The number of students disciplined by universities across the UK for drug use has risen by 40% in the last two years.
Both the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University insist they take a tough line on drugs as well as offering support for those struggling with misuse.
Tellingly, however, when asked both institutions refused to provide actual figures for the number of students they had disciplined for drug use.
- Stretch of one of Kent’s busiest roads will be 50mph for next two years
- Cyclist taken to hospital after collision with police car
One former student who had friends studying at both universities says drug use and drug sales are “rife” within them.
She said cannabis is the most prevalent drug, but added that harder drugs like cocaine, speed, ecstasy and the horse tranquilliser ketamine are also available.
The 24-year-old told the Canterbury Journal: “It really is very easy to get your hands on drugs in Canterbury’s universities.
“And in most cases the people dealing the drugs are students themselves. Set yourself up in a hall as a dealer and you can get a lot of business.
“In many cases, the students dealers will have connections in their home towns – especially if they come from London – and can bring drugs down to Canterbury.”
Drug use among students in Canterbury is not without its consequences – nor its tragedies. In 2014, Christ Church student Robert Chavda died aged 21 after taking the so-called party drug MDMA.
He was found by his housemates at the property they rented in Sussex Avenue on the Spring Lane Estate. An inquest heard that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage as result of taking MDMA.
Earlier this month a nationwide study of drug use among UK universities found that the number of students disciplined for it had risen by 40% in two years.
Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, is planning to create a drug free university with students asked to sign a contract promising not to misuse illegal substances – or face expulsion if they do.
He believes UK universities are failing “their students on drugs and mental health”.
“I see drugs as a massive cause of damage to happiness and as a contributor to mental ill-health, often for life,” Sir Anthony said.
“Many students each year will take drugs with comparative impunity, although we do not know the long-term harm they might be doing to themselves.
“Nor do we know the full extent of the harm they might have done to others when under the influence of those drugs.”
The National Union of Students estimates that two in five students are drug users.
Christ Church says it is committed to providing “a safe environment” for its students. “This includes acting upon any incident or information where it is considered that there is a potential misuse of drugs,” spokesman Jeanette Earl said.
“We recognise that all drugs are potentially dangerous and can have varying effects on individuals, both physically and psychologically.
“Therefore, we pro-actively try to prevent any issues with communication campaigns throughout the academic year which promote good health and raises awareness of the risks of drug misuse.
“We also invite all new students to attend a presentation on the myths and truth about University life and covers the potential effects of both alcohol and drugs.
“Our student support and well-being advisers also offer ongoing support to our students through their daily drop in service, where they are can provide advice and guidance on all aspects of university life, including alcohol and drug issues.”
University of Kent spokesman Sandy Fleming added: “The possession, taking or selling of illegal drugs and drug dealing are criminal offences which are a matter for the police and courts.
- Too many Canterbury decisions made by planners from outside city
- MP: We need more of Tessa’s “kinder” politics
“The university may take disciplinary action where there has been a breach of our non-academic student discipline regulations.
“In some cases, students who seek help for addiction to drugs may be seen in the strictest confidence, and provided with advice and help.
“College masters are also available to support students with drug-related problems or refer them to the well-being team for counselling or to arrange further support.”
If you or anyone you know is suffering from substance misuse, you can seek help from the charity Turning Point. Visit its website here.