AMOSSHE, The Student Services Organisation, which represents Student Services leaders in higher education, welcomes the publication of the NUS (National Union of Students) report Taking the hit: student drug use and how institutions respond. This is a valuable insight into student attitudes towards drugs, and how education providers across the UK respond in terms of policy. Student well-being is a key concern for Student Services, both in terms of fostering an engaging, supportive academic culture, and helping students who encounter barriers to academic success. Therefore Student Services take drug use very seriously when this use becomes a problem for students. Student Services work together with students and statutory agencies to understand the issues and ensure that support interventions are in place.
AMOSSHE members have services available to support and assist students (directly or in conjunction with community / health practices) to offer both proactive and ‘safety net’ support. Signposting students to their education provider’s support services in the first instance enables Student Services professionals to take into account a range of circumstances that may impact on a student’s situation, and identify ways to help the student in a holistic manner, rather than focus on one issue alone. Many Student Services professionals work closely with external partners, charities and community organisations that specialise in support for mental health challenges and drugs and alcohol abuse, and can make referrals for students to these services where appropriate.
Student Services often have responsibility for student behavioural conduct and discipline procedures, and recognise the importance of implementing these in a proportionate way, with the aim of enabling the student concerned to succeed in their studies, but also ensuring that other students are not adversely impacted by one student’s conduct.
AMOSSHE welcomes the report recommendations that call for education providers to offer a range of appropriate support to students, particularly harm reduction advice, and signposting to external support sources. The report highlights how important it is for AMOSSHE members to ensure that students wanting to come forward and discuss the impact of drug use with Student Services feel confident to do so, and can be certain of receiving appropriate support. AMOSSHE members are often leading on, or contributing to, the review of policies and procedures (including conduct / disciplinary, fitness to study / practise) to ensure that they are consistent and effective, but are flexible enough to take into account an individual student’s situation. The NUS report highlights why it is crucial that staff involved in supporting students are consulted when reviewing policy and practice to ensure a holistic view of the student.