One thing I’d change about Oxford… Drinking culture

Maxim Parr-Reid criticises the drinking culture in Oxford


Oxford can be a hellish place today, and the pervasive drinking culture is partly to blame. We made freshers’ week into one long booze-up. We hijacked matriculation, ensuring that a dignified ceremony would find itself subject to criticism in national newspapers. When you hear that a fellow student was found unconscious and had to be “looked after” for fear they may choke on their own vomit, you can’t help thinking “something must be done”.

It is not drinking that is so shocking, but the extent of it. I was appalled to find my own college Trinity had made it into the Telegraph due to its students’ penchant for heavy-drinking. Maybe I’m being a bit prudish, allowing my own experiences to colour my view, but there is something slightly degrading about your college, being subject to criticism in a national paper. This, combined with student newspapers’ coverage of the story, serves to somehow vilify my college in a way. We are not all like that, but it does serve to scratch the surface of what I think is a university-wide problem.

It has become a widely-held view, that consent classes and other such methods of public education are beneficial. I’m in no way saying that passing out due to heavy drinking is comparable to sexual assault. It isn’t. But I do think that if we are going to educate students about the rules of consent, then we should do more to explain the effects of heavy-drinking. Having seen the consequences of a lifetime of heavy drinking for members of my own family, university is a formative experience. It should also be an educative one where drinking is concerned.

This is an opportunity to inform people of the consequences of drinking to excess and to reassure those who don’t drink that it is no way obligatory. We have the power to make a difference and raise awareness of the consequences of drinking to excess, I propose that we use it.


  1. As an Oxford postgraduate fresher this year, I am sorry to observe that this subject of excess drinking has not been better dealt with by the University already. I feel my well-meaning decision and preference to abstain from alcohol severely limits the extent to which I feel full included in social activities whilst here at Oxford. This true not only amongst students, but even the staff.

  2. Jesus Christ, this reads like absurdist comedy. How on earth is Oxford in any way, “hellish”?

    Get a grip and have a few pints man.

  3. Sorry but this sort of drinking at university is as old as the hills and a very British rite of passage. It’s perfectly normal for students who have previously been under the wing of their parents or schoolmasters to go a little wild and push their limits when going to university. Also, Oxbridge students making the news for salubrious behaviour is hardly new.

    There are plenty of students who don’t drink, particularly amongst international students, so it’s really not that exclusionary. It’ll die down somewhat after freshers’ week. You’ll be fine.


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