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Guest blog: NUS Alcohol Impact sign-ups 2017-18

As you might have heard, NUS Alcohol Impact is a whole-institution programme to create the conditions for a social norm of responsible alcohol consumption by students. It is a strategic framework and supported accreditation mark designed to bring higher education institutions and students’ unions together in partnership. Further information here.

The programme takes a social change theory approach to tackling cultures of irresponsible drinking, ultimately reducing harm to students, improving welfare, well-being and academic achievement, creating more inclusive spaces, and enhancing the student experience.

Participating institutions and students' unions work through a list of criteria ranging from shaping alcohol policy, to working in partnership with local community groups and residents. An online workbook provides resources and highlights areas of good practice.

As part of the mandatory criteria Alcohol Impact institutions develop steering groups which lead on the project work and develop strategic influence. This year, steering groups have involved a range of internal and external partners such as students, welfare and commercial teams, student services, academics and local police, NHS, and substance misuse services to work towards embedding an institution-wide approach to responsible alcohol consumption.

Each year institutions and students’ unions involved in Alcohol Impact promote a survey to their students to help NUS build a picture of student attitudes and experiences linked to alcohol consumption, and also to track long-term trends in alcohol-related attitudes and behaviours. Since the launch of the survey over three years ago, 36,000 students have completed it.

This year, institutions used statistics from the central NUS students and alcohol survey to influence student social norms about drinking attitudes and behaviours. Two videos were produced by Keele University and Students’ union. Students were asked to guess the answers to various questions about students and drinking in order to address their misconceptions (see below):

University of the West of England academics, with expertise in social norms marketing, have supported their Students’ Union in redeveloping their ‘late night do it right’ campaign. The campaign includes promoting social norms posters, volunteers being stationed in Bristol city centre giving away water, tea and toast, and supporting safer travel home after a night out. A PhD student is currently investigating the effectiveness of the intervention. Prior to arrival, students receive information about the initiative and related Alcohol Impact work in their welcome guides. University staff also mirror key messages through social media and at their 'healthy university' stalls during welcome weeks.

Typically, institutions and students’ union take two years to complete accreditation. Institutions and students’ unions participating in Alcohol Impact are audited by students trained by NUS. Over two days, auditors conduct a review of evidence, verify it, and determine scoring – working in pairs to review each criterion. As part of the audit, students lead interviews with key programme stakeholders such as the NHS, alcohol-related charities, and the police – who may have supported the programme in the wider community.

Students evaluating Alcohol Impact learn about approaches to responsible alcohol consumption at their institution, gain practical skills in auditing, improve their communication skills, and gain a valuable addition to their CV. To evidence their experience, auditors are awarded a certificate of completion, a letter of recommendation and a transferable skills document.

We have received really positive feedback from students about their auditing experience. Here are some quotes:

"Alcohol Impact is really effective in fostering cross-collaboration and working towards cultural change. The partnership seems to be fully invested in pursuing the accreditation to its highest ambition."

“It’s a great initiative to promote inclusion and change of perceptions and behaviours linked to alcohol consumption which can lead to better relationships for students.”

“Alcohol Impact is a very good idea and is such an important issue in universities. Auditing was something I had never heard of but now I have taken part these skills will help me in the future.”

NUS also runs focus groups with students as part of Alcohol Impact, gathering valuable insight about student drinking behaviours and student opinions on the programme and their institution and students’ union’s approach to alcohol-related work. The focus groups have four concrete aims:

  • To explore student opinions of the drinking culture at university;

  • To find out about influences and impacts of student drinking;

  • To discuss individual drinking behaviours and attitudes;

  • To discuss opinions on initiatives taking place on campus

Once accredited, an awards ceremony takes place to recognise the efforts of those who are working towards a culture of more responsible alcohol consumption. This year, the University of Bradford won a vice chancellor award for their work on Alcohol Impact.

There are prerequisites, and a participation fee – more information can be found here.

If you are interested in joining in 2017-18, or have any other questions, contact

Lucy Henry, NUS Alcohol Impact Programme Manager.

Indicator 1.3 of the Student Night Out Instrument of the ProtectED Code of Practice requires accredited universities to be working towards achieving NUS Alcohol Impact accreditation.

Note: The views and opinions expressed by authors of Guest Blog posts and by those providing comments do not necessarily reflect those of ProtectED. Information on products or services is provided “as is” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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