Here’s exactly what happens if you get caught with drugs, according to your university’s rules

One university wants to remind students ‘passing round a joint will be treated severely’


Before you go to university, it feels as if your uni inundates you with information. A customary welcome pack from the university, perhaps an introduction letter from the Vice-Chancellor, who by the way you will then never meet again in your three years. Maybe even a welcome email from your accommodation. But between the university logo embellished lanyard and IT services asking you to set up your university email, is any of this actually useful?

Sure it’s good admin, but what do you really want to know about Freshers’ Week? You want to know what to pack, you want to know the advice from previous freshers and some of you will want to know if the baggy that’s hiding in your back pocket or in your bra is going to get you into trouble.

The Tab’s survey of drug taking among uni students found drug use is a common part of the lives of students. At Manchester, 89 per cent admitted to having tried an illegal drug, that figure was above 80 per cent at Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool. Drug taking might be commonplace but do students know what will happen to them if they are caught?

If a university member of staff finds you in possession of drugs, what happens next? And, more importantly, how bad will the potential punishment be? I’ve gone to the length of asking all your universities that very question so you are prepared and informed for what could happen. Here’s a complete run down of your university’s policy if it finds you misusing drugs in your uni halls or on campus:

University of Birmingham

Possessing or using drugs breaches Birmingham’s Student Code of Conduct and will be subject to disciplinary measures. If the investigating officer believes it doesn’t need to be taken higher and you admit to the drug misuse, you could receive a formal written warning, community service or to engage in appropriate support.

If you deny the allegation or the investigating officer believes it was a “serious” breach of conduct you could be suspended from your studies or kicked out of your halls.

The Birmingham Guild of Students has provided free drug testing kits to students since 2019.

University of Bristol

Bristol categorise breaches of their accommodation rules into four categories. If you are found in possession of nos, this is deemed a category B offence. You will receive an email within five days at which point it is in your interest to accept responsibility. Penalties include: a written reprimand, a caution, up to 20 hours of university community service, having to attend a specific course or a £100 fine. If you don’t take responsibility, the fine could be as much as £300 and the uni will continue its investigation. If it deems you have enough nos to be dealing, you will be referred to the university police officer.

Possession of any other illegal drug is a category C offence. You will be referred to the university police officer even if you claim the drugs found in your bedroom belong to somebody else. You will be required to attend a drug awareness course and pay a fine of £100 if you accept responsibility or up to £300 if you don’t.

A spokesperson for the university said: “The University of Bristol supports a harm reduction approach. Students who are found in possession of drugs, regardless of the drug classification, can expect to have these confiscated but will be offered support and education. The University reserves the right to take disciplinary action where appropriate.”

Bristol Uni students are able to collect free drug testing kits from the SU.

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Staged with flour

University of Cambridge

Each Cambridge college sets different rules of behaviour for its students. However these tend to be the same in relation to the possession or use of drugs. Murray Edwards College describes the possession, use and supply of drugs as a “serious breach” of its rules. It points out you may be referred to the college’s or the university’s disciplinary procedures particularly if you are found to have Class A drugs such as cocaine, MDMA and LSD (acid) or if you are found to be repeatedly in possession of any class of illegal drug.

The college doesn’t say it will necessarily report you to the police, however it reserves the right to “co-operate fully with the police in any investigation.”

Cardiff University

A spokesperson for Cardiff University told The Tab: “We adopt a zero-tolerance approach to drugs. Students are advised not to bring, use, or trade any unlawful drugs or other illegal substances on University premises, including University residences.

“In all cases where drugs are found they are reported to University security who will attend and confiscate the item(s) and, if necessary, liaise appropriately with South Wales Police.

“If drugs are found in a student residence the Residences Management team will investigate or liaise with the student as per the Residences Terms and Conditions. In the event of more serious breaches, South Wales Police will be informed so they can consider further action. In addition to any possible criminal proceedings, all students are subject to the University’s Student Conduct Procedure.

Durham University

Durham meanwhile will inform the police if it finds you have weed in your room.

