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UK: Int’l students driving alcohol-free trend

International students and domestic teetotalers are driving up the demand for alcohol-free or “dry” residences and events at British universities, as institutions try to create a more inclusive environment for those who don’t drink.

alcoholInstitutions are moving to provide more alcohol-free events and accommodation. Photo: Pologi via Pixabay

During welcome week the SU hold a number of alcohol-free events

Popular source countries for international students in the UK include countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, where alcoholic drinks are banned or restricted, as well as nations such as India, where consumption is substantially lower than in the UK.

St Andrews in Scotland first started offering alcohol-free halls in September 2015. This year there were 154 such rooms where alcohol is completely banned available for students. According to the university, it is a “very popular option”.

“Students do not need to partake in drinking to have a full St Andrews experience”

“The provision of alcohol-free accommodation in St Andrews highlights the fact students do not need to partake in drinking to have a full St Andrews experience, nor do social events need to be based around alcohol to be enjoyable,” Jamie Rodney, president of the Students’ Association at St Andrews, told The PIE News

“We’ve been working hard to accommodate students who choose not to drink. Not only do we provide multiple alcohol-free spaces throughout the building, but we’ve also run a “Pace Yourself” campaign alongside student services over Fresher’s Week, which saw us hand out free non-alcoholic drinks, and encourage responsible drinking.”

At the start of this academic year, 44 students at the University of Bristol were accommodated in alcohol-free residences.

“We are constantly reviewing our processes on all aspects of accommodation allocations and for this academic year, alcohol-free flats are available in three specific residences, one in each of our three residential villages,” a spokesperson from the university told The PIE

“We have designated alcohol-free flats across all our postgraduate residences, with over 100 rooms available for the postgraduate community.

“Bristol’s Students’ Union has also increased the number of alcohol-free drinks available in the Balloon Bar because of increased student feedback requesting this,” added the spokesperson.

“During the welcome week, the SU holds a number of alcohol-free events, which this year ranged from a café crawl to film nights.”

However, in some cases, these events are also popular with international students who do drink.

A 2018 report by Thomas Thurnell-Read, Lorraine Brown and Philip Long, International Students’ Perceptions and Experiences of British Drinking Cultures, found that international students find British drinking culture hard to acclimatise to due to a perceived fondness for “going too far” and “not knowing when to stop”.

According to UKCISA, over 458,000 international students studied in the UK – which recently announced plans to reintroduce PSW rights – over the last academic year.

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