The number of drug offences in university accommodation has more than doubled in five years, Brig has learned.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that the number of drug offences has jumped every year from 16 in 2015 to 44 in 2019.
Last year, Juniper Court, Beech Court and Union Street had the highest reported rates, with seven incidents reported in each accommodation.
Both the university and the students’ union classify drugs as level two discipline offences. As a result, students risk exclusion from university, a fine of up to £400 and expulsion by the university’s discipline committee.
In 2018/19, the university disciplined 17 out of 44 drugs cases. The highest number of disciplines was in 2016/17 when 22 out of 23 cases were disciplined.
The biggest jump was between 2016 and 2017, when the number of disciplines increased from 3 to 22.
No student has been evicted from university accommodation for drug offences between 2015 and 2019, according to the university’s own figures.
A University spokesperson said, “The University of Stirling is proud of the safe learning and living environment which our students experience while here.
“Our commitment to maintaining that safe environment includes our policy to always inform Police Scotland of any illegal drug use on University property.
“This is made clear to everyone living in University accommodation as part of their Occupancy Agreement.”
36 out of the 44 incidents in 2019 involved Police Scotland.
Eight incidents involving drugs in accommodation have been reported so far in 2020.
The monthly police reports from the Bridge of Allan Community Police Team to the Bridge of Allan Community Council (which covers the university) have recorded some incidents of drug use at the university.
The reports from September 2019 to January 2020 all recorded an incident of Cannabis possession on university grounds. With officers issuing recorded police warnings and one instance of a case being referred to the Procurator Fiscal in November of 2019.
Prior to this there were only two direct report from the police of drug use on university property between October 2017 and August 2019.
These were the February 2019 report which outlined three occasions of drug use in university accommodation and the October 2018 report which outlined an incident of possession. All of these incidents resulted in recorded police warnings.
Other reports outline incidents of drug use in the area but were either not on university grounds or do not specify where the offence took place and some reports show no drug incidents in the area for that month.
The VP Communities Josh Muirhead discussed the reasons that could be behind the rise.
“As we have long understood, students can be placed under intense stress and pressures.
“However, at the end of the day it is about the safety of students. “The important thing is that students know that they can reach out for support.”
Muirhead spoke about the way that the university can respond to drug offences:
“Punishment is not the way forward for lower class drugs.
“I would encourage the university not to be harsh but to be supportive, like we all should these days.”
Stirling Professor Catriona Matheson, who heads the Scottish Drug Death Taskforce, the group tasked with lowering the number of drug related deaths in Scotland, studies substance addiction has said that she supports the decriminalisation of drugs for small amounts of personal use.
She was quoted in The Pharmaceutical Journal on the topic of personal use of drugs saying,
“I don’t think it’s helpful to criminalise someone who is found with a small amount of drugs for their own use, not for supply, and who is not associated with any other form of criminal activity.”
The university offers support for students who are struggling with substance abuse, stating that,
“The University also urges any of our students who may be experiencing drug or other substance misuse to contact Student Support Services to discuss the range of support services available. Student Support Services can be reached by contacting the Student Services Hub.”