University to force students to sign contract promising not to take drugs

Update 05/03/2018 05:26     Print

A UK university has vowed to become the first in the country to bring in a “drug-free” policy which would force students to sign a contract not to take drugs on the grounds of the institution. 

Students at the University of Buckingham (UB) may risk being expelled if they persist in taking substances on campus, officials have said, as it tries to become the country’s first drug-free university.

The announcement comes as the National Union of Students published a report urging universities to stop reporting students to the police for possession of drugs, after figures revealed that hundreds of incidents were reported to forces last year.

A report by The Sunday Times also revealed a 42 per cent rise over two years in the number of students being disciplined by universities for drug use.

Sir Anthony Seldon, the UB vice-chancellor claimed that measures were not meant to be “punitive or repressive”, adding that universities were “failing their students on drugs and mental health”. 

In a letter published in the same paper, he said: “A completely new approach is needed. Student lives are needlessly being lost and imperilled.

“Universities need to shake themselves up and take more responsibility for students in their care.

“Information about the harm that drugs could do should be everywhere – as ubiquitous as the warnings on cigarette packets.

“The University of Buckingham is working towards becoming Britain’s first ‘drug-free’ university.”

He added: “We plan to ask our students to sign a contract that makes it clear that they will not take drugs on university property, nor be under their influence when on university business.

“Drug-taking has no place at all in our vision of what a university is about. If students persist in taking drugs, they will be asked to leave.

“The focus with our students at Buckingham is to help them lead a fulfilling and meaningful life using natural and healthy approaches.

“Our aim is not to be punitive or repressive but to be compassionate and enlightened, helping our students learn how to be fully adult and responsible to themselves and to others. In this, drug-taking has no place.”

A new report by the NUS and Release charity found that in 2016-2017, of the 2,067 cases of student drug possession recorded across the country, 531 were reported to police and 21 were permanently excluded from university.

It urged universities not to take such measures and urged them to play a more supportive role in dealing with the issue, arguing that mental health factors could play a part in some students’ decision to take drugs. 

It also argued the use of sniffer dogs and searches on campus were “incredibly invasive and intimidating” and could cause high anxiety levels, after it emerged one in 10 of those who had used drugs said they had been searched on campus, based on a survey of 2,800 people.

Zoe Carre, a policy researcher at Release, said reporting students to police was “archaic and harmful” and was likely to put people off seeking help.

The universities most likely to take disciplinary action including include fines, behaviour contracts, suspension and expulsion were Kingston and Nottingham, which disciplined 331 and 283 people, respectively, according to figures obtained by The Sunday Times

They showed that more than 1,300 students were disciplined for drugs by British universities in the 2016-17 academic year – a 42 per cent rise on 2014-15.

Other universities which had a high number of drug-related disciplinary cases, most of which were related to cannabis, included, Essex, Sussex, Loughborough, Hertfordshire and Central Lancashire.

But no students at all were sanctioned for drug use at Leicester University, and City, University of London, according to the paper.

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