In its code of practice, the university says: “The university would break the law if it permitted controlled drugs to be used or supplied on its property.

“The university will not tolerate the use of, or dealing in, controlled drugs on its property. Any students found to be using or in possession of any controlled drug, including cannabis, on university premises will be subject to its disciplinary procedures and the police will be informed.”

Durham says possession of illegal drugs may result in being excluded from the university for a year or even expulsion. However, it says it will aim to act “considerably” to students who accept they are having drug related problems and co-operate with treatment.

University of Exeter

Exeter stresses it imposes a harm reduction approach to drug use and openly admit drug use “can be a common feature of the lives of young people”.

If a member of staff finds you in possession of drugs, they will follow harm reduction principles which include offering advice and support. The drugs will be confiscated but you won’t necessarily be reported to the police. If your drug use is tied up with antisocial behaviour, this is taken more seriously and punishment ranges from an official warning or fine right up to being asked to leave your accommodation or being expelled.

If there is reason to believe you have been dealing drugs, you are likely to be “suspended immediately”, the drugs will be confiscated and may be provided to the police as evidence.

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University of Glasgow

Possession of drugs is considered a level one sanction by Glasgow. Incidents are treated on a case by case basis but some of the punishments include a written warning, a fine of up to £350 and having to attend a drug awareness course, which you might have to pay the cost of.

If you are found in possession of drugs repeatedly it becomes a level two offence, at which point you could be kicked out of your university accommodation, suspended from all or a part of the university or expelled.

Imperial College London

Imperial says students must not bring or use drugs in halls under any circumstances and reference the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which explains it’s an offence for the person who owns or manages the building, i.e. Imperial in this case, to allow the supply or use of drugs.

The Student Alcohol and Susbtance Misuse Policy does also say what students “do in their private lives is generally outside the scope of this policy” unless it affects their work, interferes with other students and their safety or brings the university into disrepute.

King’s College London

King’s explains that it deals with incidents on a case-by-case basis but usually the police would be notified if a student was found with drugs. This however, is not to report a crime but to properly dispose of the drugs.

You will be referred to the Student Conduct and Appeals team, regardless of the class of drug you have in your possession. The investigation will take into account mitigating circumstances as well as offering student support if appropriate. If you are under the age of 18, your parents or guardian will be told. Otherwise King’s will only reach out to your guardian if you’ve given permission or if the “student is considered highly vulnerable and at risk”.

University of Leeds

Leeds says it has a legal obligation not to allow drugs in their halls and explicitly include cannabis in this statement. The uni says if you are involved in drug activity you should “anticipate disciplinary action” including possibly being kicked out of your halls. You may be reported to the police but it’s not guaranteed. Supplying drugs which includes giving drugs to mates or sharing with them is taken “particularly seriously” by Leeds Uni.

University of Liverpool

If a member of university staff finds you in possession of drugs, they will call Campus Support who will then take the drugs and produce a report of what has happened. If you fail to give up the drugs, they may contact the police. Possession of a Class A drug such as cocaine or MDMA are considered “a serious breach of the rules” and will be treated more seriously than possession of a lower class drug. However repeated possession of a Class B drug like ketamine or a Class C drug such as cannabis is also deemed “a serious breach of the rules”.

LSE

Any possession of drug is considered a “major” misconduct offence in LSE halls of accommodation. It is the highest level of misconduct and the penalties include being referred to the School’s Disciplinary Procedure, having to move accommodation, being kicked out of your accommodation or being expelled. The university says it may refer you to the police.

University of Manchester

If you are caught with drugs at Manchester you should expect to be required to attend a drugs educational course. The university says possession of drugs “risks” disciplinary action that includes fines. The uni will come down harder on repeat offenders who may be asked to leave their halls as result.

Be careful trying to post nos to your uni accommodation. Any parcel even suspected to contain Nitrous Oxide will be taken by reception and disposed of.

For £2.50, you can pick up a drug testing kit courtesy of the SU.

Newcastle University

Newcastle are more likely to inform the police if your behaviour places others at risk however it reminds students that all drug taking is in breach of the law and could be referred to the police.

