Friday, 30 May 2014

Home Office acts to curb student boozing

I got a slight sinking feeling as I read about an initiative by the Home Office to discourage students from drinking. Not because it's a Home Office idea; after all, now that the country is being run so well, thumb twiddling is giving senior civil servants repetitive strain injury. No, it was the active involvement of the National Union of Students that seemed odd: all I can say is that the NUS must be a profoundly different body than in my student days when we had mass marches in London demanding full grants for all. Okay, that didn't work, but we tried.

At this stage it's a pilot accreditation scheme involving seven universities to create "a social norm of responsible alcohol consumption by students" (according to NUS vice president Colum McGuire) and the institutions will be expected to restrict alcohol advertising around campuses, punish students who cause problems through drinking and work with licensed premises to ensure students drink responsibly. How on earth is that last proposal supposed to work? Pubs are businesses and students over 18 are legally allowed to drink in them like anyone else. Why should licensees deny themselves trade to which they're is legally entitled? Should they demand that all young people prove they're not students, even though - logically - you can't prove a negative? If local pubs refuse to co-operate, would the university be refused accreditation?

Lib Dem Home Office Minister Norman Baker said: "I hope campuses will be places where students can have a good time, can learn, get a job and while they're there, enjoy themselves including drinking alcohol responsibly. Some of the rough edges of drinking are clearly not helpful - for example happy hours when students are encouraged to drink vast amounts in a short period of time, or alcohol initiation ceremonies, or bars where you can't get a soft drink."

I've noticed that anti-alcohol campaigners always claim that they want people to enjoy drinking, rather like those people who say, "I'm not a racist but ..."

It is utterly beyond me why the NUS is going along with this, seeing that the Lib Dems utterly betrayed their pledges on tuition fees once they'd got the student vote in the bag. The Home Office is providing £90,000 to fund this scheme, but I can't find anywhere what will happen to universities that fail to meet accreditation standards. If I were running a university, I'd want to know whether something presented as a health and well-being initiative could actually become a poisoned, if strictly non-alcoholic, chalice in the event of failure.

The universities involved are: Loughborough, Nottingham, Swansea, Brighton, Manchester Metropolitan, Liverpool John Moores and Royal Holloway.

1 comment:

  1. One of those is mine! Thanks for the heads-up - I'll keep an eye on this.


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