Universities ignoring binge drinking culture and failing to protect students' wellbeing, say teachers

Survey of school leaders finds universal concern over pastoral support offered at higher education institutions

Universities are failing in their duty of care to undergraduates by ignoring the binge drinking culture and failing to help young people settle into student life, according to head teachers.

A survey of school leaders at both private and state schools revealed almost universal concern over the level of pastoral support on offer at higher education institutions.

The findings come amid evidence of growing mental health problems and a sharp increase in the number of suicides among those in full-time education.

The research seen by The Independent was carried out by Dr Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College, who today launches a four point plan to help stem the growing levels of psychological distress among undergraduates.

A questionnaire sent to 104 heads from both state academies, private and specialist schools showed a growing gulf in confidence in what lay ahead for their former charges.

It found that 96 per cent of heads believed adults in higher education were failing to demonstrate a meticulous enough approach to the wellbeing of young people studying away from home for the first time.

Nearly nine out of ten thought that senior academics were turning a blind eye to drunkenness whilst more than 80 per cent considered there was a serious issue with pastoral care – a similar number that felt universities were not doing enough to help students settle into residential life on campus.

Seven out of 10 heads conceded that schools were not doing enough to prepare young people for undergraduate life and living on their own.

Dr Seldon said the findings were a “damning indictment” and that more must be done to ease the passage into adult study.

“The majority of undergraduates have a great time but a significant minority do not and an unacceptable number have psychological problems,” said Dr Seldon.

“There is a belief among vice chancellors that young people are adults and can fend for themselves. But 18-year-olds today are a lot less robust and worldly wise.

“They might also argue that there is not the money to provide better support. They are putting what they have into academia and there is arguably not enough for that.

They are also competing to get students in the first place and a carefree lifestyle is part of the attraction. Who will want to go to a university where the beer is more expensive and the bar closes early?” he added.

A recent study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found 29 per cent of those students referred to the health services showed clinical levels of distress.

Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK, which represents the higher education sector, said institutions took the issue of wellbeing seriously and that whilst student unions now encouraged alcohol-free events, binge drinking was an issue for the whole of society.

 “Universities recognise the importance of monitoring a student’s transition into higher education, and many provide training for staff so that they can be alert for students at risk.

“They have in place extensive support for students, including welfare officers, advice centres, hall wardens and university counselling services,” he said.

In his plan launched tomorrow in the Times Higher Education, Dr Seldon is calling for every new student to be offered a personal tutor and for better communication between schools and universities over vulnerable youngsters.

He is also urging tougher action on binge-drinking and for universities to adopt wellbeing or happiness classes of the type pioneered at Wellington College.

Last year the Office for National Statistics has reported a 36 per cent rise in the number of male students in full time education taking their own lives between 2007 and 2011 with a doubling in the number of female students committing suicide over the same period.

Pete Mercer, NUS vice-president (welfare) said: “Universities should do all they can to provide comprehensive pastoral and welfare support for their students. Services could be delivered by the institution themselves or by supporting the students union or local services.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Governors for Victoria Education Centre and Sports College

Voluntary non trustee post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable