Work-minded students want to sidestep partying during Freshers' Week and start their courses earlier


You might have though Freshers' Week was one of the best parts of the first year of university but it turns out some students would rather give it a miss.

Many new students see the time as an isolating and expensive experience centred around heavy boozing, and would rather start their courses early instead, private school headteachers have said.

Freshers' Week - which began yesterday, marking the official start of the new academic year across many UK universities - has become a rite of passage for many undergraduates, with an official emphasis on joining varsity teams, clubs and societies.

But the week, which usually lasts up to a fortnight, often involves the drinking games, initiations and pub crawls.

Freshers' Week

William Richardson, general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), said anecdotal evidence from students across the country showed many were anxious to begin studying rather than partying, particularly as they faced rising tuition fees which could leave them with debts running into tens of thousands of pounds.

He said: "They (students) say they want to start studies in the first week - I think we've heard that everywhere.

"There is concern about Freshers' Week being culturally very clunky. So, the teetotal, faith-based female student, who wants to enjoy Freshers' Week at a venue where you can't say no to drinking - that's definitely an issue."

Richardson was speaking as a new intake of undergraduates begins life at universities across the country, with many paying fees of up to £9,000 a year.

He said: "We've had a chat with the presidents of the students' unions. Their concern is quite interesting - they want all students to feel included in the induction and sometimes Freshers' Week is so far off the scale the wrong way that it is a big problem for them. They want it reformed, I think.


"Freshers' Week did definitely get out of control 10 years ago, and (they) are reining it back in. The university authorities have a problem - (they say) 'We want independent study and they (the students) are all 18. We can't mollycoddle them.' They need guiding, these kids."

It comes as a study of 2,000 students from independent schools shows the biggest proportion (27%) are most concerned about workload, while one in four (25%) are most worried about money.

Richard Brooks, National Union of Students (NUS) vice president for union development, said: "Students are asking more and more for different opportunities to meet other students in a variety of spaces.

"Students' unions are rising to the challenge and providing a range of events that reflect this and finding ways to welcome new and returning students. NUS research has previously shown students are becoming more interested in all sorts of activities."

NUS research published in February hinted at changes to student life, with 87% of respondents saying coffee shops were the most used facility, ahead of the union shop (81%), clubs and societies (78%), and bars (74%).