Students think freshers’ week is a waste of time and money and would prefer to start courses straight away than spend the first days drinking, leading independent school head teachers have said.
Their worries emerged as rising fees have meant students are increasingly more concerned about getting “value for money” at university.
Head teachers have argued “teetotal” teenagers are increasingly aware they can’t enjoy freshers’ week in venues “where you can’t say no to drinking”.
Last month there were scenes of chaos on the streets of Birmingham and Bristol as students marked the start of freshers’ week.
But the National Student Union (NUS) said their members were “rising to the challenge” and providing “different opportunities” to students.
There has been some concern among leading heads that students aren’t prepared to the hands-off approach at universities where the number of contact hours drop dramatically.
Speaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), headmasters said that their sixth formers are demanding “more actual university stuff to happen” at the start of university life.
Addressing reporters, William Richardson, the general secretary of HMC, said: “They say we 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.”
He added: “[Student unions] 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. Freshers’ week did definitely get out of control ten years ago, and [they] are reining it back in.”
Peter Hamilton, principal at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boy’s School, said students are very eager to get on with studying early on at university because they often come from a highly-pressurised environment at school.
He said: “It is the move from the highly structured to the less well structured and for many people that is a cause of great anxiety as well.
Sometimes freshers’ week is so far off the scale the wrong way that it is a big problem for them. –
“For many people, you will remember the school day, almost every second is mapped out. They go to university and find that is not the case.
“Added onto that that they’re paying £9,000 a year for it and the fact they’ve just come from a highly pressured sixth form where it’s been work-work-results-results and you can kind of see why they’re so serious.
“They want to get on with this.”
Richard Brooks, 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.”