Drinking Culture at University

By Pamela Head,

There are two things synonymous with the word ‘university’: Learning, and drinking. Both are things that most students will partake in at some point. Both are also things that students can feel ostracized for if they do not join in.

Now, students around the country are probably screaming at me “What’s the big deal in that?!” To an extent, I see the point. We’re students. It’s somewhat expected. And it’s only for three years of our lives, until we get jobs and settle into the mundane routine of a regular job and occasional weekend fun instead of weekly.

I’ve been guilty of going out and coming home slightly tipsy – ah hem – at 4am with a traffic cone casually slung over one shoulder. Somehow. Don’t ask. Going out at university is all a bit of fun: a break from the long hours of study and essay writing. I wouldn’t say I consider it a problem or something I even think about. But could that fun while you’re young lead to more serious problems later on?

Like the university league tables we’re familiar with, showing the academic success of our universities, Student Beans has also compiled a University Drinking League. Leeds Met tops the poll with 26.7 units being consumed a week.

The Department of Health tells us that it is not safe for men to drink more than 21 units of alcohol a week; 14 for women. Yet nine universities on the poll drink more than 21, and 57 drink more than 14. In fact, only ten universities out of those polled drank less than the recommendation. This pretty much blows the government out of the water.

Most students can be considered binge drinkers; intentionally ‘pre-drinking’ before a night out to maximize the level of drunkenness achievable while saving money by avoiding high bar prices. Pre-drinking is a staple of university for many students and the best way to start a night out: social and alcohol in one go. Winner.

Yet the damage this is doing to your health stays with you for many years after you finish university and move into the world of work. Britain’s drinking culture costs the NHS over £2.7 billion a year. In 2012 alone, there were 200,000 hospital admissions due to alcohol. The government and NHS are trying to tackle the problem by raising the price of alcohol and using facts and figures to scare us; but so far it doesn’t appear to be working.

It’s worth considering that although drinking at university seems like the norm, and indeed it is fast becoming the norm in society too, this is not a good thing. How many memories do you have of university without alcohol being involved? How many bad endings to evenings could have been avoided if you’d stopped after the fourth pint? It may be time for us all to stop, put down the dirty pint and consider what role alcohol plays in our lives now before we become that person passed out in the back of an ambulance and one of ol’ Cameron’s nasty statistics.