The stereotype of university students spending all their loan money getting drunk and turning up to lectures hungover is moving further from reality, as 21 per cent of students now say they are teetotal.
Students are swapping expensive nights out for more time spent in the library, but with most of them paying upwards of £9250 in fees, can you blame them?
September is the time in the academic calendar renowned for heavy drinking as undergraduates return to ‘Fresher’s Week’ filled with partying and socialising.
But nearly 1 in 4 students now believe there should be more social events that do not involve any drinking, especially as 70 per cent of them think students only drink alcohol to fit in with their peers.
The reasons behind this decline in drinking habits, the NUS believes, are predominantly financial. With more students accruing higher debts from tuition fees they cannot afford to be drinking every weekend as well.
Universities say there are a range of factors at play - increased awareness of the health risks of excessive drinking and a greater number of people abstaining because of their faith.
“It is clear that students’ drinking habits have changed,” said Eva Crossan Jory, NUS vice president for welfare. “High levels of personal debt and pressure to do well means many are going out less and studying more.”
Crossan Jory said simply the cost of living facing students means that after bills and food, there isn’t enough cash to fund nights out.
High levels of personal debt and pressure to do well means many are going out less and studying more..."
Despite this shift, much of university culture is still deeply intertwined with drinking and there aren’t enough “inclusive spaces” for non-drinkers.
“While many students are making active decisions about their drinking, it is concerning that university life is still strongly associated with excessive alcohol consumption.”
Individual institutions are making moves: the University of St Andrews has offered alcohol-free halls since 2015 and has plans to increase its offerings.
Bristol students union has expanded its non-alcohol events programme for freshers’ week after a plant-potting workshop last year was a success.
Meanwhile, Leeds students union has introduced classes on how to make pottery and coffee to meet a rising demand for alcohol-free activities.