Growing student debt is pulling in profits for Britain's student unions as hard-up undergraduates flock to campus watering holes for cheaper beer, union managers have claimed.
Figures from SUSOC, the professional association of managers in student unions, show that turnover stood at Pounds 135 million in 1994/95, a 5 per cent increase on 1993/94 and a 25 per cent increase on 1990/91.
SUSOC revealed at its conference at Nottingham Trent University this week that a large part of the increase is due to dramatically improved bar takings, which stood at Pounds 44 million in 1994/95, up 16 per cent on 1993/94 and up 63 per cent on 1990/91.
Union shops also increased their trading surplus for 1994/95 to Pounds 14 million, up 16 per cent on the previous year. Some Pounds 13 million was ploughed back into improving facilities and services.
SUSOC secretary Michael Baron, general manager of the student union at Heriot-Watt University, said: "The increase is not because students are drinking more beer but because student union bars are increasing their market share. As student income comes down they can no longer afford high street pub prices."
David Lodge, bars manager for the University of London Union, said: "We are now competing directly with high street bars and the facilities we provide at ULU, including a disco night club, are as good as if not better than most. This is attracting more students who find our bars not only cheaper but safer too."