A spokesperson for Newcastle University told The Tab: “We take a fourfold harm reduction stance on student drug use, focusing on safeguarding, education, support and effective policies and procedures.

“Response steps may include police action, the student being taken through our Student Disciplinary processes, receiving onsite support from local substance misuse services and or offered education sessions from our Res Life team with Accommodation Services.”

University of Nottingham

Nottingham says it “strictly” adheres to its policy on drugs. If you are found in possession of drugs, you will be liable to disciplinary action under criminal law and the uni’s code of discipline. This may include being fined, kicked out of your halls or being expelled.

In 2018 Nottingham SU passed its Drug Harm Reduction Policy and with it access to free drug testing kits for all of its students.

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University of Oxford

Oxford’s stance on its students taking drugs is it goes against the university’s “primary objectives of the pursuit of academic study and research”. If you are found to be in possession of a weed or any other Class C drug and it is your first offence, the university will issue you a “formal warning” and drug counselling but it won’t tell the police.

If you are found to have Class A or B drugs (basically anything that isn’t weed), this will be reported to the police and your college will consider suspending you while “police and court proceedings take place”.

The university also remind students passing a joint between a group of friends is a form of supplying and supplying and dealing drugs “will be treated severely”.

Queen Mary University of London

Like lots of other universities, Queen Mary references the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to remind students the university is committing a crime if it knowingly allows you to use drugs on its premises. This includes cannabis. It appears you are more likely to be punished under the Code of Student Discipline rather than reported to the police, although the university say it may choose to do so.

Queen’s University Belfast

Queen’s will take a “supportive approach where possible” to students taking drugs however the university might take action if it relates to your conduct, discipline or ability to study. This is especially the case if your drug taking is deemed to cause danger to others, you fail to take part in suggested treatment or you are found in possession of drugs again.

University of Sheffield

Sheffield Uni provide little information on drug misuse by students other than saying it breaches its discipline regulations and that punishment will be considered based on the severity of the breach, its impact on other students and previous drug taking rule breaches.

Foundry, the Sheffield Students’ Union nightclub has issued a stark warning to this year’s freshers. Drug searches will be in operation as well as sniffer dogs at some events. If you are found in possession of any drug, you will automatically be banned for six weeks and possibly permanently. You will need to attend a session with a drugs worker before being allowed back into the venue. You will also be removed from any society committee or officer role for that year.

University of Southampton

If you are suspected to have used or possess a Class A drug, Southampton will always inform the police. If you are suspected of using or possessing Class B or C drugs, there is a “discretion” as to whether the uni will notify the police on a case-by-case basis. Southampton Uni also says if a student knowingly allows “unlawful events to take place”, i.e. for example they see another student in possession of drugs, they may be “committing an offence” if they don’t then report that student.

University of Sussex

Sussex has no hesitancy reporting drug use or possession the police. Any incident will be reported to the police as a criminal matter. Furthermore, after any legal proceedings have ended, the uni will consider its own sanctions such as kicking you out of halls. The uni says it does this with your “welfare in mind” as it takes providing a “safe environment very seriously”.

Despite the stringent rules, you are able to pick up drug testing kits from the SU.

UCL

Possession of drugs is considered a “major offence” by UCL and will be followed by a committee hearing meeting. The outcome of the Discipline Committee could be university community service, a fine as high as £600 or at its most extreme, suspension or expulsion.

University of Warwick

Warwick staff are allowed to search your room if they believe you are in possession or are using drugs. The university warn students the Community Safety Team has been trained in identifying different types of drugs and you will face disciplinary action if the team finds any. If you aren’t using drugs in your room but someone else is, you are liable for this and will also face disciplinary action.

You can pick up drug testing kits as a Warwick student from the SU.

University of York

York says taking or using drugs could result in disciplinary action. The student Code of Conduct is split between level one and level two offences. Although serious, if your drug misuse does not present a high risk to the university community or its reputation, this is a level one offence. You could receive “formal sanctions” but this won’t include being suspended or expelled.

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