“In the last number of years, university and college authorities have expressed concerns on a number of issues – alcohol promotion practices on campus, high-risk drinking among students, the impact of this drinking pattern on student academic achievement, student personal problems and student attrition.” (Framework for Developing A College Alcohol Policy, 2001)
It is over 15 years since a standardised framework for developing an alcohol policy in each of Ireland’s third-level institutions was delivered. The concerns expressed in 2001 are still relevant today, perhaps more so, particularly given the excesses of the Celtic Tiger years. Despite the clear framework for action outlined in 2001, a sector-wide co-ordinated approach aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm has not been realised.
There have been a number of notable developments in the interim period. These include the development of a recommended alcohol action plan for the university setting following a seminar in NUIG in 2010, the implementation of such an alcohol action plan in UCC since 2010 which led to national recognition at the Irish Healthcare Awards in 2012, and most crucially, the decision of the Union of Student in Ireland (USI) to disassociate itself from Drinkaware.ie in 2013. The USI further committed to, in future, collaborate only with non-industry funded partners in delivering alcohol interventions targeting students.
To build on this momentum, UCC Health Matters, the Irish Student Health Association (ISHA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) agreed to collaborate on the development of the REACT project, with funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Healthy Ireland. The goal of the project is to deliver an award and accreditation scheme in the third-level sector that recognises and rewards an institution’s efforts to reduce alcohol-related harm among its students.