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Student Policy on Alcohol and Drugs

1. Introduction


1.1 Queen’s University (the University) is committed to promoting a safe and supportive environment in which to study and work. The University wishes to ensure that the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff, and the reputation of the University and its students, are not jeopardised through alcohol or drug misuse.

1.2 The University recognises its responsibility to promote safe behaviours regarding the consumption of alcohol and to comply with its legal requirements regarding the misuse of alcohol and drugs on University premises. It also recognises its responsibility to consider the needs of those who, for personal, cultural or religious reasons, do not drink alcohol.

1.3 The University is committed to raising awareness of the dangers of alcohol or drug misuse. While it actively discourages the misuse of alcohol or drugs on University premises, the policy seeks to put student health and wellbeing at the centre.

1.4 Students experiencing a health problem caused by the use of alcohol or drugs are actively encouraged to come forward, with reassurance that the University will offer support, help and guidance in a non-judgemental environment.

2. Scope

2.1 This policy relates to all students of the University, when studying / working on University premises or elsewhere, undertaking activities on behalf of the University or attending University related social events.

3. Purpose

3.1 The policy clarifies to students;

  1. The University's view on the use of alcohol or illicit drugs.
  2. The responsibilities of students and others if they suspect they or a colleague may have a problem with the use of alcohol or illicit drugs.
  3. How they can seek support if they consider that they or a colleague may have a problem with the use of alcohol or illicit drugs.
  4. How the University’s duty of care interacts with other University policies, for example those relating to student conduct (whether on-or off-campus), discipline and academic absence.

4. Legislative background

4.1 The University has statutory responsibilities and a duty of care for students and staff under a number of legislative instruments which include:

  1. Health & Safety at Work (N. I.) Order 1978;
  2. Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (N.I.) 2000;
  3. Misuse of Drugs Order (N.I.) 2001;
  4. Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

4.2 Some Schools have students who work, or are on placements in healthcare trusts, care settings, Schools or potentially hazardous working environments. These students are required to adhere to the policies within the organisation to maximise the safety of themselves, other staff, patients, children and vulnerable adults in such settings. Likewise, when allocating placements to students, Schools are required to consider not only the risks to students but also the safety of the staff, patients, children and vulnerable adults in such settings. Schools must also consider the potential for damage to premises and equipment and reputational damage to the placement provider and the University. 


5. Definitions 

5.1 Alcohol or Drug* Misuse – this includes drinking alcohol or taking drugs, either intermittently or continuously, such that it adversely affects an individual’s health, performance or conduct, or affects the performance or safety of others.

5.2 Drug – this includes any controlled drug (other than alcohol) that produces physical, mental, emotional or behavioural changes in the user. It also includes controlled drugs and prescription medicines where the prescription medicines have not been prescribed for the person possessing or using them and/or such prescription medicines which are not taken in accordance with a physician’s direction.

5.3 Controlled Drugs – includes all chemical substances or drugs listed in any controlled drugs acts or regulations applicable under the law.

5.4 Addiction to non-prescribed drugs or alcohol is not a disability under current disability legislation.

5.5 This Policy does not include drugs prescribed by doctors for personal use.

6. Policy statement

6.1 No student should, in connection with any University activity:

  1. Attend, or endeavour to attend, study/work having consumed alcohol or drugs likely to render him/her unfit or unsafe for such activities;
  2. Misuse alcohol or drugs on University premises or when representing the university off-campus;
  3. Bring alcohol or drugs onto University premises except, in relation to alcohol for their personal use in residential accommodation;
  4. Attempt to sell or supply alcohol or drugs to any other person on University premises, except in relation to alcohol in areas licenced for such sale or consumption.

6.2 The University recognises that addiction to alcohol and drugs may in some cases be considered a medical condition. Students who may have such a condition will be encouraged to seek help and treatment, voluntarily and at an early stage.

6.3 In addition to treatment services provided by the student’s GP, support and monitoring will be available through the Student Wellbeing Service, in confidence and with the informed consent of the student. Details of a confidential nature will normally only be discussed with the individual’s own doctor, other medical specialist, or other staff (e.g. student support staff) with the prior agreement of the individual.

