Oxbridge's hard-working students turn to ecstasy

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The Independent Online
The use of ecstasy by Oxbridge students has doubled in the last 12 months, according to a survey carried out for the Independent. The numbers taking cocaine and amphetamines have also risen.

But while a small proportion of students are abusing hard drugs, the majority are hardworking and many are deeply religious, research among more than 1,000 of Britain's brightest young people reveals.

The second annual survey conducted by the Oxford and Cambridge student newspapers shows that one-third of the students are virgins and one in eight would not have sex before marriage. Only 3 per cent have had more than 10 sexual partners.

The use of illegal drugs remains common, though. While the proportion who have tried cannabis has stayed stable at around 50 per cent since last November, the number who have tried ecstasy has risen from 6 per cent to 12 per cent.

The use of amphetamines, or speed, is also up, from 1 in 12 students to 1 in 7, while almost 6 per cent have tried cocaine compared with 3 per cent last year. However, LSD is slightly less common than last year and heroin abuse remains negligible, with fewer than 2 per cent having tried it.

However, the amount of alcohol being drunk has dropped dramatically. Just 3 out of 10 Oxbridge students now drink more than the recommended 21 units per week for men, compared with 6 in 10 at the same time last year.

The students show little interest in politics, with 10 per cent saying they will not vote in the next general election. Among those expressing a preference, Labour leads the Conservatives by a wide margin.

The survey also reveals a new, more wholesome, side to university life. Students say the person they most admire is Christ and their favourite book is The Bible. Going to church rates among their favourite activities along with drinking, socialising and listening to music.

Jim Murphy, president of the National Union of Students, said the figures on drugtaking were probably below the national average for the 18-21 age group. But the newly revealed popularity of Jesus and The Bible was bizarre: "I am surprised and shocked. I have never heard anything like it before," he said.

The undergraduates of the 1990s did not seem to worry unduly about finding jobs, despite their predilection for hard work and wholesome play. Almost 7 out of 10 thought their prospects were "good" or "very good", while fewer than 1 in 10 thought the outlook was poor. Women, however, were likely to have a lower opinion of their job chances, with 56 per cent thinking they were good and 15 per cent thinking they were poor.

Survey details, page 6

Boy George row, page 20