Which universities offer alcohol-free accommodation?

  • 1 in 3 UK universities offer an alcohol-free experience in the form of accommodation
  • Of the universities that offer, 90% of them didn’t offer it five years ago, 28 up from three.
  • A total of 12,000 students specified alcohol-free accommodation in the latest academic year
  • 480% Increase in student applicants since 2015, 200% since 2016

Recently the UK’s Office for National Statistics revealed that there has been a significant fall in the alcohol consumption of those aged 16-24, whilst other studies suggest that those categorised as Generation Z are consuming 20% less per capita than their Millennial counterparts did at the same age. With that in mind, RewardDays wanted to discover just how much the uni drinking scene is shifting – are universities and students transitioning towards a more alcohol-free environment?

To answer our questions, we sent a Freedom of Information request to 130 universities. We asked each:

  1. Is it possible for students to apply for alcohol-free accommodation?
  2. How many students have specified alcohol-free accommodation as a choice during the application process since 2015? Please split by academic year if possible, 2015/16, 2016/17 etc.

By looking into the availability of alcohol-free accommodation, as well as the number of students requesting such flats, we could investigate if the findings of decreased drinking among Gen Z remain true on university campuses. Are more students opting for an alcohol-free uni experience?

Out of the 130 universities, we received responses from 101 universities. 12 of the universities stated that they do not own any of the student accommodations and, thus, do not have access to the data we inquired about. Taking these 12 out of the responses, we were left with 89 responses. 28 of these universities stated that they do offer alcohol-free accommodation and 51 said that they do not.

Universities that offer alcohol-free accommodation

28 universities, roughly 1 in 3, indicated that they do in fact offer alcohol-free accommodation and most were able to provide us with the number of requests they received. We’ve compiled their responses below, from most student requests to least.

Graph showing the universities that offer alcohol-free accommodation

The majority of universities experienced a dip in overall requests in the 2020/21 academic year, likely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shift to online learning. Overall, however, the universities are experiencing an increase in requests for alcohol-free accommodation – with a total increase of 200% in student requests from 2015 to 2020. The greatest increase came from data at the University of Edinburgh which has seen a growth from 18 requests in the 2018/19 academic year to 1685 requests in the 2021/2022 year. Overall the university that has had the most requests is Swansea, which received on average 1,400 requests per year, and over 10,000 in total, with the number increasing by 90% since 2015. Other big increases include Exeter, with a 1,104 average per year and an increase of 36%, as well as Edinburgh, and St Andrews.

No Alcohol-Free Accommodation

Out of the university responses we received, 66% indicated that they do not offer alcohol-free accommodations to their students. These 61 universities provided a variety of reasons for not offering such an option ranging from a lack of demand by students (Bath Spa University) to having “no way of policing whether occupants would stick to the policy” (Southampton Solent University).

Both Coventry University and the University of Nottingham, although not offering an alcohol-free option, have “quiet” or “quieter living” accommodations available to their students. While Nottingham’s quiet accommodation areas have “designated alcohol-free zones” in the halls, the accommodation itself is not fully alcohol-free.

Multiple universities, however, such as Harper Adams University, Bishop Grosseteste University, and the University of Brighton emphasised that they are keeping an eye out for student interest in the area and will look into offering such accommodation should there be increased inquiry.

“Alcohol-free halls sound like a great way to meet like-minded people and have parties or gatherings in an environment where everyone who doesn’t drink alcohol can feel comfortable and safe

Leilani van Someren, President of Sober Socials society at Queen Mary University of London, said this about why students might want to choose sober living whilst at uni: “Alcohol-free halls sound like a great way to meet like-minded people and have parties or gatherings in an environment where everyone who doesn’t drink alcohol can feel comfortable and safe! I personally tend to avoid big events when I know there will be alcohol because I don’t enjoy being the designated sober person to look after everyone else and being around people with little inhibition from drinking. Having an alcohol-free hall would give me the opportunity to have this whole new social experience without having to worry.”

RewardDays founder Alex Cassidy said on the findings: “Increasing options to incoming students, some of whom are paying nearly £10,000 per year for their education, is only ever a good thing. There has been a historically one-dimensional approach to the social element of university, particularly in halls, which can leave those less interested out in the cold. The data shows there has been an increased number of applicants for the universities that offer the service so hopefully more universities follow suit and look into catering for more of their student body in the upcoming years.”

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