6.4 Where possible the University will take a supportive approach, however there may be circumstances where action will be taken under other University regulations such as those relating to conduct, discipline, fitness to study and fitness to practise. Such circumstances may include when the behaviour or action is considered to be serious, causing danger or major concern to others, the individual fails to comply with suggested treatment or the alcohol and/or drug misuse is repeated. For students on professional programmes, this could mean a referral to Fitness to Practise and potentially being suspended or excluded from the University,

6.5 The immediate implications of consumption of alcohol to excess or drug misuse does not excuse poor academic performance or misconduct (on- or off-campus) and will not be accepted as a mitigating circumstance in the application of other University policies. However they may be accepted in mitigation in relation to the penalties imposed where it is clear and accepted that a student has a medical issue related to alcohol or drugs misuse.

6.6 Where the use of alcohol or drugs is having a serious detrimental impact on their studies, the Fitness to Continue in Study on the Grounds of Health and/or Safety policy to identify appropriate supports for the student moving forward. This may include a referral to the University Occupational Health Service.  

6.7 Where students work on projects with or for external organisations, the University requires them to comply with any additional requirements of that organisation’s own policies relating to alcohol and drug misuse.

7. Responsibilities 

7.1 Students:

a. Are responsible for ensuring their own behaviour and performance remains appropriate whilst engaged in University activity and is not affected by alcohol or drug misuse. This includes students undertaking placements.

b. Who suspect that they may have an alcohol or drug related problem should seek professional help at an early stage, normally through their GP. Students can also avail of support through the Student Wellbeing Service for signposting and guidance. 

c. Should inform a member of University staff if they suspect a fellow student or another member of staff is under the influence of alcohol or drugs whilst engaged in University activity, especially if the individual is exhibiting behaviour which could result in an accident or danger to themselves or others, or adversely impact on students. Students may additionally decide to speak directly with the individual, however this should be done sensitively. Immediate contact with University Security may also be necessary.

d. Who suspect that another student is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that their performance is immediately impaired through consumption of alcohol or drugs should seek guidance, where practically possible, should report to the Head of School of the student concerned. If such a student is attending a placement where they will be in contact with patients, vulnerable adults, children or may be working with hazardous equipment, action may need to be taken promptly. The member of staff informed must consider whether it is safe for the student to travel home independently. It may be necessary to make arrangements for the student to be accompanied, to contact a friend or family member or to arrange a taxi.

e. Should inform their tutor/advisor of studies if they are taking prescribed medication which may affect their ability to study or work safely. The tutor/advisor of studies may seek further guidance from the Occupational Health Service.

f. Must comply with any policies relating to drugs or alcohol as set out by a placement provider.

g. Must make themselves aware of the law in relation to the purchase of and/or supply of alcohol to those under the age of 18.

7.2 Staff:

a. Should ensure that students are aware of this policy and the supports available to them.

b. Should ensure that this policy is implemented fairly and equitably within their School.

c. Should discuss with the student as soon as possible if their behaviour, performance or absence indicates a possible problem with alcohol or drug misuse.

d. Should ensure that, at events where alcohol is being served, non-alcoholic alternatives are available. Staff should also ensure that alcohol is not used to excess by any individual at such events.

e. Should ensure, where relevant, there are systems for notification of third parties (e.g. healthcare trusts, regulatory bodies, the PSNI or next of kin) of their concerns relating to a student’s alcohol or drug misuse. This should only be necessary when they have reasonable grounds to believe the person may pose a safety risk to themselves or others or if there is a legal requirement to do so. In these circumstances the Head of School will normally notify the student before proceeding.

7.3   Professional Support Services including the Occupational Health Service (OHS):

a. Will provide information, through health promotion / wellbeing activities, to students on safe drinking, harm reduction messaging associated with alcohol/drug misuse; alternatives to alcohol, and skills to enable individuals to cope with the social pressures to misuse alcohol or drugs.

b. Will assess students referred for a medical opinion on their fitness to continue in study. Reports will normally be provided to other University staff only with consent or in cases of patient safety (breach of confidentiality).

c. Will monitor progress and advise on the rehabilitation of students back to study after treatment of an alcohol or drug problem.

8. Review

8.1 This policy will be reviewed in not more than 3 years.