As home for many young people through some of their most formative years, universities are often faced with the challenge of safeguarding and supporting their students beyond the realms of the classroom. In recent weeks, there have been several news stories about ‘injection spiking’, whereby someone is injected with a drug without their knowledge. We wanted to know how this is impacting students and what universities can do to help them feel safe.
We know that the social side of university is incredibly important for students’ wellbeing and for them to feel connected. But 87% of students told us the recent news stories about injection spiking have made them feel less safe on nights out. Many students told us that they have either stopped going out altogether because of fears of being spiked, or have reduced how often they go out and are now much more cautious. Some students are even covering themselves with layers of clothing in attempts to stay safe. Students told us:
“I haven't been out since [these stories] came into the eye of the media.”
“Have not been on a night out since before lockdown as a result of these added fears. Not only the news reports, but also the experience of someone I know within their student accommodation.”
“I have started covering more skin, like wearing a shirt instead of a crop top and I am always aware of my surroundings. I look at who is standing close to me and where their hands are.”
“Much more aware of how much I'm drinking and who is around me, I feel a lot less able to enjoy myself and 'let loose' in a club.”
Only 7% of students say they feel very safe on nights out, and a shocking one in 10 said they had been spiked in the past. Eight in 10 students told us that they keep hold of their drink at all times when out and do not accept drinks from strangers in order to stay safe on nights out. 84% of students also said they always stay with a group of friends when out and 70% said they call/text their friends to let them know when they are home safe.
Students suggest universities can help them feel more safe on nights out by:
Providing free anti-spiking tools, such as drink covers and drink testing kits.
“There are drink covers that turn into scrunchies or accessories. Universities could hand those out for free.”
“Provide cup protectors and have lectures on how spiking affects someone”
Educating students on what spiking is, how to avoid it, and what to do if they or their friends have been spiked.
“Increase awareness of spiking and what it is like as well as measures that can be taken to reduce this.”
“Perhaps a workshop or brief talk on what to do if you do feel like your drink is spiked and what signs to look out for in a drink, tips to be careful.”
“Anti-spiking measures in student unions, education about how to tell if you/someone else have been spiked, and what to do if so. Also educate men to not spike women.”
Increase the presence of security guards and searching people more thoroughly when entering venues.
“Make sure on student nights there are verified and first-aid trained security guards that the uni is aware of that will look after you if you are spiked.”
“Security in areas that students frequent and also maybe a location someone can go if they feel like they're being followed.”
“Higher security at their own venues and make sure peoples bags are being searched properly.”
Providing transport support, such as discounted taxis and shuttle services from halls into town or an emergency helpline where the university will pay for a taxi if the student is unable to and have the student refund the university when they can do so.
“Provide taxis that you can pay with student card/ID.”
“Organise shuttle buses to clubs and accommodation.”
“Provide help with paying for safe ways home.”
Harsher punishments for students caught spiking drinks, such as expulsion.
“Encourage the heavy prosecution of anyone involved in spiking, as well as expelling any of their own students who do it.”
“Spread more awareness and emphasise that students caught acting antisocially/spiking drinks will be punished by the university as well as the police.”
“Harsher punishments for offenders, not just a slap on the wrist.”
The worries and fears that students face must be concerns that universities take seriously and prioritise. And step one of being able to do that is being able to hear directly from the students themselves. Get in touch if you would like to hear more about how you can use the Student Pulse panel to make your students feel heard.