When most graduates think back to their first few weeks at university, a nostalgic smile will often appear on their faces; if they can remember much, that is, as alcohol consumption during induction weeks can dramatically increase breweries’ annual revenue. However, it turns out that these first few weeks aren’t that much fun for everyone, and it’s actually a crucial period for freshers, as this time period will decide whether they will finish their studies or drop out of university.
A recent study conducted by the European Commission showed that Denmark has the highest university dropout rate in Europe, with one in three students dropping out during the first year, so the Danish Evaluation Institute (EVA) decided to conduct research in order to shed some light on why this is happening. More than 14,000 new Danish undergraduates were asked about their first weeks at university, including their alcohol consumption during that period. The researchers were surprised to find out that those who drink moderately are less likely to drop out than those who don’t drink at all, or those who drink excessively. The explanation was simple: socialisation.
Alcohol is an ice-breaker. It makes it easier for undergraduates to feel comfortable and to spark up a conversation with strangers. It helps them to make friends and create a network that, according to psychologists, helps students to persevere with their studies when things get tough.
“It’s about getting started well on the study. If you feel socially connected to the other students, you feel that you belong. And it may make it less likely to drop out when you encounter resistance during the study period,” says Bjarke Tarpgaard Hartkopf, EVA special consultant and project manager of the survey.
However, those who don’t like drinking alcohol can feel as if they are excluded from the community, and they cannot follow up with the activities that usually take place during induction weeks. This can lead to disappointment, and in some cases it becomes the reason they drop out of university in just a couple of months.
This fascinating study has raised the question of whether universities should change their policies when it comes to alcohol consumption, so that there are alcohol-free start-up activities available, where everyone, drinker or not, can feel included.