The launch of the NUS ‘Alcohol Impact’ scheme could see the end of drinking initiations and dangerous binging and potentially the start of a social transformation. The pilot program will be launched in selected universities across England and Wales, from Manchester Metropolitan and Royal Holloway, to Brighton and Nottingham, with the intention of assessing the project’s effectiveness. NUS Vice President, Colum McGuire explained that the project aims to “create a social norm of responsible consumption by students… leading to safer and more productive places to study and live.”
Given the socially reinforced ideas around university and heavy drinking, students might not initially take to this idea, but the NUS project is not looking for an alcohol ban; they want to change our cultural perception of it. The aim is to promote a more sensible intake, and encourage a “café culture that runs into the evening”.
Crime prevention Minister Norman Baker also made it known that they hope the project will boost the credibility of those universities involved, along with the students of said universities, explaining that “accreditation should become a badge of honour for universities, and another factor which helps promote their world-class teaching”. In this way, universities outside of Oxbridge can gain more merit, and us students in the same way can gain more from our degrees.
Some of the criteria that universities will have to meet involve “limiting the sale, promotion and advertising of alcohol, ensuring that subsidised bars also sell low-priced non-alcoholic drinks, [and] limiting or preventing alcohol-related initiation ceremonies”. It seems the NUS, backed by the Home Office, feel these sort of bold steps need to be made in order to make a real impact on our drinking culture, which perhaps makes a statement itself on how serious the issue is becoming.
But those running the program are not oblivious to the friction this project might cause with students. Mr. Baker made it clear that they are aware that “binge drinking at universities is nothing new”, but pointed out that just because it is socially ingrained, doesn’t mean that we should sit back and do nothing about it. Whilst it may seem somewhat restrictive, Mr. McGuire stressed that the project “has the welfare of students at its core” and providing “a range of benefits”, including reducing crime, improving student health and enhancing partnerships within local communities.
Professor Julian Crampton, Vice Chancellor of the University of Brighton, which is one of the universities taking part in the pilot project, was “especially pleased” that his university was taking part, appreciating the impact binge drinking has on unfortunate individuals in severe instances. He also recognised the impact on the “emergency services and society as a whole”. He conceded that although “the majority of students act sensibly”, to prevent the more extreme cases, “reinforcing the message of responsible drinking is something we would encourage”.
Though the effectiveness of the program is yet to be seen, hopefully this project will get a reasonable response from students and the benefits of the accreditation scheme will encourage a better perception of and behavior toward drinking at university. In a modern world where we are aware of the dangers of alcohol abuse, although we have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, there is something slightly immoral about reinforcing it for the generations to come.
Perhaps future freshers might not be coaxed and peer pressured into substance abuse but may be tortured in other, more humourous ways. Perhaps from now the rate of deaths from vodka or jagerbomb overdose may go down, or disappear altogether. It would definitely be a good thing if this project could hammer home some sense into the minority that disregard the responsibility that comes with consumption, and though it will certainly not eradicate reckless drinking completely, it might be the first step in the right direction.