The student mix at London Metropolitan
University means the vice-chancellor see little reason to subsidise a
student bar. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
A London university is considering establishing alcohol-free zones on its campuses because so many of its students consider drinking to be immoral.
Professor Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University, said the selling of alcohol was an issue of "cultural sensitivity" at his institution where a fifth of students are Muslim.
to a conference of university administrators in Manchester, he said
that for many students, drinking alcohol was "an immoral experience".
there is no majority ethnic group [at London Metropolitan], I think
[selling alcohol] is playing to particular parts of our society much
more [than to others]," he was reported as saying in the Times Higher Education magazine.
said he saw little reason for the university to subsidise a student bar
on campus when there were "at least half a dozen pubs within 200m".
told the Guardian the makeup of his institution had changed
considerably over the past few decades. In the past it had been
"substantially Anglo Saxon – now 20% of our students are Muslim," he
"We therefore need to rethink how we cater for that
21st-century balance. For many students now, coming to university is not
about having a big drinking experience. The university bar is not as
used as it used to be."
Gillies also told the conference that universities needed to be more cautious in their portrayal of sex than in the past.
got a younger generation that are often exceedingly conservative, and
we need to be much more cautious about sex too," he said. Many female
Muslim students were taken to university by a close male relative.
"Their student experience is going to be different from someone who is
gorging out in the Chocoholics Society or someone who is there to have a
... libidinous time.
"How will we service the changing balance of our students unless we ourselves evolve?"
Alsamarrai, the vice-president of student affairs for the Federation of
Student Islamic Societies, said Muslim students wanted universities to
be inclusive so that students "from all walks of life can come and share
"Alcohol is a barrier to many Muslim students
participating in freshers' events and often in society activities, so we
are in support of moves to have alcohol-free zones and events," she
said. "However, if a student wants to drink, we don't want to ban them
from doing that."
Research published in 2008 by academics at the
universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York shows that a student's alcohol
consumption declines over the course of his or her studies. The
researchers found 90% of students consume alcohol at least once a week,
which is broadly in line with the general population.