Canada’s universities take action to address students’ risky drinking

June 10, 2014

HALIFAX – Nearly 40 university leaders met in Halifax yesterday to share strategies to reduce students’ high-risk drinking and explore ways to work together to curb the problem.

The day-long workshop, co-hosted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and Acadia University, looked at the possibility of launching a new cross-Canada collaboration among universities and colleges to reduce high-risk drinking on Canadian campuses.

The workshop brought together university presidents, vice-presidents and directors of student services as well as representatives of community colleges.  They laid the groundwork for a collaborative initiative among postsecondary institutions to decrease high-risk alcohol use and identified next steps – both immediate and long-term – to move this effort forward.

Participants heard from Ann Dowsett Johnston, public policy advocate and author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship between Women and Alcohol, and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer.  A video keynote address by Jim Kim, president of The World Bank and former president of Dartmouth College which led the National College Health Improvement Program’s learning collaborative on high-risk drinking in the United States, opened the event.

This was the latest in a series of AUCC workshops for Canada’s university presidents aimed at taking action to improve students’ well-being and educational success. Other ongoing efforts focus on addressing mental health challenges on campus and the strengthening the role of university leadership in student-led orientation activities.

The workshop was co-sponsored by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services as part of its annual conference in Halifax, June 8-11, 2014.

Quick Facts

  • Statistics Canada reports that one-third of Canadians aged 18-24 drink heavily (five drinks or more in one session) once a month.
  • A survey of Canadian campuses in 2004 by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that young adults attending a postsecondary institution are more likely to engage in risky drinking than their peers who are not in school:
    • 32% undergraduates report drinking at a dangerous level versus 26% of general population aged 18-24,
    • 10% of undergraduate students surveyed reported having experienced alcohol-related violence,
    • 9.8% reported being the victims of alcohol-related sexual harassment, and
    • 14.1% reported having unplanned sexual relations because of being inebriated.
  • To reduce rates of harmful alcohol consumption and promote moderation, several programs, policies and interventions have been proposed and implemented at postsecondary institutions in North America.  The National College Health Improvement Project in the United States, created in 2010 by former Dartmouth College president and physician Jim Kim, is one program aimed at improving the health of college students.
  • Universities are taking a range of actions to curb risky drinking on campus, including developing advertising campaigns, providing specific student-leader training for orientation week, providing dry residences and banning happy hours and last call at campus pubs.
  • In 2011, Canada’s universities made a commitment to Canadians to enhance university students’ learning experience.


“Universities are taking positive steps to cut down high-risk drinking on campus.  We increasingly understand the damage alcohol can cause students – from jeopardizing their educational experiences to putting their safety at risk. This workshop allowed university leaders to begin developing a made-in-Canada solution to learn more about solutions for a complex problem.”
Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

“High-risk drinking cannot be accepted as a traditional rite of passage for university students. There are serious – and very often harmful – impacts related to alcohol consumption on our campuses. As university presidents, we care about our students and want them to be safe. We are therefore committed to finding a way forward that reduces the probability of harms among our student population.”
Ray Ivany, president, Acadia University
AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.


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About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities.

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Universities Canada
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