Raising the bars a 'moral' matter
V-c: London Met's large Muslim population makes booze 'culturally sensitive'. David Matthews reports
The vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University is considering banning the sale of alcohol in some parts of the institution's campus because a "high percentage" of his students consider drinking to be "immoral".
Malcolm Gillies said he was "not a great fan of alcohol on campus", adding that the issue was one of "cultural sensitivity".
Noting that about 20 per cent of London Met's students are Muslim, he said that "because there's no majority ethnic group, I think it [selling alcohol] is playing to particular parts of our society much more [than to others]".
"It's a negative experience - in fact an immoral experience - for a high percentage of our students," he told an audience at the Association of University Administrators' annual conference in Manchester on 3 April.
Professor Gillies said he would work with the student body to move towards having areas on campus where "one serves alcohol and others don't".
He questioned whether the university should subsidise student bars, although it was not an issue he felt "too strongly" about.
"Many of our students do come from backgrounds where they actually look on [drinking] as a negative," Professor Gillies said.
"And given that around our campuses you have at least half a dozen pubs within 200m, I can't see there is such a pressing reason to be cross-subsidising a student activity which is essentially the selling of alcohol."
The vice-chancellor also said that London Met was "much more cautious" about the portrayal of sex on campus than universities had been 30 to 40 years ago.
"Now we've got a younger generation that are often exceedingly conservative, and we need to be much more cautious about [sex] too," he said.
He argued that universities had to cater for a wide variety of students with different attitudes and experiences.
The majority of London Met's Muslim students were female, and many of them "can only really go to university within four miles of home and have to be delivered and picked up by a close male relative", he said.
"Their student experience is going to be different from someone gorging out in the Chocoholics Society or someone who is there to have a...libidinous time."
Times Higher Education was unable to reach London Metropolitan University Students' Union for its reaction to Professor Gillies' comments before the magazine went to press.