Page last updated at 05:22 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 06:22 UK

University to probe initiations

By Siobhan Courtney
Interactive Reporter


Secret filming of initiation ceremony

The University of Gloucestershire says it will investigate after the BBC obtained footage of students taking part in a bizarre initiation rite.

The secretly-filmed video shows students with bags over their heads, drinking and vomiting.

A university spokesman said a formal inquiry was being launched into alleged "bullying and intimidation" during initiation ceremonies.

The National Union of Students has called for a ban on initiations.

Initiation ceremonies have become traditional in UK universities and are normally organised by student sport clubs for first-year undergraduates.

Nazi-style uniform

The video obtained by the BBC shows a group of University of Gloucestershire students lined up against a wall with white plastic bags over their heads.

Another student, dressed in a Nazi-style uniform, is seen to encourage them to drink. Several students then vomit onto the ground before being paraded though the streets.

We had to put matches in private inappropriate areas and set them on fire whilst drinking more beer
University of Gloucestershire student Nick Levy

University of Gloucestershire spokesman Paul Drake said: "We have launched a formal inquiry after the BBC's investigation.

"We are shocked by the content of this film and take the issue of intimidation and bullying during initiation ceremonies extremely seriously".

He said disciplinary action could be brought against those who were found to be leading initiation ceremonies.

Excessive drinking

Details of initiations are meant to be kept secret but they normally involve an organised ritual or evening which involves excessive drinking and having to take part in tasks and follow strict orders.

University of Gloucestershire students told the BBC that during the ceremonies, first-year students are made to do "anything you are told" by the senior students.

One, 20-year-old Natalie Sutton, said that during her hockey initiation ceremony she was forced to put fish in her bra and then eat it.

Everybody is up for fun, it's part of joining any group, but sadistic bullying and abuse should be stopped.
Mr A, Croydon

She added: "I had to go to the toilet in a bucket in a dark basement, which was full of other people's urine. People were crying and vomiting."

Another, Nick Levy, said that during his ceremony he was told to drink excessively and then run naked through Cheltenham.

He added: "We had to put matches in private, inappropriate areas and set them on fire whilst drinking more beer. I did it to be accepted by the older guys at the time.

"It was a bit tormenting, but if you didn't do it you would get called a wuss".

Other students blame bizarre initiation rites as a factor putting off students who might otherwise join university sports teams.


While most initiation ceremonies result in no more than embarrassment and a hangover the next morning, there have been at least three deaths of British students which have been linked to initiation ceremonies.

In 2006, 18-year-old Gavin Britton died after attending a golf initiation ceremony at Exeter University. His father, Ian, later blamed his son's death on social pressure to drink far beyond safe limits.

Another student, 18-year-old Alex Doji, died in an initiation ceremony at Staffordshire University after choking on his own vomit in 2003.

The National Union of Students has called for a total ban on initiation ceremonies in UK universities.

NUS President Wes Streeting told BBC News: "We are totally opposed to student initiations.

"They put students at serious risk and exclude students who don't want to take part in that binge-drinking culture."

Click here to send us your story ideas

Print Sponsor

Campus death inquest opened
07 Nov 03 |  Staffordshire
Campus death student named
02 Nov 03 |  Staffordshire

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific