SOUTHAMPTON university chiefs have expressed "extreme concern" after reports of racist abuse towards Asian students in the city.

It comes as police confirmed they have received reports of a "small number of incidents" linked to speculation about coronavirus across Southampton and Portsmouth.

In one alleged incident, a University of Southampton student reportedly had a stone thrown at him in the city centre.

Another student wearing a face mask was reportedly called a "virus" as she walked home.

Meanwhile, a staff member at a Chinese restaurant in Southampton was said to have been harassed by a man who cited the coronavirus.

The reports have prompted bosses at the University of Southampton to express their concerns.

Students from Southampton University Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) have also hit back with a defiant poster, which reads "I am not a virus, I am a human".

The posters are being displayed in businesses along Burgess Road, close to the university's Highfield Campus, as well as in the heavily student populated Portswood area.

A spokesperson for the University of Southampton said: “The university is extremely concerned by unacceptable behaviour directed at Chinese students.

“We have not had any reports of incidents on campus but we do not tolerate any form of racism and would take action as a matter of urgency on any such behaviour.

"We would urge staff and students to come forward if they are aware of any racist incidents taking place.

“We are proud of Southampton’s culturally diverse history which is an important part of our city’s identity.

"We wish to reaffirm that any students or staff who experience a racist incident can confidently report it to the university with the expectation that it will be investigated and appropriate actions taken; this may include referring the incident to the police.”

A Hampshire Police spokesperson said: "A small number of incidents linked to speculation about coronavirus have been reported to us in Southampton and Portsmouth.

"Any crime perpetuated through ignorance, prejudice or hate is unacceptable.

"We are working with our partners and the local Chinese communities and we would encourage everyone to report incidents to us either by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency."