‘I’d host up to 30 people’: We asked students if they’re still going to party in Term 1

With the majority of clubs still closed, a controversial house party renaissance is looming

Asking students not to party is like trying to put your elbow in your ear. Impossible, and now you just look stupid for trying. But that’s exactly what UK universities are having to do this autumn term. They’ve laid down the law and said: “No parties, no club nights, no socialising outside of your course/housemate bubbles, and no more than a table of six at the pub. Please stick to it! No backdoor shenanigans! Thanks!” It’s the equivalent of watching Principal Skinner turn his back on Bart Simpson and expect nothing bad to happen. You’re asking for a “kick me” sign, or, in this instance: a bunch of students partying just as much as they used to, but in their houses now, and with the music 0.5 decibels lower to avoid alerting the attention of the police.

Unis have some control, but only really over first years. Halls can be watched closely by campus security so the very whiff of Jager and WAP playing from a kitchen window can be identified and swiftly stamped out, yes. But the reality is that two-thirds of students aren’t on campus, and police can’t shut down every house party in the city. In lieu of enforcement, all the police, government, and unis can do is tell students what to do and hope for the best. But will they?

We spoke to eight anonymous university students, all from different UK unis, and asked them to honestly tell us whether they planned to party upon returning to uni – and how far they’d take it. Some were warier than others, saying they wouldn’t even attend a house party. Some only plan to attend parties with under 20 guests, whereas others will host parties of up to 30. One student, who’s already going to uni house parties, said she was offered a complementary squeeze of hand san upon entry to a shindig last week. It’s safe to say the level of apprehension is very much varied.

So, straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s students’ genuine stance on party culture at uni in September.

‘I’m already going to parties and got given hand sanitiser at one.’

Alex is studying at a uni in London and has already returned to the city, as well as the uni party scene. Speaking to The Tab, she confessed: “My attitude towards parties has been quite peak, so don’t judge me. I think the largest thing I’ve been to had 15 people at it. Although we’ve done loads of large gatherings at places like Primrose Hill and Regents Park because no one really stops you and then we’re outside so we don’t feel guilty. Some of my friends have been hosting things with 20-40 people and if they’re outside I’ve been okay with going, although if they’re inside I really have to consider (mostly because one time someone’s neighbour called the police).

“In terms of sharing drinks, on the day I got broken up with five of us were doing shots out of the same shot glass, so that’s my attitude towards that. I wouldn’t go to a gathering of 20 people inside I reckon, because everyone in London has such tiny flats. Although I always think, if you go to two parties with two groups of different 10 people how is that any different to going to one party with 20?”

Alex wouldn’t host a party, but she says that’s more due to her “aggy neighbours” than any Covid concerns. She says that not everyone is as lax as her though, with her ex-boyfriend and flatmates avoiding the tube and refusing to attend parties. But according to Alex, some people are holding parties and taking precautions (precautions in the ‘plaster over a leaking pipe’ sense). She says: “I did go to one thing last week where we got asked to sanitise our hands. There was a big bottle of Carex and everyone who turned up before 10 used it. But then everyone got really drunk, so I doubt it continued. Ironically, the host then shagged one of the party guests, so what good the hand sanitiser did I don’t know.”

‘As much as I miss them, I’m not going to parties’

Sabrina is of the opposite view to Alex. She may yearn for the uni house parties and club nights of yore, but she’s just too scared to attend them at the moment. Sabrina, who attends a Midlands uni, told The Tab: “No, I wouldn’t go to parties, I miss them a shit ton but I’d feel super responsible if someone got Covid. My flatmates have mentioned partying in our flat, I think they mean just as the six of us, I’m hoping they don’t mean for us to host parties.

“[Our local club] is opening as a bar only with table bookings, and we’ve all said we’d want to go to that – but they’ve got measures for social distancing, hand san and everything in place. Lots of my friends are living in the same block of flats, inc. my flatmate’s gf, so I wonder when a ‘small socially distanced gathering’ will eventually turn into a party there.”

