Cheap mocktails, expensive wine: effective alcohol policy on campus

Foto: DUB

Students who drink a lot of alcohol can get in trouble with their studies. They miss classes because of a hangover, or they underperform. In 2016, RIVM estimated (links in Dutch, ed) that these students cost society millions of euros per year in study delays. A range of parties, including the government, educational institutions and even beer brewers, want the number of students who drink excessively to be reduced by 50 percent by 2040.

The big question is how universities and universities of applied sciences can contribute to this. Commissioned by the Ministry of Public Health and the umbrella organisations of universities and universities of applied sciences, the Trimbos Institute looked into this. The report was actually already finished in March, but because of the corona crisis it was decided to publish it a little later.

Everything depends on clear rules, according to the writers of the report. At what time are cafes on campus allowed to serve alcohol? Is the caterer allowed to serve beer at a reception? What are the guidelines for student and study associations and introduction committees?

Trimbos advises to involve student associations in the drafting of these rules. Moreover, the emphasis should not be on banning alcohol, but on the health of the student. And if you don't know what the rules are, you can't abide by them, according to the report. That means good communication is important.

Furthermore, the same agreements must apply to students and staff. This is not always the case. Sometimes, for example, students are not allowed to drink before 17.00 on campus, but the Executive Board is. The advice is therefore to treat everyone equally.

Price tag
What's not there, you cannot drink. Therefore, limit the availability of alcohol on campus, for example by shortening the hours in which it is allowed to sell alcohol or by catering non-alcoholic drinks. In the latter case, there should be plenty of appealing alternatives, such as "special lemonades", mocktails, or non-alcoholic beer and wine.

According to the researchers, the power of the price tag should not be underestimated either. Make non-alcoholic alternatives cheaper than alcoholic beverages. Or give students a free glass of water with every beer.

It is furthermore important that students with drinking problems are helped on time. Student advisors, student deans, and student psychologists should be allowed to ask about alcohol consumption more often, Trimbos believes.

Beer culture
Finally, according to the researchers, there is still a lot to be gained from good information. Most institutions now only provide these during the introductory period for first-year students or their mentors. After that, it is often ignored.

International students are still somewhat the odd one out as of yet. Educational institutions distinguish two groups of internationals: on the one hand students who are not interested in alcohol and drugs, and who do not feel comfortable in the Dutch 'beer culture', and on the other hand students who come to the 'liberal' Netherlands to party. How do you make sure that one group does not fall through the cracks and the other group does not indulge itself too much?

Substance abuse
The Ministry of Public Health will - unless the corona crisis throws a spanner in the works - conduct a large-scale investigation into student substance abuse later this year. Because those figures are not yet available, the Trimbos Institute is now based its research on the existing scientific literature.