Universities clamping down on freshers' week hedonism

Students walk past the Radcliffe Camera building in Oxford city centreStudents walk past the Radcliffe Camera building in Oxford city centre
Students walk past the Radcliffe Camera building in Oxford city centre
Students starting university this term could find hedonism is no longer on the curriculum for freshers' week

The traditional drink-fuelled partying and outrageous behaviour often associated with initiation into university life looks likely to become a thing of the past.

Many of the country’s top educational establishments are clamping down with workshops warning of the dangers of drugs and alcohol and raising awareness about racism, sexual harassment and religious intolerance.

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It comes in the wake of an inquiry launched by former Business Secretary Sajid Javid last year into sexual harassment on campus and a litany of complaints about anti-semitism and other “hate crimes” among students.

Safety on campus

The move has been welcomed by the National Union of Students (NUS), which claims it won’t curb fun on campus.

But one academic has branded it “social engineering spiralling out of control”.

An NUS spokesperson said: “All universities do a lot of different things to make sure students are safe on campus. We would support the idea of workshops. Talking about things like sexual consent wouldn’t be stopping anybody from having fun.”

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However, Kent University’s professor of sociology Frank Furedi told The Sunday Times the workshops were an exercise in social engineering.

Binge drinking culture

He said: “This is an attempt to re-socialise young people with values that are alien to their background… Freshers’ week used to be about drinking and socialising. That was student fun.”

A poll of universities by The Sunday Times found students starting at Oxford University this term will be offered student union-run workshops on race, handling lad culture and LGBT sensitivities.

While freshers at Cambridge will be encouraged to attend race awareness workshops. Reading University will be playing a video on screens across all its buildings during freshers’ week encouraging people to challenge racial and religious intolerance. Students at Bristol University will have to complete a mandatory quiz outlining sexual scenarios and asking which ones are consensual.


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Newcastle University’s campus police officer is to deliver a workshop on “vulnerability” as part of the student induction process and bar staff at the University of East Anglia have had training to call time on lewd behaviour.

The inquiry, set up by Sajid Javid, is expected to publish its report next month outlining ways to tackle student behaviour using workshops and briefing packs for freshers.

In the meantime, Public Health England (PHE) has issued its own warning to students advising all 17 and 18-year-olds to get vaccinated against meningitis.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “We’ve introduced this vaccine because of a rapid increase in cases of Men W across England, with new students particularly at risk.

“This vaccination is highly effective and can save lives and prevent devastating, lifelong disability.”