Education & Family

University campaign to counter binge-drinking culture

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Image caption The Home Office is putting £90,000 into a pilot scheme to combat student binge drinking

Alcohol-based initiation ceremonies and pub crawls may become a thing of the past on university campuses in England and Wales under a new project.

Instead the aim is to create a "cafe culture that runs into the evening".

Seven universities have joined a pilot scheme run by the National Union of Students and the Home Office.

"Binge drinking at universities is nothing new but that doesn't mean it is a good idea," said crime prevention minister Norman Baker.

The NUS Alcohol Impact scheme will run for 12 months at Loughborough, Nottingham, Swansea, Brighton. Manchester Metropolitan, Liverpool John Moores and Royal Holloway universities.

Drinking games

University managements and student unions will work together to gain accreditation under the new scheme.

To be accredited, institutions are scored against a list of criteria.

These can include limiting the sale, promotion and advertising of alcohol, ensuring subsidised bars also sell low-priced non-alcoholic drinks, limiting or preventing alcohol-related initiation ceremonies, and action to tackle pub crawls and social media drinking games.

Student unions are asked to offer at least one "quality, non-alcoholic, mainstream social event" every six months and particularly during freshers' welcome weeks.

Universities will also be expected to develop policies and communications schemes on the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, to train staff and to work with off-campus licensed premises and retailers "to ensure their operations encourage responsible and safe alcohol consumption".

The Home Office says it has committed more than £90,000 for the one-year pilot and may extend the funding into a second year.

The hope is that the scheme will eventually become permanent, funded by universities.

"Some students find themselves encouraged to participate in alcohol-fuelled activities which can damage health and in some cases spill over into disorder and anti-social behaviour," said Mr Baker.

'Badge of honour'

"Accreditation should become a badge of honour for universities and another factor which helps promote their world-class teaching and research to prospective domestic and international students."

NUS vice-president Colum McGuire said the project was designed to change attitudes to and behaviour regarding alcohol at universities, creating "a social norm of responsible consumption by students at the pilot institutions" and "leading to safer and more productive places to study and live".

Prof Julian Crampton, vice-chancellor of Brighton University, said he was delighted his institution was taking part.

"Students work extremely hard to gain their qualifications and will always want time out to relax and to enjoy themselves.

"The majority of students act sensibly but anything that reinforces the message of responsible drinking is something we would encourage."

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