As much as the social distancing measures in sit down clubs comforts her, Sabrina said she’d feel too weird to attend a house party wearing a mask. Would anything be enough to tempt her into partying? “Well, if all my flatmates are going it gets weird like, if they’ve gone and socialised and come back to live with me, then it’s basically no different to if I’d have gone, so maybe I might as well just give up and go?”

Sabrina’s confused about the specifics and is essentially just waiting to see the vibe of her housemates, but she’s sure of one thing: “I just can’t avoid the idea that if something I went to resulted in someone getting ill, I’d feel very at fault.”

‘We wouldn’t share drinks’

Sam, a student at Exeter, is much laxer about Covid restrictions. Like other students, he’s more concerned with the police getting involved than any potential spread of the virus. “So I don’t think I would have more than 20 people round, but to be honest that’s more because I wouldn’t want to be reported than anything,” he told The Tab.

“We will deffo have like 10 people round at a time and I can’t see us enforcing social distancing. Plus, two of my housemates have significant others at the uni so they’ll be coming and going all the time and not following guidelines.”

“I suppose it comes down to what my housemates are willing to do. I wouldn’t want to fall out with them over not following the rules so I’ll go along with them, but they’re quite laid back about Covid regs anyway.”

Sam says sit down club nights are a no for him, because if the groups are small he doesn’t see the point in clubbing at all. He also notes that his house wouldn’t share drinks, “because we’re all broke” but they did just order a bong. “I imagine that will be shared with whoever comes round lol.”

‘I’m going to wait to see what everyone else is doing’

Like Dan’s assessment of his housemates, Gigi is going to play it by ear when she returns to uni in the North East. “I’m very conflicted about the plans I’ll make next year,” she says. “As much as I’d like to say I have set rules as to what I will and won’t do, realistically I know that a combination of alcohol and peer pressure might make it more difficult to say no to things.

“My main plan for the first few weeks is to suss out what everyone else is doing and tie this in with what the uni’s guidance is. I don’t think I’ll go to house parties right away – I’d probably feel ok with a small gathering, but not anything that involves a lot of people and a lot of alcohol, because that’s where people’s perceptions of safety will probably go out the window. I definitely wouldn’t host anything myself- not only for health reasons, but I’d be also low key scared of getting in trouble over it”

Gigi says she’d be fine with a small group trip to the pub or sit down club, because she knows social distancing will be enforced and nothing can reach a “dangerous” territory. But on the whole, she wishes she just didn’t have to worry about it at all. “It’s a shame because this is my final year of uni and I feel like I’ll end up missing out on a lot of experiences, but equally I don’t want to put myself and other people at risk.”

‘I’d host a party of up to 30, but suggest they bring hand sanitiser’

Lily, who studies at Leeds Beckett, admits that she’s definitely going to party at uni – “I can’t afford to keep going out for fancy cocktails!” Lily understands the risks, but says: “We’re at a time of our lives that we won’t get back. So unless the cases and deaths start to increase, I feel like students partying with students who are low risk isn’t a massive deal, especially with uni being online meaning you barely come into contact with people who aren’t young people.”

Luckily, Lily lives in a house of eight, “which means we can easily have fun within our bubble”. She continues: “Within that group, we will be sharing drinks because there’s no point trying to avoid infecting each other. Plus inhibitions fade when you’ve had a few shots.”

But what about when a party of eight people just isn’t enough anymore? “I think we’d probably only have up to 30 people in our house at one time. We’re converting our basement into a bit of a party space so we can get together and not completely destroy our lounge, but probably wouldn’t put any social distancing in place apart from suggesting people bringing sanitiser and keeping numbers pretty low.”

