Two universities in Belfast are closing down over the St Patrick's Day holiday in an attempt to prevent a repeat of serious violence, which erupted in a student area in the city in previous years.

Queen's University and the University of Ulster have urged students from outside the city to go home today and stay away next Monday.

Queen's University Pro-Vice Chancellor Tony Gallagher said that classes were cancelled today.

He said that they are taking the public holiday on Monday to avoid the drink-fuelled violence of previous years.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Gallagher said the early signs were that students were heeding the warnings to leave the campus.

He said the tactic of encouraging people to go home for the weekend seemed to be working.

In 2009, there were violent street clashes between riot police and hundreds of St Patrick's Day revellers in the Holyland area of Belfast.

Serious damage was caused and 20 people were arrested, with a number appearing in court.

Authorities from both universities have warned that students who remain over the holiday and are involved in violence will face serious disciplinary measures.

Queen's University also closed last year over the St Patrick's Day holiday weekend.