PSNI Superintendent Darrin Jones said there would be a highly visible police presence in the Holylands area of south Belfast over the coming days.
Three people were arrested after disturbances in the area overnight on Wednesday.
“I want everyone to enjoy the St Patrick’s Day celebrations but I would strongly encourage people to consider the long-term consequences of engaging in drunken or anti-social behaviour,” he said.
“Police will deal robustly with any offences to bring people before the courts, and this may lead to career limiting sanctions.
“Police will be on the streets of Belfast throughout the day to ensure anyone wishing to travel, work or socialise in Belfast can do so safely.”
Queen’s University management and its student union condemned the behaviour. “While the vast majority of Queen’s students will celebrate St Patrick’s Day in an enjoyable and peaceful manner, Queen’s will fully investigate any complaints or reports of anti-social behaviour,” said a Queen’s spokeswoman.
“A strict off-campus disciplinary code is in place and if any Queen’s student is found to have brought the university into disrepute, they will be subject to the full rigours of this code.”
An Ulster University spokeswoman said: “Given the significant amount of work carried out by all partners in advance of St Patrick’s Day, we are disappointed with the behaviour displayed last night.”
Both universities said they were working to establish if any of their students were responsible. Many non-students are reported to visit the area at this time.
Staff from the universities are on the ground in the area over the St Patrick’s Day period in a bid to control the festivities.
South Belfast Assembly member Emma Little Pengelly branded the violence in the area as “absolutely shameful”.
“Last night’s antics were nothing short of disgraceful and provocative,” the DUP MLA said.
“Those living in and visiting the area need to respect their neighbours.
“Crowds singing pro-IRA songs while attacking police with bottles has nothing to do with St Patrick. It is sectarian, totally unacceptable and it needs to stop.”
SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said: “It’s sad that some chose to celebrate our patron saint and national day by abusing police and frightening residents.”
The vast majority of young people enjoy themselves responsibly but those who engaged in disturbances demonstrated an “astounding lack of judgment,” she added.