Drug use taken 'extremely seriously' says Uni after national survey suggests students want stronger approach


The University of Bristol has said it takes drug use 'extremely seriously' following a national survey released last week that indicates that students studying in the UK want their universities to take a tougher stance on repeated drug users and drug dealers.

According to the survey, conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), 60 per cent of students nation-wide want universities to take a tougher stance on repeated drug users, whilst the same proportion think stronger action should be taken against drug dealers.

In response to this, a University of Bristol spokesperson told Epigram: 'We take drug use extremely seriously – both in terms of educating our students about the dangers and in supporting them to deal with addiction and any associated mental health issues.'

60 per cent of students want universities to take a tougher stance on repeated drug users, whilst the same proportion think tougher action should be taken against drug dealers

The spokesperson added: 'Universities cannot address drug misuse alone. We must work with the NUS and our local Student Unions, the NHS and other statutory services to educate and support students.'

The small-scale study, which surveyed 1,000 undergraduates from across the UK, also indicates that 71 per cent of students had not taken drugs, whilst 88 per cent believe they cause mental health problems.

The University's spokesperson said: 'We offer a range of services, including therapeutic input from the Student Counselling Service and advice via our GP service, depending on what level of support is needed.

'When more intensive treatment is required, we refer students to local services such as the Bristol Drugs Project. We have received excellent feedback on the support offered through this service, and we would urge anyone experiencing problems to get in touch and seek support.

'Universities cannot address drug misuse alone.' - University of Bristol spokesperson

'If we find evidence of a student taking illegal substances then our Security Services are notified. We monitor the scale of such misconduct closely and liaise with the police as appropriate. We can employ a range of disciplinary sanctions, including referral to external drug education programs. In extreme cases, expulsion from the University may be considered.'

Bristol SU did not comment on the report. It does, however, currently have active drug policy which includes lobbying the University to stop excluding students for drug use.

It also advocates the decriminalisation and regulation of drugs for students' wellbeing and future prospects, and will lobby the NUS, Council and MPs for this. More details of Bristol SU's active policy on drugs can be found here.

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President of Bristol University's Conservative Association criticises government stance on legalising cannabis

Epigram Comment Editor, Jake Porter, said: 'Anecdotally many people consider drug use to be higher at Bristol than most universities. Whether this is actually true is hard to prove, but an attitude of abstinence and punishment is hardly an effective solution.'

He added: 'Approaches rooted in honesty and sound progressive reasoning are surely going to be the most effective ways of establishing a decent drugs policy at the University.'

HEPI's survey has been criticised by Dr. Keir Irwin Rogers, from the Open University, for ambiguities in its questions which, he argues, cannot support the headline claim that students want universities to take a 'tougher stance'.

One question asked whether students believe their university should 'take a stronger line on (i.e. take more seriously)' 1) drug users, and 2) drug dealers. Irwin Rogers believes that 'take more seriously' should not be immediately assumed to be synonymous with 'take a tougher stance'.

'It is entirely reasonable', he says, 'that such students may have ticked the box, "Yes, they should take it more seriously" without those students in any way endorsing a "tougher stance".'

Featured Image: Epigram / Ed Southgate

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Ed Southgate

former co-Editor in Chief 2018-2019 | former Editor of Epigram Comment 2017-2018 | UoB English student 2016-19 | Twitter: @ed_southgate