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  • 2018MarshPhD

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The student drinking experience: expectations, friendship and drinking practices

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
Publication date2018
Number of pages261
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The ‘student experience’ is a recent ‘buzzword’ that has emerged in the UK alongside the repositioning of students as consumers (see Bunce et al, 2016). Universities market themselves as providing the means for students to be both academically and socially ‘successful’, however, the dominant form of socialising for students, outside of everyday life at university, is participating in a university drinking cultures (UDC). This raises a number of issues in relation to risk, harm reduction, gender, inclusivity and reputation. There is a plethora of data and literature that proposes methods and interventions to decrease both young people’s harmful drinking and the associated behaviours (e.g. Harrison et al, 2011; Hutton, 2012; Ramstedt et al, 2013; Spencer, 2013; Kelley, 2017). However, young people are notoriously difficult to reach with harm reduction and safety campaigns which stem from a top-down approach denying the pleasures, agency and social ties (Thurnell-Read, 2016) of those they are aimed at. Drawing on observations and analysis of qualitative interviews with a range of university students, staff, and a secret Facebook focus group with pre-university students, this research argues that students are aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption but actively prioritise friendship and their social lives over any concerns, whilst negotiating the drinking culture with their own strategies or ‘risk rituals’ (Moore & Burgess, 2011). Indeed, friendship was a key concern for participants in this study, with UDC utilised by students to both meet new friends and maintain friendships. However, with the societal idea and ‘norm’ of the typical student bound up in UDC, and with its relation to friendship practices, I argue that students who abstain from or limit alcohol intake at university are subject to ‘dividing practices’ (Foucault, 1982). There is an awareness of this amongst young people; highlighted here by the pre-university students who discussed their expectations of UDC and planned/established ‘survival’ techniques should they wish to avoid it. Expectations then, serve to affect the transition of students to university life, for unrealistic expectations can cause stress and discomfort. This thesis draws together ideas of a UDC, expectations, friendship, gender, dividing practices, the student as a ‘subject’ and risk rituals to provide a snapshot of the current ‘student drinking experience’ and its implications.