Scarfies are shifting away from their boozy reputation, a study in the latest International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has found.
Over a ten-year period from 2004 to 2014, there was a "significant decrease" in the frequency with which students at the University of Otago were getting drunk and also in the number of students drinking at pubs.
While the proportion of students who drank alcohol did not change, the proportion who drank to intoxication was substantially smaller. An average of 45 percent of students had been intoxicated in the previous week in 2004 and 33 percent in 2014.
The study found that students at three other universities were also drinking less, but the change at Otago University was more significant.
The study points to policy changes brought in by the University as contributing factors to the decrease, including the banning of alcohol advertising on campus, amendments to the student Code of Conduct and the launch of security programme Campus Watch.
Those changes followed increasing problems with social disorder and drinking related harm in the early 2000s.
University of Otago professor Kypros Kypri said the studies findings suggest that with concerted effort it is possible to change a drinking culture.
"This was achieved without reducing the prevalence of drinking, which suggests that institutional policies can exert positive influence on how people drink," he said.
He said by making policy changes, the university also began attracting fewer hazardous drinkers.