Harm reduction


In January 2022, our University, in partnership with the Students' Union, made an important decision to shift our approach to drugs from a zero-tolerance stance to a harm reduction approach. Since then, we have been working with student representatives to update and refine our approach.

We do not condone the use of illegal drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs, but we understand that some students may choose to use drugs during their time at university. Rather than simply telling students not to take drugs and hoping for the best, we want to ensure that students have the resources, support and knowledge needed to make informed choices and reduce harm.

What does this mean?

If we learn that a student is using drugs, we will have a conversation with the student about their drug use, check that they are okay, and provide information on sources of support. From September 2023, the first time a student is found in possession of drugs in University-managed accommodation they won’t be fined, they’ll be required to complete an online drug awareness module.

In the event that a student requires first aid, a member of our Campus Support and Security or ResLife teams may ask if drugs were involved. This information will only ever be used to provide appropriate medical care and will not be used for disciplinary purposes. If you or a friend are in trouble, let us know.

We have launched Staying Safe, an online drug awareness module, to help students get as informed as possible about different types of drugs and their effects.

We also share drug safety alerts on Student News to keep students informed of any issues in Manchester with mis-sold substances or contaminants.

Additionally, free and anonymous drug testing kits are available for students to take home from the Advice Centre on the first floor of the Students’ Union from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

We encourage students to take advantage of support resources on campus, including the University GP Service and Eclypse, a free and confidential drug and alcohol service for young people in Manchester. Eclypse staff drop into the Advice Centre in the Students’ Union every Wednesday between 12pm and 4.30pm.

We promote student-led initiatives like the Drug and Alcohol Support Group (DAPS), which provides a safe and non-judgmental space for students to talk openly about drug and alcohol use and connect with others in the community.

It's important to note that while we take a harm reduction approach, we do not condone antisocial or criminal behaviour. Any student found to be engaged in the supply of illegal drugs will be subject to University disciplinary action and may be referred to Greater Manchester Police.

If you are on a course with professional accreditation, please be mindful that many professional bodies have conduct requirements around drugs and alcohol. It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with these expectations.

We want all students to feel safe and supported during their time at the University of Manchester, and we believe that a harm reduction approach is the best way to achieve this goal. We will continue to review our approach based on your feedback.

More information

Simon Merrywest, Director for the Student Experience, explained the reasons behind our move from zero tolerance to harm reduction in this blog post first published in May 2022.