Northern Ireland's two universities have cancelled all classes and told students to go home for the weekend in an attempt to prevent disturbances involving students which have occurred on St Patrick's Day in recent years.

PSNI riot police were called to the Holyland area of Belfast last year after trouble broke out among students celebrating St Patrick's Day.  

Queen's University and Ulster University have written to students urging them not to travel to the Holyland, which has a large student population, or to behave responsibly if they do.

The universities have warned that sanctions, including expulsion, may be used against students involved in any disturbances.

Classes at both universities were cancelled yesterday and today, and both have been designated reading days.

Students are being encouraged to go home for the weekend. Off-licences in the Holyland area are to close between 4pm and 9pm tomorrow.