More than three-quarters of university students feel getting drunk is part of university culture, NUS survey reveals

Written by Kira Taylor |

A survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) has found that 79% of students feel that drinking and getting drunk are part of university culture, with almost as many agreeing that there is an expectation for students to drink to get drunk.

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The survey of 2,215 students in higher education explored attitudes towards alcohol consumption before and during university, as well as how this can affect relationships with peers.

The survey suggests that peer pressure is still an issue for students with many feeling that they have to drink to fit in. The results also show that nearly half of those surveyed said, before starting university, they thought students got drunk most of the time. Nearly two-fifths of students said it was difficult not to drink too much, as alcohol helps them to relax or socialise.

Eva Crossan Jory, NUS Vice President (Welfare), said:


“While many students are making active decisions about their drinking, it is concerning that university life is still strongly associated with excessive alcohol consumption.”


However, one in five students in the survey have either never drunk or have stopped drinking alcohol and almost 80% of students say they don’t have to get drunk to have a good night out.

The NUS believes that financial reasons may have led to students drinking less overall, with high tuition fees pressuring students to perform well and focus on the academic side of university life.

According to Crossan Jory, “The reality for many is that high levels of personal debt and the pressure to do well means many are going out less and studying more. The cost of living crisis facing students now means, after bills and food, it may not be possible for students to spend money on other things such as nights out or drinks.”

The survey suggests there is a problem of perception over reality, with many students thinking that irresponsible drinking and peer pressure are issues for others rather than themselves. Whereas 70% think that students drink alcohol to fit in with their peers, 41% say they never feel like their friends expect them to drink.

In 2014, the NUS launched Alcohol Impact, a campaign designed to change the social norms around alcohol and create more productive student communities. It has been rolled out on many campuses and the NUS believes that it is having a clear impact on reducing harmful levels of alcohol consumption in the student population.

Crossan Jory said: “We would encourage institutions and students’ unions to get involved with the Alcohol Impact project to reduce high-risk drinking behaviour. Much effort has been made to give students more choice on the activities open to them particularly during welcome weeks.”

According to the NUS, only 1% of students have been part of safe or responsible drinking campaigns at their university. Neither Exeter nor Falmouth Universities are currently part of the Alcohol Impact scheme.