delightful and I went taking some photographs on my university campus. I like urban and industrial pictures and so I was shooting buildings and back alleys.

After about 20 minutes I was approached by campus security. They asked who I was and why I was shooting. I politely explained I was a student at that university with the hobby of photography, also stating that these pictures are not for commercial purposes, and gave them my details.

They explained to me I should seek a permit from the university. I inquired whether I should stop shooting and they said I should until I got a permit. The tone in their voice made me think that either there was no actual provision/rule forcing me to stop or that it would have been too much of a headache for them to actually enforce it. I was under the impression that, had I not asked, they would have not asked me to stop and they would have left, leaving up to me to keep going or stop to seek the permission from the university.

I have read this article, from which I couldn't get an answer to my question: Do I have to seek permission to shoot on my university (or another university) ground?

If it matters the university is a public/Russel group one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Does your university have a fine arts department or journalism department that teaches photography courses? Have you asked them what they think? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not familiar with anyone there, this happened very recently, but I definitely should check out with them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Three Diag
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 23:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the US is often depends on whether you are shooting on private property or of private property from public space. My impression is that Britain in general is a bit more touchy about people photographing things even if on public land. This is not to say it is illegal, but you are more likely to be questioned and/or hassled. \$\endgroup\$
    – BobT
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 2:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a question about law, copyright, and local university policies, not photography per se. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 21:50
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @xiota We have several questions here tagged legal. While legal questions are somewhat problematic, they occur often enough, and are of enough interest to photography and photographers, that they are generally on-topic here, as long as the jurisdiction is stated (as this question does). \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


I think it comes down to whether your university is private or public.

From the Met's webpage on police guidelines for photography:

Freedom to photograph and film

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

So, if your university is public, the grounds constitute public areas, and you are legally free to shoot without a permit. But if the grounds are privately owned (like a shopping mall), then the situation is different and you legally do need permission.

Regardless of whether or not you legally require permission, chances are good, though, that the security teams won't stop harassing you until you do, if they've been trained to stop anyone from taking any pictures otherwise.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Although "public", laws regarding schools tend to be somewhat different from other public places. Though the distinction isn't as clear for universities as it would be elementary schools, for instance. While OP is a student, that may not be enough to have the "right" to photograph at that location. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 3:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ At least for this purpose, all UK universities would count as private institutions so could ask you to stop photography (or even leave) their actual land. It may be a more interesting question as to whether the roads through their campus count as public land or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 5:32

Without full knowledge of your exact location it's not possible to say if you actually require permission, or not. My university had a mix of buildings on public streets, and campuses which were not publicly accessible.

Since you've said that you were "taking some photographs on my university campus" and were able to recognise it as part of a campus, it appears you were on private property. As such you are permitted entry at their discretion, under certain conditions (ie. you need permission for photography), and are subject to the direction of the landowners' agents (in this case their private security) to enforce their policies.

Since you're at a UK university I would suggest contacting your Students Union in the first instance and checking the clubs/society list to find out if they have a photographic society (and if not, start one.) The SU have a lot better relationships, communications and support with the university than you alone might be able to bring to bear to help you get the permissions you want if that's your thing.

Universities are high value targets for espionage, and the security guards will be pretty bored a lot of the time (ours always were), so they will be keen to investigate someone wandering back alleys with a camera.


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