All beer and skittles? A qualitative pilot study of the role of alcohol in university college life

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This paper reports the results of a small qualitative pilot study on the role of alcohol in college life, undertaken at three residential colleges at an Australian university. Focus groups (involving 43 students aged between 17 and 23 years) investigated participants? views of the social functions of alcohol in the residential college environment. Participants regarded drinking as an entrenched and highly valued aspect of college culture at all three colleges. They portrayed alcohol as contributing in positive ways to `sociability and relaxation? as well as `bonding and social inclusion? at college. Although drinking was acknowledged as disruptive of students? sleep, study, and daily routines, such impacts were often played down or normalised. The article concludes that normative studies, with a particular focus on first-year students, may be fruitful avenues for reducing alcohol-related harm among college-based university students. Qualitative studies like the one reported here can provide detailed, context-specific information about `local drinking cultures?, which are essential for informed decision-making about intervention approaches and policy change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Universities' Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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