‘When I’m really drunk I forget there’s a pandemic’

Izzy, who’s at Brighton Uni, is being honest with herself about the rules she’s willing to break and the ones she’s not. In terms of what she’s going to break: she knows she’s going to party, but she’s set some ground rules. “I’ll only go to social events with people that I know though so a house party where everyone is a mutual sounds ideal to me. I’m living with two other people so the thought of only getting drunk in our living room as a three depresses me, I’ll definitely be going out for sure.” Izzy’s also keen to host parties, but she’ll keep an eye on the numbers, saying: “I probably will cap parties at 15 people and will say no to plus ones if I do throw one.”

Another rule Izzy knows she’ll break is social distancing. She tells The Tab: “The issue is with sharing drinks is that when I’m really gone I kind of forget there’s a pandemic on. Even over summer when I got drunk with my friends, we all got to a point of drunkenness where we were taking shots from the same glass and sharing cigarettes.”

“I’ll only distance from people if I know they’ve come from abroad in the last two weeks but if they’re one of my close friends then I am definitely going to hug them because I haven’t seen them in literally half a year.”

But, there are some rules she won’t break – chiefly to do with kissing strangers. “I’ll wear masks everywhere at uni and will not kiss anyone random. I made a pact with my housemates that no one can invite a randomer from Tinder round too, you have to go elsewhere to sleep with your matches.”

‘People are having illegal raves in fields – it seems like everyone is partying’

Yasmin says she’s conflicted about partying when she gets back to uni, especially because it feels like “everyone else is doing it too” now. “I know it’s not the safest thing to do at the moment,” she told The Tab, “but I’ve been seeing so many people already have house parties and illegal raves in fields.”

Yas isn’t sold on sit down clubbing – claiming it just doesn’t scratch the itch – but she’s worried about house parties too. “I know some clubs in my uni city now have tables and everything is sit down, I feel like I would try it out, but I think it would feel weird. I would rather go to a pub or bar. My birthday is in October and normally I do a big night out but obviously can’t this year, so was thinking maybe hosting a house party but I really think it’s more hassle than it’s worth and I really don’t want to be fined like people were in Leeds a few days ago, they were fined £10,000!

“I think I would go to a house party, but I don’t know if I would end up feeling uncomfortable being so close to people since I haven’t for months. I don’t think I would share drinks as I feel like that is just too close. I think with uni there is also a lot of FOMO at times so I feel like that would be the case for me in terms of not going to social events I would feel like I am missing out on so much stuff.” Yas adds that as it’s her final year, she might make some allowances so it doesn’t feel like she’s had a “shit last year at uni”.

‘I’m having a party but it’s Bring Your Own Mask and Hand San’

Felicity, who goes to Durham, is certain she’s going to have a party as soon as she gets back. Why? “Two of my housemates and I have our birthdays just a few weeks into term time, so you best believe we’re having a party.”

Felicity is capping the number of people invited, though not for corona reasons: “The uni we’re at is renowned for having the local police shut down students parties very quickly, so I’m more concerned about keeping the guest list small and inconspicuous for that reason, rather than catching corona.”

As for social distancing, she takes a “it’s your own responsibility” approach. “Wear masks if you like, use hand sanitiser if you feel the need, but I won’t be providing anything – so bring your own. Now that we’re away from home and no longer risk spreading anything to our families, we can do what we like. If you go to a party, then it’s on you if you catch anything, so don’t hold anyone else responsible, but equally, you’re going to look like a dick if you go to parties knowing you have symptoms and infect others.”

In fact, Felicity welcomes the house party renaissance: “I’m glad to see house parties making a comeback, now that going to clubs isn’t possible and any measures put in place to reopen them will ruin all that is holy: getting with literally anyone, and the unparalleled vibes of becoming best friends with strangers in the girls loo. At least with house parties, you can pass out anywhere and not have to get ready for online lectures the next day.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

‘Do unis have lots of sex parties?’: What this year’s freshers really want to know

Unis are going to ban freshers from having parties and overnight visitors

Africa by Toto is officially over. Stop playing this song at parties