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All It Took for Students to Stop Drinking Was a Massive Mountain of Debt

Sales of beer are down and sales of coffee are up, because it's starting to look like a very expensive three-year hangover.

Archive photo of students being drunk. Photo via Jake Lewis

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Hold on, little peek behind the curtain for you, here: As per National Union of Journalism guidelines, all journalists are required by law to consult this 'writing about students' media cheatsheet when writing about students, which I am about to do. It's just one of those things. One of those journalism rules. Like, you know how the Sun says "sex act" instead of "beej"? Same thing. Same rules. Like how we still have to call it "a romp" when someone gets fucked. Any human being wearing a dress to cover themselves is in fact being aggressively flaunty. That sort of thing. Hold on, let me pull the file:


Right, so, student news now, and instead of hanging out at the, er… 'student union' drinking their 'cider and black'—so much cider and black that the night turns fuzzy and fades into the startling grey-blue cold of the morning sunrise, students slumping into their beds as the cockerel calls, their ratty little beds, the students, in student-rented accommodation, which is always messy, the students smoking a toot of marijuana before sleeptime, and then waking up at 2PM, the students, half-stoned still, thinking about philosophy and the film Betty Blue, sitting in their jeans and hoody on a sofa while eating a large bowl of cereal and watching Countdown, skipping their lectures, the students, who wake up so late, although their lectures were probably in 'David Beckham' anyway, students so useless these days, with their learning and areas of interest slightly different to my own, probably studying 'vacation management' or something similarly useless—all to work in McDonald's—paying thousands of pounds in debt just for the pleasure of it, student union, probably chasing the cereal with a Pot Noodle now—because that's all they can bloody cook, isn't it!—the last time they did anything useful or learned anything was Fresher's Week, although obviously in my day we also had RAG Week, which although sounding like the most palatable way your weird uncle can bring himself to say "menstruation" is actually a bizarre charity-raising fancy dress endeavor, very 'this prefect forgot to forge a personality outside of dress-up before entering the adult world,' student union, and—fuck, I forgot to cram the idea of a rugby social in there. NUJ is going to have me up by the bollocks.


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Anyway the point is that according to new research from YouthSight and the NUS, students are drinking dramatically less than before, with sales of draught and packaged beer at unions across the country falling year-on-year for the past three years, while sales of coffee have gone up 11 percent. A further poll of 1,000 students found that the most useful services for students were now clubs and societies (60 percent), advice and support (50 percent), and coffee and café facilities (43 percent). Drinking so much at the rugby social (!) that you end up duct-taped to the statue of the university founders with your pubes and eyebrows shaved off was only a concern for 37 percent of students who classed pubs as being an essential service. This is in line with similar ONS figures which found the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who drink had fallen two-thirds between 2005 and 2014.

Anyway, turns out ramping the student fees up to just absurd amounts means that the kids are actually taking their studies seriously now, so drinking is out and actual employment prospects post-university are in. Here's the NUS man Richard Brooks saying more or less that:

"Ten or 15 years ago people went to university, obviously to learn something but also to make friends and have a good time." There is no friend-making, now. Students: stop making friends immediately. "A lot of policy-makers who I talk to think it's still like when they were at university but since the introduction of the £9,000 [$12,700] a year fees regime in 2012 students have become much more focused on employment prospects.

"Today's students are now much more likely to set up an academic society to provide the academic support that they may feel is lacking on their course."

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In a way this is deeply sad: that university is no longer hedonistic excess and beers in the shower and the aforementioned Countdown and waking up at 2PM. I think the most worried I got in the course of my undergraduate studies was the time the electricity went out and the gas station where we topped the meter up was inexplicably closed, I mean it was the best time of my life, but then I mean afterwards it did take me circa four years to muster up any sort of viable job prospect out of it and I had some real periods of deep and hopeless misery after it as a result, and plus I had somehow made myself allergic to cider. So yeah maybe these modern students, with their 'let's not fuck this up like Joel did' attitude and their designs to make it in the world, maybe they do have a point. Good on you, students! Pot Noodles!

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