Institutions are failing to safeguard students from the potential risks of drugs, according to a new report by the National Union of Students and the charity Release.
Over 2,800 students took part in the survey, with 56% of respondents reporting that they had taken drugs at some point in their lifetime.
The same percentage of universities (out of the 151 institutions studied) can discipline students for behaviour surrounding drugs which is not a criminal offence.
In response to the news, Jess Bradley, NUS’ Trans Officer, said: “The overwhelming narrative is one of students not getting the right support from educational institutions, and of being harmed by punitive drug policies where they are in place.
“National drug policy is frequently criticised for its moralistic approach which lacks a basis in evidence and focuses on punishment rather than support.
“It’s clear that our educational institutions must engage in meaningful work to minimise any harms associated with both the criminalisation of students who use drugs and of drug use itself.”
The report also found that there were at least 2,067 recorded cases of student misconduct for the possession of drugs, with one in four incidents (531 cases) being reported to the police as a result.
It also says that 24 of the institutions studied (15.9%) incorrectly advise students that using drugs is a criminal offence.
Zoe Carre, Policy Researcher at Release, said the organisation is “deeply concerned” about the “punitive approach taken towards student drug use in some institutions”.
“The fact that at least 21 students were permanently excluded from their studies for simply possessing a drug, and one in four students caught with drugs for their own personal use were reported to the police, is archaic and harmful – this type of approach prevents people from seeking support if they need it.
“The reality is that students take drugs and educational institutions must have policies and procedures in place that protect the student population, this can only be done by providing vital harm reduction information, so that they can make more informed choices and be as safe as possible.
“We are witnessing record high deaths involving cocaine and MDMA/ecstasy, and it is incumbent on institutions to take steps to protect the health and wellbeing of students who use drugs.”
Meanwhile, the University of Lincoln has an alcohol and substance misuse policy, which states that “any student believed to be under the influence” of drugs, “either legal or illegal”, may be “told to leave the University buildings”.
“They may also be subject to disciplinary action (up to and including expulsion) or exclusion from University buildings,” it reads.
It also says that “it is in the interest of the University and its students” that those “suffering from illness related to alcohol/substance misuse are identified” and seek help “as early as possible”.
In a statement to The Linc, a spokesperson for the University of Lincoln said: “We offer advice and guidance around drug prevention for all students throughout the year, beginning with Welcome Week.
“Both face-to-face and online support is also available through our Student Wellbeing team, which can signpost to specialist care where needed.
“The standards of behaviour we expect from our students are found in the student charter.”