English university to ask students to sign drug pledge

Posted on: 2018-10-08 07:30:00

A university plans to take the unprecedented step of asking incoming students to sign a contract pledging that they will not take drugs on campus, a vice-chancellor has announced.

Buckingham University, which already allows police sniffer dogs on campus to deter drug use, wants to introduce the rule in an attempt to become Britain’s first “drug-free” campus.

The institution’s vice-chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon, announced the plans in a column in the Daily Mail, saying it is “insane” to allow drug-taking in universities to continue.

“I asked myself what kind of moral leadership university leaders were providing in colluding in the mass consumption of illegal drugs on our premises,” he wrote.

The vice-chancellor added that Buckingham would not focus on expulsion but instead adopt a compassionate policy to deter drug-taking. “Where was the compassion and care for vulnerable and often still young students living away from home for the first time?” he said.

Seldon said students who were struggling would be offered help but if they repeatedly flouted the university’s policy they would be asked to leave.

The announcement came shortly after the University of Sheffield was criticised for giving detailed advice on its website on how to take drugs safely. The guidance tells students who take drugs with a needle not to inject alone, offers advice about crushing MDMA and how long to wait before considering redosing.

A University of Sheffield spokesman said: “The university and its students’ union does not condone substance misuse in any shape or form. We do however understand some students may try drugs during their time at university. With this in mind, we think it is ­important to ensure that … if a ­student does choose to take drugs, they are as informed as possible and take steps to take reasonable precautions.”

In April, a study by the National Union of Students and the drug information charity Release involving 3,000 students found that 56% of young people had used drugs at some point, while 39% said they were currently using substances.

But a follow-up survey, sponsored by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Buckingham University, and conducted by the research company YouthSight, found the numbers were much lower. A quarter of those who took part in the survey had taken drugs in the past year.

Male students were more likely to have used drugs, with 68% of male respondents saying they had not used drugs, compared with 74% of female students. About 40% said there was a problem with drugs at their university, but marginally more – 44% – said there was not.

Sarah Marsh

Source: The Guardian

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