Birmingham's three universities have blasted a "misleading" new study which claimed they were hotbeds of crime against students.
The Complete University Guide identified Birmingham City, Aston and the University of Birmingham as the worst in the West Midlands for so-called "student relevant" crime.
Compiled from official police data, the guide lists the number of reported incidents within a three-mile radius of universities between June 2011 and May this year.
It focuses on burglary, robbery and violent crime – incidents the guide’s authors claimed were "most relevant" to students.
But Birmingham’s universities said the study was unfair as it was based on figures covering all crime victims rather than just students and took in offences committed in the busy city centre.
Birmingham City University (BCU) topped the regional poll, with 2.57 crimes reported per 1,000 residents in the past year.
It was followed by Aston with 2.51 reports and the University of Birmingham with 2.44 offences.
A BCU spokesman said: "Birmingham remains one of the safest of the UK’s major cities and police have reported a decline in the local crime rate.
"It is also important to note that the Complete University Guide survey does not record crime on students per se, but all those affected by crime within a fixed radius of a university address."
An Aston spokesman said only four "minor crimes" had been reported on campus between December and April this year. "These figures are misleading as they relate to incidents affecting all residents and not just students," he said. "We would like to reassure all of our current and prospective students that Aston University’s campus itself is very welcoming and extremely safe."
A University of Birmingham spokesman said: "The figures used in this report do not provide an accurate reflection of the very small number of crimes which occur on the campus and surrounding residential areas. The University of Birmingham is a very safe place for staff and students and we work in close partnership with West Midlands Police to ensure living and studying at Birmingham remains an enjoyable and safe experience."
Guide founder Bernard Kingston defended the research, saying it allowed potential students to assess the risks of universities with "greater precision" in the absence of student-specific crime data.
He said: "Our university cities do not exist in isolation from the communities within which they are located and, regrettably, crime is a constant presence."