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Students: Drugs

Question for Department for Education

UIN 144987, tabled on 22 March 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what his Department's position is in response to the recommendations of the Higher Education Policy Institute's recent report entitled Illicit drug use in universities: zero tolerance or harm reduction?, published on 3 March 2022, which calls on the education sector to drop the zero tolerance approach to illicit drug use for personal users.

Answered on

30 March 2022

This government strongly supports activity by universities and other partners to raise awareness of the harms of illicit drugs and to discourage drug misuse by young people. Illicit drugs are harmful and there is no safe way to take them.

As independent and autonomous institutions, higher education providers are responsible for their own policies in relation to illegal drugs.

Universities UK has set up a taskforce to help universities understand and address drug-use. The first meeting of the taskforce takes place this month and it will look to set out a common approach to reduce harms from drug use and to better tackle supply.

Its work will include production of evidence-led sector guidance, developed with students, staff and wider stakeholders, including recommendations based on harm reduction. The taskforce will also look to better understand supply of, demand for, and use of drugs in the UK student population, as well as make student drug use visible as a welfare and health issue.

The government’s 10-year drugs plan was published in December 2021 and is a formal, substantive response to the independent review of drugs led by Dame Carol Black. The plan includes an aim to drive behaviour change to reduce the demand for drugs, and commits to further research and testing messaging through an evidence-based, targeted behaviour change initiative, initially aimed at students in further and higher education.

The UK student-led charity Students Organising for Sustainability launched the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme in October 2020. University and students’ union partnerships were invited to sign up to a 2-year commitment to obtain accreditation under the scheme. This required achieving levels of practice in areas including knowledge and understanding of student drug use, collaboration with key stakeholders, policy changes, and harm reduction interventions.

The programme was successfully piloted with four partnerships, with two more joining in the 2021/22 academic year. It is now being scaled up.