News and Views

Third-level institutions honoured for efforts to reduce alcohol harm

28 Aug 2019
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Dr Michael Byrne, Head of Student Health Service, UCC. Photo: DCU.

Students and staff across 10 of Ireland’s third level institutions have been recognised today (August 28) for their efforts to reduce harm experienced by students from excessive alcohol consumption with a UCC-led programme.

Developed in 2015 by UCC Health Matters — in collaboration with the Union of Students in Ireland and the Irish Student Health Association, and jointly funded by the HSE and the philanthropic Tomar Trust — REACT is an awards and accreditation scheme for third-level institutions, which have implemented an action plan in partnership with their students and student leaders.

In 2015, 15 of the country’s third-level institutions expressed an interest in committing to the programme, which aims to reduce the adverse consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. Ten institutions continued their efforts over the past four years and submitted details of their actions for evaluation and accreditation by independent reviewers in June this year.

The institutions were required to complete eight mandatory actions and select from 18 optional actions to implement their institution-specific action plans, which were rolled out over the past four years.

Dr Michael Byrne, the Director of REACT from UCC, said: “REACT is about working in partnership with our students to address the issue of harms from excessive alcohol use. It is an innovative way to encourage institutions to translate good intentions into actions and paper-based policies into whole institution plans.”

NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, DCU, IT Sligo, IT Tralee, Letterkenny IT, Limerick IT, Mary Immaculate College, UCC and UL will receive awards at the ceremony, to be held at DCU.

Actions have included the provision of an online behavioural change tool on alcohol for incoming first-year students, the inclusion of alcohol and intoxication as a named hazard to be considered in planning and running large-scale student events, and training of university staff to deliver screening and brief intervention therapy.

DCU introduced the option of alcohol-free accommodation for its students, and Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo partnered with the National Alcohol Forum in delivering its interventions, with REACT being the cornerstone of the Letterkenny local alcohol community action plan.

UCC operates a well-developed Student Community Support system, where multiple pairs of trained students are on the streets surrounding campus at night in the weeks of peak social activity, assisting their fellow students.

Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “The 10 winning institutions have strongly aligned themselves with my principles and ambitions for our higher education student’s wellbeing. What these awards do is highlight something that is very important to me, that across the sector we have a clear, focused and ongoing commitment to responding to the issue of excessive alcohol consumption in third level.

“It is particularly heartening to see the wide range of institutions, and I personally congratulate each and every one of them on being leaders in this challenging arena.”

The support of the Union of Students in Ireland and the local student leaders in each of the participating institutions has been central to the success of the programme.

University College Cork

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