Ray Hudson, the acting vice-chancellor, said senior management treated the issues of student safety and excessive alcohol consumption “with the utmost seriousness”.
However, Durham’s chief constable has ruled out providing more officers to patrol the banks of the river, arguing it was “ludicrous” for officers to be expected to “stop bright young things falling in”.
It follows the death last month of Euan Coulthard, 19, after a night out. Undergraduates Sope Peters and Luke Pearce also died after entering the river in separate incidents stretching back to 2013.
Following the death of Mr Coulthard, more than 15,000 people signed a petition calling for improved safety alongside the Wear. The cover of this week’s edition of the student newspaper Palatinate featured pictures of the three students with the headline “Enough”.
The measures being developed by the university and the students’ union include the use of student volunteers alongside community safety groups in a night-time scheme, and the establishment of a new arrangement with taxi operators to ensure “at risk” students can get home safely.
Meanwhile, Durham County Council is funding a £50,000 students’ union campaign to promote responsible drinking among the city’s students.
In a statement, Professor Hudson said the university would take action to improve safety.
“Durham University’s senior management is treating the matters of student safety and excessive alcohol consumption with the utmost seriousness,” he said.
“We are committed to taking action but we recognise that these are issues which can only be addressed through a multi-agency approach. Addressing the alcohol culture which has developed in our society as a whole will involve a major shift in attitudes.”
The statement said that Durham already had a minimum pricing policy for alcohol in its bars and did not serve students who were drunk.
But Mike Barton, the county’s chief constable, said students had to drink more responsibly.
He told the BBC that what linked the three deaths was the fact that three young men had become “so paralytically drunk they were not in control of their bodies”.
Mr Barton added: “What we need to look at is the personal responsibility of young men and women who are coming away to university, starting their lives and who need to behave a bit more socially responsibly.
“I was incensed when I heard some representatives of the student body saying the answer is for more police officers.
“It is ludicrous that society is asking me to put police officers on the riverbank to stop bright young things falling in. What sort of world have we come to?”