Teetotal at uni: Can you still have a social life?

Religion, health, self-control; for whatever reason, 15%* of people in the UK choose not to consume alcohol. But what does this mean for students, whose lifestyles notoriously involve copious amounts of alcohol and parties?

In recent years it has become apparent that there is a drinking culture within British universities. From the very start, Fresher’s Week encourages binge drinking in order to meet new people, integrate and make friends. Within sports teams and societies in particular there is a heavy influ­­ence on drinking alcohol through socials, drink-related sponsors and ‘tour’.

In this case, does it mean that those who choose not to drink have a diminished or ruined social life as a result?

Alastair Jones, an NTU student, says no: “I can go for nights out, meet people and still have a good time without resorting to booze. For most, alcohol and a social life seem to go hand in hand. For me, the latter can exist without the former.

“I never feel pressured into drinking; uni students are old enough and mature enough to realise that they can’t choose for me, so they don’t.”

Universities are beginning to recognise the need to cater for students who do not want to be involved in alcohol-related activities. London Metropolitan University, for example, have proposed an “alcohol-free zone” to cater for its 20% Muslim population.

Nottingham Trent itself has activities organised by the student’s union that don’t involve drinking an not all social events involve alcohol.

Alastair explained: “I found quite a lot of events through the Fez Wearing society (a society from autistic students) that didn’t involve lots of drinking.”

The ONS survey showed that the choice to abstain from alcohol was more common amongst women (18%) than men (12%).

Georgina Pratt, president of Trent Dance said: “To my knowledge we had one member who was teetotal last year, and although we are predominantly a female sports club, the member was in fact male.

“He was awarded our very own ‘ocean devotion’ certificate, as he came out every week but did not shy away from joining in, even when we played drinking games he joined in just with a soft drink.

“Although our social secs do enjoy drinking themselves, they do not force anyone else to drink.”

For most other students drinking is a part of university life and many see it as a temporary thing.

Josh Branter is one such student: “I think the drinking culture exists due to social pressures.

“The whole getting drunk every week stops after uni when people are burdened with responsibilities.”



Alanna Lintin

*According to a 2009 survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS)