Ban urged on alcohol-fuelled university 'initiation' events

University rugby clubs and student societies should be banned from holding booze-fuelled initiation ceremonies, a group of Government advisers said.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs attacked what it called the "culture of excessive drinking" in universities and colleges. In a report, it called on vice-chancellors and college heads to withdraw funding for clubs and societies which organise both initiation ceremonies and drinking games.

It also criticised universities which allow drink promotion leaflets to be included in Freshers' Week packs.

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Caroline Healy, who chaired the group which wrote the report, raised fears over rising levels of crime, injury and sickness linked to alcohol.

She said: "The increase in the reporting of alcohol-related illness, injury and crime means our main concern remains young people's interaction with alcohol, particularly around its promotion and availability."

The report said: "Consideration should be given to encouraging universities to withdraw financial support from sports and other clubs and societies that promote irresponsible and excessive drinking (e.g. initiation ceremonies and drinking games)"

"It is important that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills take the lead in ensuring that further and higher education establishments take action to control the culture of excessive drinking that is prevalent in educational establishments for young people."

Exeter University banned initiation ceremonies after a student, Gavin Britton, died from alcohol poisoning on a night out with a group of student golfers in 2006.

The 18-year-old first-year finance undergraduate was found dead in the city centre on the morning after the pub crawl.

The report, Pathways to Problems, called for wider Government action to tackle the culture of alcohol abuse and to encourage moderate drinking.

Ministers should take a "more proactive" approach to tackling binge drinking, it said.

'ENSHRINE HOSPITAL FOOD CODES IN LAW'

Standards to improve hospital food should be legally binding, a food expert said today.

Professor Tim Lang, who has advised the Government on food and nutrition, said more needed to be done to tackle the poor quality of NHS meals.

It comes as the Good Food for Our Money campaign published a report claiming

the Government has

ignored five warnings since 2006 that voluntary attempts to improve hospital food are failing. The report puts the cost to the taxpayer over the last decade at more than 54m.

The campaign is run by Sustain, a charity which calls for better food and farming.

Professor Lang said: "Improving hospital food would bring great benefits to many millions of patients, but it would also inspire consumers to choose healthier food when out of hospital care and support British farmers to go even further to improve their produce."