Hallett J, McManus A et al. Open J Prev Med 2014; 4: 616–629

It is argued that there appears to be a 'pervasive, normalised and celebrated nature of alcohol within the university environment'. Such a culture may be embraced particularly by dental and medical students. But is this all true? In this qualitative study, the opinions on drinking were sought from a group selected from Australian undergraduates (78% were drinking hazardously, when screened using AUDIT). Participants were recruited purposively, by emailing a random sample of 7,000 students. Two hundred replied of whom 69 were selected for this study, based largely on their alcohol consumption and associated habits. Each was allocated to one of seven focus groups. Four major themes emerged and the following comments summarised the attitudes of the students: 1) positive expectations – with drinking being 'the social lubricant', 2) inescapable culture – with drinking being linked to a 'belonging' to the university lifestyle, 3) defining situations – such as 'pre-loading', and 4) permissible drunkenness – with friends in the comfort of their home.