HMC statement: University initiation events/student pathways to university

On 25.10.18 the inquest into the tragic death of Newcastle University student and former Oakham School pupil Ed Farmer found that he had died from the “toxic effects” of alcohol during an initiation event.

Improving the pathway of students from school to university is an HMC priority and Executive Director Mike Buchanan issued the following statement:

“This tragic case highlights that first year students are vulnerable and universities have a duty of care towards them. They have just moved out of the caring, defined worlds of school and home to an open landscape of university which none of them have experience in navigating.

“Our schools work hard to prepare Sixth Formers for this change and are constantly improving what they do. Activities include adult life skills classes, sixth form centres designed to prepare students for life outside school, talks on alcohol, drugs and the sexual politics of Freshers’ Week and training in resilience and good decision making. Pastoral care in our schools has also increased hugely.

“A recent HMC/GSA survey of over 2,000 Sixth Formers pupils* and found a significant minority were particularly anxious about their university social life, whilst for others it was the aspect they were looking forward to most. Many want to get on with their studies from the start.

“This all means students are likely to want to fit in, whilst being prone to taking risks in an environment they don’t fully understand. It’s a potentially toxic mix. Most find a happy path through but this tragic death illustrates why we must always strive to do more to help young people make good choices.

“We are in active talks with university admissions departments about how to improve students’ transition further. We know that continuing to strengthen the partnership and communication between schools, universities and parents will help keep young people safe whilst allowing them their freedom.”

* Hopes and Fears of Going to University, 2016 survey: