Leader: With debt and deadline, they're not here for beer

November 9, 2001

Drunken Oxbridge students - with punts, floppy white ties, bottles of Bolly and paparazzi - have done more over the years to put ordinary decent sixth-formers (and their families) off the two universities than stiff A-level requirements or special entrance tests.

Pity, then, the dean of St Catz, Cambridge, who has blown the gaff on his college's drunken alley cats. Like Magdalen College, Oxford - which Gordon Brown pilloried for rejecting Laura Spence - St Catharine's will now have to work even harder to convince state-school pupils (and Asian students in particular) that the place is for them.

Not that students as a whole are an especially sober lot. Just this week, wannabees have been telling pollsters, "Never mind the course, it's the social life, stupid" that attracts them to further study. It is just that cheap beer and special-offer vodka mixers go better with an overdraft.

But what is this? Bar takings down; students too busy to go boozing; the National Union of Students losing out to cut-price high-street competition? If student protest went down the tubes on a tide of cheap beer, student drunkenness may now be threatened by debt, deadlines and part-time jobs. What an irony if governments, which have for decades run even more scared of the alcohol companies than the tobacco lobby, have inadvertently stumbled on a way of making heavy drinking uncool. Perhaps the distillers should pay for larger grants.

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